Carlo Ratti Associati design mobile intensive care units to help the fight against COVID-19

26 March 2020
  • CURA

Carlo Ratti Associati




Modular containment pods could ease pressure on health systems worldwide

On 24th March, there were 377,431 confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world, putting health systems under pressure to deliver urgent treatment. Carlo Ratti Associati and the MIT Senseable City Lab are looking to address this growing need with intensive care units (ICUs) built inside shipping containers, which can be joined together to create mobile hospitals. Engineering firms, logistic experts and medical equipment suppliers have also joined this non-profit project to create Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments, or CURA.

The designers for CURA aim to improve the efficiency of existing field hospital typology, tailoring it to the current pandemic. Hospitals in countries most affected by COVID-19 have struggled to increase their ICU capacity to admit a growing number of patients in need of ventilators. Constructing emergency makeshift hospitals in tents is one solution, but exposes medical professionals to higher risk of contamination and adds operational strain. The alternative approach, to build specialist wards with biocontainment, is time and resource intensive.

The CURA are as fast to mount as a hospital tent, but as safe as an isolation ward, thanks to an extractor that creates indoor negative pressure. The ICU pod is contained within in a 20-foot intermodal container, which can be shipped anywhere. Individual pods, connected by an inflatable structure, will be used to create multiple configurations - from 4 beds to over 40 - which can be deployed in just a few hours. Some pods could be placed next to an existing hospital, while others could be used to create stand-alone field hospitals.

Alice Charles, Cities, Infrastructure & Urban Services Lead at the World Economic Forum, which is supporting the project, says: “We are most concerned about the spread of coronavirus to densely populated urban areas in the global south, particularly in Africa where the trajectory for the first 40 days looks much worse that Europe. Hence we believe a solution of this nature needs to get to scale as soon as possible."

The first unit is currently being built in Milan, Italy, with the sponsorship of UniCredit.

Lucy Nordberg
TenderStream Head of Research

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