Updated by Nathan Bahadursingh on April 23, 2020
Across the globe, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is placing enormous amounts of strain on medical infrastructure and staff. The number of those who require intensive care far outnumbers the amount of space available for treatment. This has led some cities such as Wuhan to quickly mobilize and create temporary, prefabricated medical centers and New York City to convert convention centers and dorms into makeshift hospitals. A new response to this dilemma is looking to shipping containers.
An international task force led by architecture studio Carlo Ratti Associati, Humanitas Healthcare and University, and the World Economic Forum, among others, have developed the first prototype for CURA or Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments. It is a non-profit, open source, design and build initiative that is seeking to furnish shipping containers to operate as biocontainment pods.
The CURA prototype was designed and produced in four weeks. It has been built and installed at a new temporary hospital set up in Turin, Italy. CURA was designed to increase intensive care capacity. And, according to the CURA team, “The aim is that they can be quickly deployed in cities around the world, promptly responding to the shortage of ICU space in hospitals and the spread of the disease.”
Each shipping container is of standard dimensions: 8 feet by 8.5 feet by 20 feet. Each pod functions independently and contains medical equipment-beds, IV stands, and ventilators, able to treat two patients. They also feature an air extractor to generate indoor negative pressure, which is a common method used in hospitals and laboratories to prevent contaminated air from escaping.
Furthermore, according to The Architect’s Newspaper: “While the CURA pods can function as stand-alone supplements to preexisting hospital ICU intakes, they are by their very nature modular and can be stitched together into an effective field hospital via an inflatable corridor.” This will allow them to easily adapt to any context they are used in. “The designers envision the units being set up alongside existing hospitals, in spaces like car parks…” according to Dezeen.
CURA was developed as an open-source project, in which its technical specifications, drawings and design materials have been made universally available online. According to Designboom, more units are currently under construction in other parts of the world, including the UAE and Canada.