28th May 2020

"How will Covid-19 change the design of health facilities?" Architect's Journal

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Laura Carrara-Cagni, director at Edward Williams Architects, which designed the Midland Metropolitan University Hospital in Birmingham, said automated delivery and collection of materials and drugs would be a key workstream for the future.

This could mean ‘larger decentralised storage of materials to increase resilience’, alongside a requirement for greater stocks of personal protective equipment.

New material science is required to push this along faster and allow quick implementation

Architects should also focus on materials that don’t allow viruses to live on them for long periods, she said. ’New material science is required to push this along faster and allow quick implementation.’ Automatic doors and other systems to reduce hand contact will also be in demand.

Other possible trends could include use of flexible spaces that can be easily adapted during a crisis; greater use of air filtration systems; and a reduction in multi-bed wards.

Facilities for crisis-simulation training could be in demand, while administrative space is likely to be reduced as more people work from home across this part of the health service, according to Carrara-Cagni.

She said architects had a key role to play in adapting the healthcare estate post-pandemic: ‘Architects are uniquely trained and able to see the big picture and help hospitals take a balanced view of the multiple competing issues that confront them.’

Flexibility of space will be the key to a positive change, she added. ‘For years we have been advocating for the design of flexible space generally, and especially in healthcare, as this area is an ever-evolving field as the last year has demonstrated and accelerated. Flexibility is key not only in case of a pandemic emergency but also more generally, functionally and commercially.

‘It creates the best use of space at all times and from a sustainability point of view, and allows spaces to be used and repurposed over time.’

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