AIA’s new tool can help assess your building’s suitability as an alternate care site during the COVID-19 crisis

by Brianna Crandall — April 22, 2020 — As communities across the country race to expand available hospital bed space in response to COVID-19, a newly formed American Institute of Architects (AIA) task force is providing a new tool for non-experts to quickly identify buildings suitable to be adapted for temporary patient care. The task force is also asking for input from experts around the globe to provide design information on alternate care sites for a new online resource.

AIA’s new 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.

AIA is encouraging federal, state and local governments to adapt appropriate existing — and especially vacant or temporarily unused — buildings to meet the growing healthcare and quarantine needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Alternate Care Sites Assessment Tool

The COVID-19 Alternate Care Sites Preparedness Assessment Tool provides a checklist for public officials, facilities owners/managers and other decision-makers that highlights 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 rapidly evaluate whether buildings are compatible for:

  • Supporting patient care operations;
  • Providing for the needs and safety of healthcare staff and patients; and
  • Mitigating the spread of disease.

Task Force Chair Dr. Molly Scanlon, FAIA, FACHA, an environmental health scientist at Phigenics, explained:

This tool is geared toward flexible and rapid decision-making during a public health pandemic. 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 healthcare architects, engineers, life-safety consultants, front-line health workers, and hospital facility operations professionals. A comprehensive briefing of the task force’s initiatives is available on AIA’s website.

The COVID-19 Alternate Care Sites Preparedness Assessment Tool V1.0 is available for free download from the AIA website.

Map and project information for healthcare facilities and temporary care sites responding to COVID-19

The new task force is also asking architects, designers, engineers and facilities owners and managers around the globe to provide design and project information and images of COVID-19 alternative care sites for a new online resource.

AIA’s task force has created the online tool to facilitate information sharing and the development of best practices for responding to surge capacity caused by COVID-19 and future pandemics. As part of the new online resource, architects, designers, engineers and facilities managers worldwide can input information on alternative care sites into AIA’s database.

Information will appear on the COVID-19 ArchMap, which was produced in partnership with the University of Kansas’ Institute of Health + Wellness Design. The task force developed this tool to catalog current public health and healthcare facility response and to serve as a research database moving forward.

Additional COVID-19-related resources

AIA also released a new resource for architecture firms: Architect’s Guide to Business Continuity: Guidance for reducing firm disruption, and provided information and a new webinar online informing businesses how provisions included in AIA contract documents can help address issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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