Which of these AIA space, workflow and operations COVID-19 strategies are you following to protect your healthcare facilities?

by Brianna Crandall — August 28, 2020 — A task force of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) recently released a new checklist for healthcare facilities that was developed in partnership with doctors, nurses, scientists and healthcare administrators working on the frontlines of the pandemic.

Task force chair Dr. Molly Scanlon, FAIA, FACHA, an environmental health scientist at Phigenics, stated:

The pandemic has placed an overwhelming stress on healthcare systems and providers. By learning from the experiences and insights of frontline professionals, we’re able to ensure our hospital designs are best supporting healthcare staff and their patients.

AIA’s new COVID-19 Frontline Checklist (page 10) provides strategies to support healthcare staff and patients by specifically addressing the unique challenges imposed by COVID-19, which the group points out are only broadly addressed by infectious disease protocols in standard disaster plans.

Disaster plans for US health care systems have been uniquely tested by COVID-19, says AIA. In the beginning of the pandemic, healthcare staff began adapting facility spaces, workflows, and operations to mitigate risk of virus transmission within healthcare settings.

Dr. Eve Edelstein, Assoc. AIA, FAAA, of Clinicians for Design, remarked:

As we face the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is increasingly clear that the built environment is central to effective infection control and our health, safety and well-being. This work supports the clarion call for clinicians, including doctors, nurses, therapists and administrators, to consult with design teams as essential partners. Together, they can translate medical and scientific knowledge into design principles that can benefit both healthcare staff and patients.

Recognizing the need to develop optimal design strategies for these nuanced practices, the AIA’s task force conducted research and interviews with surgeons, physicians, specialists, nurses, therapists, social workers, administrators, and scientists.

Input gathered during February and March 2020 was used to inform a variety of considerations, including:

  • Spatial modifications for entering, testing, triaging, flexing spaces, setting up isolation areas and creating COVID-19 care rooms;
  • Air handling for spaces where procedures produce aerosols or increase risk of transmission;
  • Spatial modifications for COVID procedures, personnel needs and fluctuating staffing ratios;
  • Approaches for patients and providers during end-of-life care;
  • Spaces for staff respite and recovery during the extreme duress of COVID care; and
  • Strategies for unique environmental and infection control challenges due to the novel coronavirus.

This is the second checklist developed by AIA’s task force. In May, the United States Department of State translated and internationally distributed the task force’s alternate care site checklist (PDF file), which includes recommendations from various agencies, such as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Army Corps of Engineers. A comprehensive briefing (PDF file) is available online.

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. Task force members and contributors are named in the announcement.

The new AIA COVID-19 Task Force 1: Health Impact Briefing #2 June 22, 2020 — COVID-19 Frontline Perspective (PDF file) is available to download from the AIA website.

Visit AIA’s website for more COVID-19 resources for architects.