Healthier Glass for a Changed World

I’ve always been a proponent of the value that high-performance glass can bring to any space where people work and live. We’ve seen the evidence that access to natural light has significant benefits within interior environments, and we’ve seen the architectural trends that have sought to increasingly blend indoor and outdoor spaces.

Today, in a world that’s been reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, these kinds of glass solutions are perhaps more important than ever before. People around the world are spending more time in their own homes (be it within single family or multifamily dwellings), and work is being done to make public interiors less likely to promote viral spread. I believe the glass and glazing industry has an important role to play in creating safer, healthier indoor environments—not just as a response to this moment, but for the long term.

Here’s one example: according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ensuring proper natural ventilation in homes and other building interiors can help reduce the airborne spread of contaminants, including viruses.

“When used along with other best practices (such as social distancing, frequent hand washing and surface disinfection) recommended by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)], increasing ventilation can be part of a plan to protect yourself and your family,” the EPA notes.

For this reason, I think we could see natural ventilation become increasingly desirable in all sorts of structures. But while glass used in commercial applications is often of the high-performance variety, panes are commonly inoperable. Will greater awareness about viral mitigation spur an increased demand for natural ventilation in spaces where it traditionally hasn’t existed? It’s possible. When we consider the long-term impacts this pandemic will have on how people broadly think about transmitting bacteria and viruses, I think there will be some deep considerations made on how we can make all of our interior spaces safer and healthier.

The good news is that the technology that can help make this possible already exists. High-performance commercial window systems with varying modes of operability (tilt/turn, casement, awning, hopper, etc.) are available, and they’re worth consideration by forward-thinking commercial fenestration professionals.

Elsewhere, fluctuating temperatures and humidity levels are common factors that can negatively impact interior environments. When it comes to protecting homes, families, businesses and employees, finding the right indoor humidity levels can be a challenge—but it can be better controlled with the right kinds of glass and glazing technology. It’s been shown that viruses can more easily spread through cold, dry air. Meanwhile, when interior humidity rises, moisture and differences in temperatures between indoor and outdoor environments can cause condensation to build up on the glass—potentially leading to mold growth. For these reasons, the CDC recommends keeping relative humidity in homes and buildings between 30% and 50% year-round. High-performance glass and framing materials that offer less heat transfer and condensation build-up can help reduce mold-causing moisture around the window edge, contributing to better air quality overall.

These are, of course, just a few of the benefits high-performance glass can deliver for buildings everywhere, and I firmly believe that this pandemic will have some long-term impacts on how we conceive our interior spaces. The commercial glass industry has the responsibility to respond and adapt to these changes—and I’m confident we’ll be able to do so successfully.

Joe Erb is commercial sales specialist for Quanex Building Products.