Due to the COVID-10 pandemic, hospitals are in dire need of new space. Existing buildings such as convention centers are undergoing emergency adaptive reuse strategies as new hospital space is needed. The design and architecture industry’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic illustrates how the profession has sprung into action to help fight the global pandemic.
With an unprecedented increase in patient admissions, many hospitals are stretched for a capacity that the buildings weren’t designed to accommodate. Existing spaces have been redesigned for increased capacity, storage and staffing needs.
COVID-19 patients must also share space for those with other health issues. Patients with other maladies that do not require isolation must be kept separate from the growing number of those being treated by the pandemic. Those in isolation require adequate ventilation, and their spaces require access to storage, hand-washing stations and close proximity to nurses’ stations.
The Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA, underwent some significant design changes in the first week of the pandemic. Per Wired:
In one week, an in-house engineering team replaced solid doors on patient rooms with glass ones, so health care workers can see patients without risking exposure to the virus. It erected glass sneeze guards at nurse stations and reception desks. It limited entries to the hospital, so the visitors still permitted into the facilities are forced to sign in and wear masks when they arrive.
Dallas-based HKS Architects has released concept studies for adaptive reuse of existing buildings into a hospital setting in 14 days. However, concerns arise with these initially non-medical buildings. Stan Shelton, vice president of organizational development and client engagement leader at HKS Architects, tells Smithsonian Magazine:
“The most important thing to understand is you can’t be exactly a hospital with all the compliance issues and the standards and the airflows when you’re putting 500 or 600 patients in the open areas in a convention center. You have a lot of hospital-like activities and you will absolutely be providing health care in those spaces, but it’s not going to be exactly like a hospital.”
With China famously erecting a hospital in Wuhan in just 10 days, prefabricated components, along with a massive labor force, played a big part in producing this new building quickly. This feat garnered much attention, and the desire for prefabricated healthcare facilities is generating increasing buzz. While the speed of adaptive reuse has been the oft-used solution, purpose built prefabricated buildings may be the way of the future. Per BDC Network:
Prefabrication offers benefits for everyone in the construction ecosystem. But there’s one advantage that stands out above all: speed. With off-site manufacturing, multiple elements of a building can be constructed concurrently, then simply assembled on the site. Building components could even be “stored” and held in reserve, ready to expand critical infrastructure at times of extraordinary demand. Using prefabrication also greatly reduces the disruption to operating healthcare campuses with less traffic, noise and dust which is especially important when constructing near patients that may have compromised immune systems on premise.