AIA task force launches tool for assessing COVID-19 alternate care sites

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Molly Scanlon (Photo: Linkedin)

WASHINGTON – As communities across the country race to expand available hospital bed space in response to COVID-19, an American Institute of Architects (AIA) task force is providing a new tool for public officials to quickly identify buildings suitable to be adapted for patient care.

The COVID-19 Alternate Care Sites Assessment Tool provides a checklist highlighting important areas to consider when evaluating buildings, such as convention centers, sports arenas, community centers, hotels, dormitories and other spaces to be used for temporary healthcare operations during a pandemic. The tool is intended to help individuals—who are not healthcare design experts—with a rapid evaluation of buildings compatible for supporting patient care operations; providing for the needs and safety of healthcare staff and patients; and mitigating the spread of disease.

“This tool is geared toward flexible and rapid decision making during a public health pandemic,” said task force chair Dr. Molly Scanlon, FAIA, FACHA, who is an environmental health scientist at Phigenics. “Our goal was to synthesize decades of healthcare knowledge and experience into a checklist reflecting the key essential elements of healthcare operations to reduce risk and increase safety at an alternative care site.”

The task force developed the tool using established healthcare design best practices and standards in combination with federal documents issued during the COVID-19 crisis. Additionally, professional input was provided from trained and experienced health care architects, engineers, life-safety consultants, front line health workers, and hospital facility operations. A comprehensive briefing of the task force’s initiatives is available on AIA’s website.

Last Friday, the task force launched an online resource to facilitate sharing of built environment solutions when responding to COVID-19 surge capacity.  As part of the effort, architects, designers, engineers and facility managers are asked to provide project information and images of COVID-19 alternate care sites into an online database. The facility and its location will appear on an online global map produced and quality controlled by the University of Kansas’ Institute of Health + Wellness Design. The taskforce developed the tool to catalog current public health and healthcare facility response and to create a research database for future pandemics.

AIA’s task force was launched to support the COVID-19 response. It is comprised of architects with a wide range of expertise, including healthcare facility design, urban design, public health and disaster assistance.