Typically, ENR editors spend days shadowing an Award of Excellence winner to report the story. Nadine M. Post, a veteran of seven previous AOE profiles, would usually “traipse around with the AOE winner,” conduct video and print interviews in person, often at several locations, and observe the winner in action with others, she says.
But for this year’s nine-page cover story on Monzer Hourani, honored for developing and deploying an advanced coronavirus-killing air filter (see p. 24), Post only “saw” Hourani over “four hours, 15 minutes on Zoom, during three interviews,” she says. Our 70-year-old editor-at-large for buildings, at high risk because of her age, had promised her family she would stay safe and not travel.
With regrets not to “share the fun,” Post handed off questions and ideas for the video shoot to Scott Blair, ENR managing editor and video program director. Blair met up with Hourani, a medical real estate developer, at his cabin two hours northeast of Bozeman, Mont. The film shoot included a crew working on a documentary for Hourani’s company. The crew also shared other footage with ENR.
Blair says he felt “some trepidation” when his 77-year-old subject hopped onto a snowmobile, with the film crew following behind on another snowmobile. “I was in front riding a four-wheeler. It was invigorating, after a year of pandemic lockdown, to be able to get back to telling engaging stories and capturing compelling personalities on video,” he adds.
Blair accompanied Hourani back to his home base in Houston, along with Dr. Garrett K. Peel, EVP of Hourani’s development company and partner in filter maker Integrated Viral Protection, for more interviews and visits to filter installations. Blair was surprised at the emotion everyone felt during the cover photo shoot at an elementary school, where IVP’s filters were operating throughout the large school, enabling students and teachers to learn, work and play in safety. The outpouring of thanks from students in a collection of cards, letters, poems and drawings addressed to Hourani and Peel made for a special moment.
View the video at ENR.com/videos.
While writing the AOE story, Post texted Peel about myriad subjects, including Hourani’s next steps. Just before this issue went to press, Post got an email from Peel saying Hourani was launching a public-private consortium to seek ways to “deploy life-saving technology in response to complex emergencies—fast.” Peel says Hourani had been pondering the consortium for a while, but the ENR award inspired him to create it.
Post says her goal throughout the process was to produce an article “in this bizarre time” about a winner she had not even met in person—an article that would be on par with or better than her AOE stories “produced conventionally.” She adds, “Let the readers decide!”