In an effort to support the COVID-19 response, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has launched a task force to help inform public officials, healthcare facility owners 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,” says AIA 2020 president Jane Frederick. “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.”

AIA encourages federal, state and local government to adapt appropriate existing buildings to meet the growing healthcare and quarantine needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The task force is charged with developing a COVID-19 Rapid Response Safety Space Assessment for AIA members that will include considerations for the suitability of buildings, spaces and other sites for patient care. The assessment will be developed by architects with a wide range of expertise, including healthcare facility design, urban design, public health and disaster assistance.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic public health response there is an unprecedented need for the adaptive reuse of buildings to serve a variety of functions,” says environmental health scientist Dr. Molly Scanlon, who is the director of standards, compliance and research at Phigenics. “Architects and our allied design and construction professionals are in a unique position to leverage our advanced problem-solving skills to bring forth ideas for community implementation.”

The task force—chaired by Dr. Scanlon—plans to release its report in early April in an effort to help inform decisions to address the pandemic.

“This is a race against time for healthcare facilities to meet bed surge capacity needs,” says AIA Academy of Architecture for Health president Kirsten Waltz, who is the director of facilities, planning and design at Baystate Health. “This task force will help inform best practices for quickly assessing building inventory and identifying locations that are most appropriate to be adapted for this crisis.”

Waltz and other members of the task force are helping bridge the needs of healthcare providers by modifying hospitals and smaller facilities to meet the growing bed surge demand and to increase areas for medical screening, triage and other patient care.