How Architecture Adapt Health Facilities to COVID-19 Pandemic

by Ilmi Bilquish

COVID-19 pandemic has been a shocking life-threatening tragedy that affects the whole world in many ways. Economic collapse, life, security are at stake, and architecture is challenged to evolve. The design must be able to accommodate people’s needs during this pandemic. It is not easy, but it is a great lesson to learn for professionals adapting the design to a new condition.

COVID-19 is not the first outbreak that occurred on earth. Cholera and smallpox outbreaks that happened in the 19th century triggered the innovation of indoor plumbing. In the 20th century, responded to tuberculosis, typhoid, polio, and Spanish flu breakouts are emerging Modernism architecture, carry the principles of airy spaces, single-use zoning (separating residential and industrial areas), cleaner surfaces (glass and steel), and emphasis on sterility.

Based on that, today’s pandemic is already having a similarly profound effect on architecture. The response from architecture already started to see, although some of it still uses the same previous approach.

Modular and Prefabricated

This pandemic is developing significantly fast, forcing architecture to respond quickly especially in the construction of emergency facilities such as hospitals, quarantine centers, testing sites, and laboratories. This demand has triggered an extraordinary response by applying unusual building and construction techniques.

Photo: Wuhan Huoshenshan Hospital/Getty Images

Wuhan Huoshenshan Hospital became the fastest building constructed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This two-story hospital with 30 intensive care units, several isolation wards, and equipped with 1,000 beds was constructed within 10 days. It built based on the blueprint of, the hospital which was set up in 2003 during the SARS outbreak Beijing’s Xiaotangshan Hospital, with adjustments made to current conditions. Thousands of workers, tools, and materials were mobilized to speed up the process.

Photo: Getty Images

The construction expert, David Hartley, managing director of engineering company NTX said that the key to constructing a building at such a fast speed is using modular prefabricated units. This allows the construction of the foundation and the building envelope to take place in parallel. While modular units are fabricated off-site, the foundation is being prepared on-site at the same time. The prefabricated modular is a fast, flexible, and less wasteful construction alternatives, it is like constructing Lego Blocks using a crane.

Photo: China Daily via REUTERS/MANILA BULLETIN

Portable and Lightweight

Facing the rapid spread of COVID-19 shortens the design and construction period, while at the same time the essential facilities urgently needed. Agile architecture desperately expected to meet these circumstances. This condition motivates professionals to explore ideas for achieving their goals.

CURA Pod, Italy

Credit: Max Tomasinelli

On April 19th, 2020 the first Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments (CURA) pod, has been installed at a new temporary hospital in Turin, Northern Italy, one of the hardest affected regions by the pandemic. CURA is a plug-in Intensive Care Units (ICU) from a shipping container which quickly installed and lightweight, designed by Italian architect Carlo Ratti. The prefabricated modular pods are connected by inflatable corridors and fitted with bio-containment systems. This is a safe isolation ward and complying with the standards of Airborne Infection Isolation Rooms AIIRs. Each pod works autonomously and can be promptly moved everywhere.

Credit: Max Tomasinelli
Credit: Max Tomasinelli
Credit: Max Tomasinelli

LabCon, Indonesia

Photo: Suara.com/Alfian Winanto

LabCon Jakarta is a Container laboratory in Jakarta, Indonesia. It began to operate on June 4, 2020. This 40 feet length portable laboratory is a combination of two unit containers divided by two cabins with different functions. There is a small room in the first cabin that Lab officers use before and after work. Second, the BSL (Bio Safety Level) cabin is a clean room for the manufacture of reagents and PCR checks. Which equipped with a storage room for sample and RNA extraction. All the cabins are equipped with a waiting room that is used for transit and connecting areas delivering goods/equipment. It equipped with an Autoclave engine that can kill viruses through high temperatures.

Photo: Suara.com/Alfian Winanto
Photo: Suara.com/Alfian Winanto

Adaptive Reuse

Adaptive reuse refers to reusing an existing building with a different purpose from the original design. Not every building qualified for adaptive reuse, but in this urgent condition, converting the vacant building into emergency facilities is one of the best moves that provide health service to more people during the pandemic.

Temporary ICU at Javits Center, U.S.A

The temporary Intensive Care Units (ICU) was built at Javits Center, a large convention center in Manhattan, New York, USA. This facility was created by a U.S Company called JUPE. They used modular and flexible components that can easily be deployed and installed everywhere. There is no perfect alternative place to settle the temporary ICU that fasts, but a large hall is able to accommodate a considerable capacity. In this COVID-19 environment, speed and efficiency become a major aspect, and this structure is possible to make any customization in such speed helps to fulfill the needs.

Photo: Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Athletes’ Village Convert to COVID-19 Emergency Hospital, Indonesia

Reusing the 2018 Asian Games athletes’ village into COVID-19 emergency hospital shows the architectural adaptation to current conditions. Change the building’s purpose from residential into a health facility is a challenge for professionals. The existing rooms and halls turn into isolation and care units for patients with mild symptoms. The utilization of this building increases the capacity of in-patient care.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Agence France/Presse

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Ilmi Bilquish

A writer behind ‘The Untie Writer’ https://theuntiewriter.wordpress.com/ · Write in Design, Architecture, Health, Environment, Wellness, Wellbeing.