Building the Next World

Chemistry is essential to renewing our infrastructure.

Rethinking—and Remaking—the Structures that Surround Us

The changes came quickly. Almost as fast as the pandemic swept the planet, we started to adapt our infrastructure. After a few bumps, digital connections were adjusted to the demands of a population largely working from home. Physical barriers went up in essential businesses, allowing vital services to proceed as safely as possible, and now it seems that these adaptations are anything but temporary. No matter when the impacts of COVID-19 fade, the lessons we have learned will mark us for years to come. The pandemic has accelerated trends that had previously been percolating along, notably the shift toward telecommuting, the rethinking of offices and public spaces, and the glaring need for new infrastructure. Underlying all of this change is a global recognition that health and hygiene are shared responsibilities, urgently needed by all.

Reimagining the Office

For many knowledge workers, 2020 was a global experiment in remote working. Some companies were already trialing work-from-home policies to create the kinds of flexible work environments appealing to millennials, but the pandemic has turned that into a near-universal necessity. Almost at once, millions of workers started conducting business from kitchen tables, repurposed bedrooms, and the odd couch.

It worked. Surprisingly well.

In fact, many companies are reevaluating the basic concept of an office, viewing it less as a daily workplace and more as a place for staggered shifts, collaboration spaces, and occasional gatherings. Companies and landlords will need to rethink their relationships as flexibility, co-working, and the integration of remote workers become critical. Office renovation will pick up once it is feasible to undertake, and it will focus on making offices safer and more flexible. Bright, durable coatings and laminates made with Ti-Pure™ titanium dioxide can create the sense of shared space that is ideal for collaboration while protecting workers. Fortunately, Ti-Pure™ can also stand up to the virus-destroying ultraviolet light and frequent cleaning likely to be part of the office of the not-too-distant future.1 The high quality of Ti-Pure™ and its optimized particle size and control are crucial to producing brighter, more efficient pigments for coatings, furniture, exterior surfaces, construction materials, and homes.

That office will also have fresher air. Modern HVAC systems recirculate interior air in order to maximize efficiency, but in an era of new pathogens, both extra airflow and greater filtration will make sure that buildings are not circulating viruses along with the air. Low global warming potential Opteon™ refrigerants and Teflon™ polytetrafluoroethylene in filters will help make sure that keeping us safe and comfortable will not harm the planet.

Since offices are getting a makeover, why not make them more energy efficient too? It isn’t much of a leap to go from considering the health of an office building’s inhabitants to thinking about that building’s role in promoting the greater good.2 One simple way to do that is by installing a cool roofing membrane containing Ti-Pure™. Such a coating reflects, rather than absorbs, the heat of the sun, leading to significant energy savings.

The Home Office, Too

More of us are spending more time working from home, and we are investing in making sure our homes are working for us. While some of us need a newly dedicated place to increase our productivity, others just want their conference call background to look more professional. This is leading to a surge in DIY spending that is running counter to the sluggish pace of the economy as a whole. In fact, 60% of DIY home renovators are now focused more on their homes than on other expenditures—an increase from the pre-pandemic era.3 Ti-Pure™ unique pigments provide bright whites and clean colors in coatings and plastic building materials alike, making it easy for DIYers to spruce up their home office.

New Infrastructure

Homes are not the only things that need a fresh coat of paint. Budget shortfalls and austerity measures have removed support from infrastructure projects around the world. Pandemic-induced budget shortfalls are forcing cities to delay or cancel infrastructure projects,4 adding to the existing unfunded infrastructure gap of $2 trillion in the United States alone.5 That may be a temporary decline. If we’ve learned one thing from previous times of economic pain, it is that infrastructure spending can boost the economy. The economic dividend from construction spending can add multiple percentage points to a nation’s GDP,6 taking a dollar spent on infrastructure and turning it into an economic benefit of up to $2.20.7

Building infrastructure the right way means doing so with durability and climate positivity in mind, and that’s where advanced coatings made with Ti-Pure™ come in. They can help ensure existing infrastructure stays protected from the elements and lasts longer. For new infrastructure projects, coatings made with Ti-Pure™ join with advanced fluoropolymers such as Teflon™ and fluorochemicals such as Opteon™ to build durable, responsible, climate-smart additions to cities and towns.

Health and Hygiene

With our upgraded homes, offices, and infrastructure, our post-pandemic world will look different. Our behavior may too. Due to concerns about health and hygiene, we’re keen on single-use products in a way we haven’t been in a while, and that means we have to use responsible chemistry to make sure packaging is part of the circular economy. High-quality titanium technologies from Chemours make it easier to recycle packaging. They support compostable solutions with a certified pigment solution. And that means we can design systems that protect our health and our planet.

We have also learned of late that many supply chains are more susceptible to disruption than we knew. Not ours, however. Our unmatched supply reliability and our Ti-Pure™ Flex online portal make it easier for innovators to start refitting our world for the next normal. That’s an essential part of making it through the current pandemic and setting ourselves up for living well—and lightly—in the era to come.