Architect designs easy-to-build quarantine facility to contain Covid-19

March 29, 2020 | By: Manila Bulletin (Angela Casco)

The exponential rise of confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in the country has resulted in hospitals responding to the pandemic to operate beyond capacity.

Makati Medical Center, just a little over a week into the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine, has announced that it can accept and treat no more patients based on depleting bed capacity in critical care units, workforce availability, and supply of viral infection prevention treatment.

The same is true for The Medical City in Ortigas. “We do not wish at all to turn you away, but the reality is that we can no longer provide your loved ones the care that they need,” the hospital has said in a statement. “Your own initiative to look for other hospitals is appreciated.”

Other hospitals, however, are in full capacity, too. A likely solution would be to put up additional facilities that can accommodate this overflow of patients.

It’s a solution William Ty, an architect, hopes to provide with his idea of a makeshift quarantine facility.

The idea

Ty, the principal architect of WTA Architecture and Design Studio, recalls being in a conversation with his good friend Dr. Glenn Angeles, and other pals. They were talking about the novel coronavirus, why it was spreading at such a rapid pace, the plight of sick people being sent home from already full hospitals, and the danger it would pose to immediate friends and family when he remembered the pavilion his studio put up just last February in a design festival in Intramuros.

That original pavilion was called No Virgins, named as such because it’s a structure made of fully recyclable materials. It wasn’t just reference or inspiration, though, but also knowledge of how the structure worked. Ty thought of taking this design, and making it functional for Covid-19 containment and treatment.

“[I] saw its potential as a quarantine facility, to serve the same purpose as a Covid-19 response center,” he tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “Dr. Angeles quickly got me in touch with his friends Maj. Carmelo Jaluague and Maj. Banjo Torres Badayos, and we quickly came up with a plan of action.”

The quarantine facility Ty has in mind should be able to function as a holding area for Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) or asymptomatic positive cases. Simply put, the 40-year-old architect says it should be able to accommodate “people who are not supposed to be sent home to stay with families or friends.”

“This is a housing facility for 15-30 people where they stay for 15-21 days depending on medical advice,” he says. “It is meant to contain and avoid further spread of the virus like a decontamination tent, only on a bigger scale and beyond sanitizing.”

This facility, which costs an estimated P250,000, and takes about 15 workers and a site engineer two to five days to build, features everything a quarantine area should have: separate entries for healthcare workers and patients, an excluded testing area, a decontamination and sanitation area, 15-30 beds separated by partitions, two toilets with its own septic tank for treatment, a structure frame built using wood, and a plastic skin or envelope.

“It’s well-lit and well-ventilated, with airflow going in one direction from front to rear,” Ty says. “The height and depth of the pavilion, meanwhile, allows it to dissipate heat quicker and makes it less stifling, especially with the transparencies that serve as windows letting in daylight.”

Making it happen

As time is of essence, the intent was to have construction start as soon as possible “given the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.” At the time of interview, Ty says he and his team are already gathering materials for the quarantine facility, which they will start building the next day at the Philippine Army General Hospital.

The central idea for the facility? Ty says it’s “speed, speed, speed.”

“We cannot turn into idle minds that succumb to paralysis by analysis and watch as the virus slowly eats away at our communities,” he says. “This is an unprecedented emergency. We are counting days. We cannot wait for delivery, shipments, or bureaucracy. It has to be done now. That is the only way we can conquer this virus.”

The facility’s scalability and buildability allows it to be constructed swiftly. Making this possible is Ty’s choice of materials, which are all easy to use, flexible, and readily available.

“We wanted [to use] materials that people were familiar with and with minimal knowledge most workers can start using,” he says. “Since movement and logistics are difficult these days, we need something that does not utilize much manpower or equipment.”

Alternatives may also be used—old tarps in place of plastic, and steel or bamboo if wood is scarce. The goal, after all, is for the makeshift quarantine facility to be replicated anywhere by anyone.

“This has to be something that others can copy and build as needed,” Ty says. “We have to get as many of these out as quickly as possible.”

‘We can all do something’

Prior to Covid-19, Ty and the rest of his colleagues at the design studio have been focusing on what he calls programmatic deconstructivism or breaking down problems to their core components and building up a solution without a preexisting bias, as well as social architecture or the idea that architecture builds communities and that we must find a way to make our built environment more livable by creating social connectors.

These two principles are likely what prompted him to address the lack of facilities responding to the viral disease currently affecting people from all over the world, including the Philippines.

“Personally, I have a very strong attachment to the city and I really cannot stand by as we watch our city crumble,” he says. “We owe our medical frontliners all the help we can give. We cannot just lament and complain about the situation or get involved in politics. We have to act as a community so that the medical community can in turn save the rest of us.”

As an architect, he hopes his fellow designers and builders can also give back through what they know best.

“We can all do something because we are problem solvers and thinkers that find the most beautiful solutions to life’s problems and desires,” Ty says. “Let’s make things happen.”



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