In the Chinese city of Wuhan, there’s an enthralling turn of event as the government attempts to contain the deadly coronavirus, which has caused over 132 death and over 6000 infections according to the latest statistics. Wuhan accounts for the largest number of infections and China has committed to rapidly building new hospitals. Viral videos have surfaced of an architectural achievement; two healthcare facilities that are fully functional being constructed in a matter of days.
Aired by the state media, drone images have shown bulldozers, in construction sites, digging foundations, a multitude of trucks tugging in steel cables, pre-fab parts, cement and power generators. Laborers are working 24/7 to beat the deadline; Huoshenshan hospital which will have a 1000 bed capacity and occupying 269,000 sq. ft. broke ground on Jan. 24 and is expected to be operational on Feb. 3. Another ambitious project is the Leishenshan hospital expected to have a 1300 bed capacity and occupying 323,000 sq. ft. will open two days later.
Several questions have risen following Wuhan’s speedy construction rate. How can China squeeze construction timeline? It takes years to put up a fully-serviced medical facility which has essential medical technology equipment. And can hastily built hospitals be safe?
Scott Rawlings, a leading architect from a global architecture and engineering firm, states that what Beijing is putting up are not ordinary healthcare facilities but, “a triage center for managing mass infection.” Having not the luxury of time to consult for a custom design, Wuhan is relying on designs from Xiaotangshan hospital a 1000-bed hospital located outside Beijing and that was a assembled in a week during the SARS epidemic in 2003.
Hospitals are Secure but not Exactly Sustainable
Utilizing pre-fabricated materials is the solution accelerate Wuhan’s hospital construction. Made in factories, fully-assembled rooms are brought into the site and pit into place. The building technique is extremely safe, assures Thorsten Helbig, a structural engineer. “You can definitely make a pre-fab building structurally sound.”
But in as much as they are safe, they are not always sustainable. “The hospitals meet the standards when it comes to integrity, but noy in the consumption of energy says. “I can’t imagine that these are the most optimized buildings.” Xiaotangshan hospital outside Beijing was “quietly abandoned” when they contained the SARS epidemic. This is because it is difficult to specialize such a facility for any other use. Helbig advices that environmental friendly pre-fab units that can be easily taken apart and reused in other useful structure be made.