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Alternative Healthcare Facilities: Architects Mobilize their Creativity in Fight against COVID-19

Alternative Healthcare Facilities: Architects Mobilize their Creativity in Fight against COVID-19

As the healthcare infrastructure is becoming overwhelmed and hospitals around the world are reaching their capacities, new alternative possibilities are emerging. In response to bed shortage and facility saturation, architects around the world are taking action, in the on-going fight against the coronavirus. Focusing their knowhow to find fast and efficient design solutions that can be implemented anywhere, they are proposing flexible, fast assembled, mobile, and simple structures. With a very tight timetable, some projects are already implemented and in service, while others remain on a conceptual level, waiting to be adopted.

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CURA. Image © Max Tomasinelli

Although in general, the planning guidelines for new hospitals dictates that 15 to 20 % of spaces should be dedicated to transmittable diseases, most of the facilities around the world couldn’t have anticipated a pandemic of this scale. As a result, Carlo Ratti has converted shipping containers into intensive-care pods, consisting of rapidly mounted, easily movable and safe units. CURA, a safe isolation ward, containing all the medical equipment needed has its first prototype ready. In the Philippines, WTA put in place 60 emergency quarantine facilities, repurposing one of their pavilions into a short-term relief space. The temporary structures made from wood and plastic can be replicated anywhere in order to increase the capacity of hospitals. Other more conceptual approaches include the mobile units designed by the startup JUPE HEALTH, rapidly deployed rest and recovery units, as well as mobile ICUs. At "1/30th the cost of a hospital room", they are designed and built for doctors by doctors and can be shipped anywhere.

Courtesy of WTA

On the other hand, In New York, officials, who are anticipating the need of 10 times the existing rooms, are seeking to generate useful spaces for patients by either altering the capacity of existing structures or converting buildings with a different program, like office spaces, stadiums, convention centers, etc. which already have the required basic amenities such as proper HVAC and treatment infrastructure. Moreover, to help with identifying alternative sites suitable for patient care, the American Institute of Architects has released a new design guide from their COVID-19 Task Force, a rapid evaluation to recognize compatible buildings that can support patient care operations. In line with this logic, Opposite Office has proposed to transform the New Berlin airport, under construction since 2006, into a “Superhospital” for coronavirus patients. The adaptive reuse alternative can be implemented in any airport in the world since traffic is nowadays limited and restricted.

Courtesy of JUPE Health

Furthermore, specialized architectural companies like MASS published guidelines for limiting contagion in COVID-19 Temporary Tent Clinics. Founding their research on past epidemics, MASS explains that the risk of cross-contamination is high when people are located in tight quarters. In order to limit the transmission of diseases, 3 main ideas are to be crucially adopted: limit droplet spread between people, by designing for distances between people of 6’ or more to prevent direct contact with respiratory droplets; mitigate contagion via surfaces, by identifying, cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces; and control for airborne infection by preventing, diluting, and removing contaminated air.

Courtesy of MASS

In order to highlight different design approaches, inspire creative solutions, and encourage fast responses, we have put together initiatives from architectural platforms, addressing the current problematic, each presenting a novelty and introducing a distinct concept. A spatial protocol, an urban quarantine camp, emergency medical shelters, fast erected hospitals made out of recycled shipping-containers and inflatable fabrics, mobile low-cos facilities, hospital ships, and personal protective spaces for doctors are amongst the functions proposed. 

Adapta, a spatial protocol in case of emergencies

50SuperReal/ Professors of IE School of Architecture and Design

ADAPTA. Image Courtesy of 50SuperReal

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Through adaptability, prefabrication, optimization, rapidity, re- and up-cycling, as well as "updatability", Adapta is a spatial protocol based on resilience, on preparation and collaboration beforehand. A globally adaptable design that can be deployed in a crisis, Adapta creates a spatial solution that can be applied anywhere in the world, and in a matter of seconds, reducing the overhead of the human design process to almost zero. Assuming modular pre-existing units, which are ideal for emergency construction, 50SuperReal designed a solution where all additional construction materials are sized to fit in the modular unit itself, in case the building needs to be packed down and moved to a new site.

MOBILE PPS (Personal Protective Space) for Doctors

Plastique Fantastique

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Fighting against COVID-19, doctors might be exposed to the infection when masks and protective suits are in shortage. The Mobile PPS is a space where doctors can treat patients in a protective space. It has constant overpressure, which means, the air flows only towards the outside of the space, not letting the virus coming inside. The air supply is guaranteed by a ventilator located outside or in an extra decontaminated space.




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As India and the world are facing a shortage in healthcare infrastructure, AGX ARCHITECTS is proposing an effective solution that can be manufactured and deployed as soon as possible and has the potential of scaling up. In fact, they created a structure that can act as a quarantine hospital unit or quarantine shelter for an individual. The effectiveness of the design is at less cost, less skillset required, minimum site operations, easily available materials, efficient logistics and minimum installation time. A component system is developed to increase and decrease the size of the unit as per need.

Emergency Modular Hospital

MMW Architects

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As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, MMW Architects have designed an efficient, flexible and affordable modular hospital to increase intensive care capacity on a national- and international level. The construction system of the hospital is based on the use of recycled shipping-containers and inflatable fabrics, assembled in an innovative way to meet the strict requirements for air contamination in hospitals. The system can accommodate both isolators and larger patient rooms based on needs and circumstances. The system is intended to be a contingency hospital that will function as a satellite hospital physically close to a larger hospital.

Hospital ships

Weston Williamson + Partners

Hospital ships. Image Courtesy of Weston Williamson

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Trying to encourage a global response, Weston Williamson proposes hospital ships, since the container module is ideal for an intensive care bed and medical equipment. With 3,500 containers per vessel, patients would only stay on the ship in the circumstances where there is no place to deploy the containers. The containers are adapted by having one of the steel doors removed and a perspex panel riveted in place. The perspex also has a hit and miss panel for natural ventilation and a built-in air-conditioning unit.

Mobile Hospital


MOBILE HOSPITAL. Image Courtesy of VHL.Architecture

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VHL.Architecture cooperated with Da Nang Architecture University to design a model of Mobile Hospital to help solve the current shortage of beds while ensuring the full functions and facilities of a medical examination and treatment facility. Quickly built for mass production at the factory, with low installation costs, the project takes on the basic 20-foot container and divides it into 3 parts.  The frame is a 30mmX60mm iron box, while the floor is made from light-weight cement panels with standard dimensions. Medical equipment will be placed either in the red box or under the ground to save space.

Field Rescue Center

HAHA Architects Group

Field Rescue Center. Image Courtesy of HAHA Architects Group

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The project of the Field Rescue Center (FRC) was created as a concept of a mobile diagnosis and treatment facility. Its purpose is to be used in times of crisis such as epidemic, pandemic, natural disaster, refugee crisis or humanitarian missions when it is crucial to quickly provide medical help to a vast number of people. The Field Rescue Center is able to fulfill the tasks of a fully functional temporary hospital. Consisting of TEU containers FRC is a mobile structure, easy to transport. Thanks to moving parts and hydraulics the assembly is pretty much self-acting. The modular structure of the facility allows it to be assembled in any configuration, depending on the characteristic of the critical situation and the number of people that seek medical help.

CNC-Medical Emergency Module



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CNC-MEM or Computer Numerical Control used for the creation of a Medical Emergency Module responds to the current COVID-19 crisis, which inspires a design that can be conceptualized and polish, to be open source. Produced with a total of 6 1.22cm X 2.44 cm Plywood Sheets, with few other materials, the intervention can be cut in less than a day and assembled in less than 10 minutes. Every module is able to harbor 1 patient. Its main purpose is to grow, creating a mutable configuration according to the available landscape. The project aims to create a social architecture that provides options for immediate needs.

Folding Emergency Shelter

Gonzalo Guzman

Folding Emergency Shelter. Image Courtesy of Gonzalo D. Guzman

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The main idea was to design a very simple shelter that could be easily transported and easily built. The dimension would permit us to stack many modules and carry them in any truck. Each module consists of a rigid structure of panels that can be folded down and coverage of sailcloth for extra wind and water protection. This module can be adapted to any situation where emergency shelter is needed and the rigid panels can be made of any material according to the availability. The simplicity of the form is in response to the effectiveness and economy.

CAMP-15, an Econo-Sustainable Urban Quarantine Park


An Econo-Sustainable Urban Quarantine Park. Image Courtesy of INFEKT

To overcome the economic and social catastrophe of the coronavirus outbreak; sustainable quarantine systems must be adapted to anywhere that is fighting with the virus and still need to provide for its residents. CAMP-15 is a way of quarantine-living, a zone adapted from a park to resident isolation. Park facilities such as showrooms, galleries, restaurants, warehouses, and many open doors areas are transformed into dormitories, offices and leisure areas for mild and no-symptom patients. Under 24-h observation from medics; this zone is where any COVID-19 Positive patient can go and live for 15 days until the quarantine period is over.

Circular Negative Pressure Quarantine Unit

Bio-architecture Formosana (BaF)

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BaF has worked together with a group of experts to develop a prototype for a negative pressure isolation ward and examination station for the emergency quarantine. This proposal aims to address the lack of wards in the hospital for treatment. The mobile emergency quarantine hospital proposes a few key considerations which include lightweight, fast, modular, flexible for expansion and reduction, affordable, weatherproof, mobile, safe, and secure. The material for this shall be readily available and standardize enough for quick fabrication. The idea considers prefabrication and on-site assembly while minimizing in-situ construction. These units can be quickly constructed to respond to various terrains and conditions with minimal changes.

We invite you to check out ArchDaily's coverage related to COVID-19, read our tips and articles on Productivity When Working from Home and learn about technical recommendations for Healthy Design in your future projects. Also, remember to review the latest advice and information on COVID-19 from the World Health Organization (WHO) website.

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About this author
Cite: Christele Harrouk. "Alternative Healthcare Facilities: Architects Mobilize their Creativity in Fight against COVID-19" 28 May 2020. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/937840/alternative-healthcare-facilities-architects-mobilize-their-creativity-in-fight-against-covid-19> ISSN 0719-8884
Courtesy of Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti


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