COVID-19: How Architects are Taking on The Challenge

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The world is under attack by the COVID-19 and everyone is trying their best to help fight it.

In this post, I will present how the architects and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) are taking part in this challenge in the United States with a great level of patriotism.

Starting from politicians and doctors, to grocery shoppers, everyone is taking part in challenging COVID-19, a little-known virus that has been stalking the human species since mid-November 2019.

Politicians have declared emergencies, injected stimulus packages, ordered more medical supplies, enforced social distances, and so on. Doctors have bet on their own lives to save patients. Uber drivers turned grocery shoppers helped people stay home in lockdown.

During this unprecedented crisis, other professionals are also risking their lives and staying up at night to ensure the essential services like power, gas, water, internet, and telephone services stay uninterrupted.   

What are the architects doing during this time?

You will be amazed to know how the architect’s offices have quickly come forward to challenge COVID-19 fiercely!

“The still evolving COVID-19 crisis has scrambled even the most basic assumptions we’ve made about our lives and what the future will look like”, said AIA 2020 President, Jane Frederick, FAIA. “But I know this: collectively, we have the power to meet the many challenges in the days ahead. Even in these early days of this crisis, when the only certainty is uncertainty, I also know that we will be stronger in the end.” To read his full statement, click this link.

One of the essential tools of fighting COVID-19 is delivering new hospital facilities within a week or two.


In no time, since the COVID-19 outbreak began, architects are offering modular hospitals, some are converting existing facilities into temporary hospitals, and others are helping to produce face masks using 3D printers. Those who are not in the healthcare sector are looking into their specialty areas, like airports, and rethinking their design approach.

Whereas a hospital usually takes a few years to be delivered, COVID-19 hospitals are needed to be ready in weeks! The phenomenon started in China during SARS outbreak in 2003 by magically building the Xiaotangshan Hospital in a week, and the same magic has repeated in 2020 in Wuhan.

This kind of epidemic is relatively new outside Asia, especially in the United States; however, the architects in the country are taking on the challenge bravely.

It’s a fantastic task that these extraordinary architects are performing along with a myriad of other forces to deter COVID-19.

HGA Architects & Engineering is Offering Modular Hospital 

Multiple companies have joint ventured to provide the STAAT Mod (Strategic, Temporary, Acuity-Adaptable Treatment) solution. The venture includes, on the one hand, HGA and The Boldt Company, and on the other, Tweet/ Garot, Faith Technologies, and IMEG.

STAAT Mod can be configured into three different applications:

1) 2-room isolation unit- The unit is designed for use in an interior shelter, for example, a convention center. It can be deployed from the point of order very rapidly.

2) 8-bed unit- The unit is designed for use as critical care isolation rooms consisting of four 2-bed modules. It can be added to an existing hospital or clinic.

3) 12-bed unit- This unit is designed for use as negative-pressure open-bays consisting of four 3-bed open bays modules connected to the central service spine. An infinite number of additional self-sustaining tiers can be added to build a standalone hospital.

Virtual Reality (VR) simulation exercises were used to design, develop, and test the STAAT Mod. Interdisciplinary experts participated in the simulation, including critical care nurses trained in COVID-19 protocols, a hospital environment specialist in infection control, and Lean process engineers for rapid construction and delivery.

To learn more about HGA’s STAAT Mod project, click this link.

AECOM is Adapting a Shopping Center into a Temporary Hospital 

AECOM has been engaged by the US Army Corps of Engineers to convert 100,000 square feet Gateway Shopping Center in Memphis, Tennessee, into a 350 beds temporary hospital.

The shopping center, owned by Belz Enterprises, will be transformed into a facility for coronavirus-positive patients who don’t yet need critical care.

AECOM provides architectural, engineering, and construction management services, according to its website.

The State of Tennessee and the Army Corps of Engineers are working on multiple facilities like this one to provide a total of 1,000 beds in the State.

To read the main article on AECOM’s Gateway project, click this link.

Stantec is Adapting a Convention Center into a Temporary Hospital 

In Chicago, Stantec has been engaged by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority and the US Army Corps of Engineers to convert a portion of the McCormick Place Convention Center into a 3,000 beds Alternate Care Facility for COVID-19 patients. Walsh Construction is the contractor for the project.

Construction on the first 500 beds was completed on April 3. The entire facility will be ready by April 24, 2020.

This unprecedented conversion will house low-to-moderate acuity patients across three of the convention center’s halls, where patients will be separated by the level of care required.

The facility is intended to relieve pressure on the hospital system by freeing up beds for patients with severe COVID-19.

“We need to quickly and efficiently leverage our existing spaces and infrastructure to allow our healthcare professionals to focus on providing care in this time of crisis,” said Douglas King, AIA, healthcare principal at Stantec. “Our team at Stantec is proud to support this mission in our local Chicago community, and we hope it will serve as a model across the country.”

To learn more about the Stantec’s McCormick Place project, click this link.

HMC Architects is Mass Producing Face Mask Using 3D Printers

HMC Architects is among the prominent design brands in California to manufacture face mask for healthcare workers in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The United States is currently facing a tremendous face mask shortage until the significant producers can ramp up production quickly.

The design firm is applying its fabrication capabilities and Ultimaker 3D printers to manufacture face masks and make them available to hospitals and clinics. HMC is using the Columbia University Library Studios information as a guide to print these masks.

“As architects, we design to make people’s lives better,” said HMC President and CEO Brian Staton. “If there was any time for innovative design firms to step up and provide resources to make a difference in the lives of our communities, it’s right now. We hope to distribute as many as we can to support the efforts of our heroic healthcare workers.”

As the 3D printers are running 24/7 in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, Sacramento, and Ontario in California, HMC is estimating up to 35 face mask production per day.

To learn more about HMC’s face mask project, click this link.

Gensler is Thinking Ahead to Regain Travelers’ Trust in Airports

Major carriers like American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have grounded hundreds of aircraft and many international airlines have suspended their service entirely, as air travel has reduced to almost nothing in the wake of the public fear of infection,

To save the industry and gain back passenger trust, the airports are coping with a new reality of this health crisis and any future threats of viral disease.

“All passengers will require assurances that the experience from curb to aircraft seat is safe. The question is, what do those assurances look like?”, said Ty Osbaugh, AIA, Gensler’s Aviation Practice Leader. “After 9/11, security measures were visible to passengers and served as validation that the industry took their safety seriously. In a post-COVID-19 world, we have to recognize that the threat is less visible and that it requires a different response.”

Gensler has begun to consider short- and long-term design responses to support airport authorities to protect both travelers and operations staff from the spread of viruses and other diseases.

Short-term responses

1. Limit queuing, and congregation spaces through better processing

2. Use technology to pre-map the passenger experience

3. Accelerate biometric screening

4. Decentralize passenger processing

Long-term responses

1. Convert parking garages into check-in and screening centers

2. Rethink seating layouts in boarding areas

3. Create screening vestibules at airport entrances

To learn more about Gensler’s airport projects, click this link.

AIA Has Launched a Task Force to Develop a Best Practice Guide for Fast Creation of Hospitals

To be an active partner in the COVID-19 challenge, the AIA has launched a task force to inform and encourage the government, hospitals, and architects on adapting buildings into temporary healthcare facilities.

“On a daily basis, I am hearing from our architects who feel a deep sense of moral duty to support our healthcare providers on the frontlines of this pandemic,” said AIA 2020 President Jane Frederick, FAIA. “As our communities assess buildings to address growing surge capacity, we hope this task force will be a resource to ensure buildings are appropriately and safely adapted for our doctors and nurses.”

The AIA task force is developing a COVID-19 best practices for quickly assessing building inventory that is most appropriate to be adapted for this crisis, with a wide range of expertise, including healthcare facility design, urban design, public health, and disaster assistance.

To learn more about AIA COVID-19 Task Force, click this link.


I have painted a partial picture of how the architects in the United States are taking on the COVID-19 challenge. I’m sure that architects in every part of the world are taking on the COVID-19 challenge as well, although their efforts are not visible yet.

Are you one of those architects? If you are, the world is proud of you!

It will be enlightening for the future generation of architects to know more about you and your great work. I am in search of architects who are directly involved with these initiatives and write about their noble efforts to serve humanity. Please drop me a note if you have a story to share. 

If you are an architect working in areas other than healthcare and wondering how you can help- you can volunteer with AIA. AIA, New York Chapter is calling for volunteers, find out more by clicking here. AIA, California Chapter is raising funds for buying personal protection equipment for health workers, find out more by clicking here.

There is more than one way to lead architecture that I presented in this post- “6 Ways to Lead Architecture in 2020 and Beyond.”

From own experience, I have written on the benefits of being a PMP, or Project Management Professional, in this post- “How Does Project Management Help Me as an Architect?”

You may also be interested to read my first post- “The Future of The Future Architect.”

Please make comments on this post if you liked it or you did not. Please share it with other architects if you think reading it would be a morale booster during this challenging time.

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