Arup and HKS release “The Pandemic-Resilient Hospital”

Jackie Wei Green Jackie Wei Green Senior Communications Leader,Los Angeles
25 January 2021

New report illustrates how hospital systems can invest in resilient design to maintain safe operations during a pandemic.

Arup, in partnership with architecture firm HKS, today released a new report titled, “The Pandemic-Resilient Hospital: How Design Can Help Facilities Stay Operational and Safe.” Featuring insights from an interdisciplinary team of architects, engineers, clinicians, and medical planners assembled by HKS and Arup, the report explores how hospital systems can create a flexible and resilient hospital campus that addresses the needs for both infectious disease care and overall healthcare priorities amid pandemics.

As infectious diseases are increasingly likely to arise and become more widespread in the future due to climate migration and the growing spread of zooanotic diseases, the report aims to help healthcare facilities think through their current approach and priorities, as well as future renovations and new construction. Intended for hospital executives, facility directors, planners and designers, the report provides facility investment considerations that healthcare professionals can utilize when designing spaces to address the current pandemic as well as consider for increased resilience for the future. 

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to stress our healthcare system and impact our hospitals, we are learning real-time about adaptability and resiliency.  We are seeing so much of it in our nation’s caregivers who are, in many cases, finding the lack of both in our hospital buildings. Given the hard truth that we will see more pandemics in our future, it is more important than ever to create facilities that are flexible and resilient for what might come. Our hospitals must readily demonstrate adaptability and safety in order to increase patient and staff confidence,” said Bill Scrantom, Americas Healthcare Leader at Arup. “Our collaboration with HKS has resulted in a report that offers core considerations, rather than prescriptive solutions, that address the unique needs and design of each hospital when planning for future pandemics.”

The report outlines seven principles for pandemic-resilient facility design that serve as strategies for investment in infrastructure and planning for the safe maintenance of operations during a pandemic. These principles are broken down into campus and system level considerations, building level considerations, unit level considerations and room level considerations, and highlights design features that:

  • Are versatile and must work for everyday standard patient care as well as meet pandemic needs in order to be financially viable and easily adaptable to pandemic mode.

  • Are surge ready and support an increase in the number of patients and patient severity on the existing footprint. This includes resiliency strategies that ensure operational continuity, especially during surge events, when the service is needed most.

  • Support wellbeing through spaces where staff can safely relax and have respite within the hospital walls, as well as where patients and families can stay connected and find hope and peace. These indoor spaces should also support patient recovery and staff wellbeing, productivity and alertness.

  • Provide clean air and surfaces to reduce the transmission of infectious particles, while supporting ease of maintenance and cleaning of air and surfaces.

  • Isolate, contain and separate when needed through facilities that can rapidly contain certain sections while continuing business and life in others. Virtual communications are utilized to minimize unnecessary contact and reduce risk.

  • Enable flow and support clear channels for circulation on the campus, building and scales that support safe movement and minimize transmission risk through the utilization of threshold spaces, such as entrances, waiting rooms and lobbies. These spaces can act as buffer zones that can serve to separate and protect infectious and non-infectious patients.

  • Enable digital and physical connection through innovative, appealing spaces and places that allow for a seamless transition from the physical to the digital realm.

“We've learned many lessons throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the critical need for hospitals to stay operational and open for business whatever may come. These facilities are essential to serving all community health needs, above and beyond responding to the virus,” said Jason Schroer, principal and director of health for HKS. “The recent shutdowns of health care come at a great cost to overall patient outcomes. The design thinking we've explored with Arup addresses how we can create flexible, resilient facilities for care and be responsive to widespread infectious disease events while also maintaining normal operations.