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The emergency caused by Covid-19 has had a significant impact in several areas, but healthcare is the sector that first of all has had to adapt in response to new urgent needs. We have seen rapid and excellent conversions of public venues and spaces in specialized facilities for the care of Covid-19 patients. In addition, architects and engineers worked hard to make existing hospitals safe in order to welcome an increasing number of people infected. The redesign of hospital structures in a very short time was possible thanks to the work of multi-professional teams who took immediate decisions based on uncertain and changing forecasts: this has been a great example of operational management in the field!

The urgency of the change has been a push for a day-by-day evolution of the hospitals’ layouts. In a first phase, pre-triages have been activated in temporary structures with differentiated paths to separate the suspected cases of Covid-19 from the others. In the following phase, one of the most critical aspects was the lack of spaces to be designated exclusively for Covid-19 positive patients. The main technical and structural interventions concerned the transformation and conversion of ordinary wards into areas for Covid-19 hospital stays and the creation of a separate space for people waiting for the swab results.

This situation made us aware of how the flexibility of the spaces is a key factor to better manage future emergencies.

But it's not over here! Architects and engineers have also designed new refreshment areas and separate rooms for medical staff who is in direct contact with Covid-19 patients.

Let’s now report some examples of concrete solutions that have been implemented in hospitals!

Physical plasterboard barriers are a quick and effective way to isolate areas and make environments safer. Mandatory paths for technical and medical staff, patients and material transporters allow social distancing and so the of virus transmission’s risk. Plus, in the new temporary structures innovative quick-setting flooring easily washable, sanitisable and resistant to stress were installed.

In addition to the spaces, the systems’ flexibility is also an essential requirement to face future problems. We all know Coronavirus can cause severe breathing difficulties that are faced with the use of ventilators: the demand for higher oxygen flow rates has doubled the storage capacity of the oxygen tanks and the number of pipes for the oxygen’s transportation.

Lastly, it must be remembered these technical interventions should not hinder the activity of hospital units dedicated to the treatment of normal patients.

The emergency revealed both the potential and the critical issues of our structures, but all the professionals made a great effort to ensure continuity of operation in hospitals!

This is a starting point to conceive and develop solutions for a brighter future!

Source: SIAIS Webinar “Emergenza covid-19 – architettura e ingegneria per la salute ai tempi del coronavirus”

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