Salus journal

Healthy Planet. Healthy People.

Healthcare / Service redesign

Michigan field hospital project has “vibe of combat architecture and construction”

By Andrew Sansom 15 Apr 2020 0

In an effort to help the Detroit region fight the COVID-10 pandemic, HKS has partnered with Gilbane Building Company for the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on a 1100-bed temporary field hospital in Novi, Michigan.

The convention centre retrofit at the 250,000 square-foot Suburban Center Showplace will treat COVID-19 patients and is expected to be operational on 20 April, in a 15-day turn-around from start to finish.

According to Jim Whitaker, HKS principal, and director of government and Alternative Project Delivery, the firm is responding to numerous emergency requests for qualifications for alternative care sites – conversion projects of convention centres, hotels, and even prisons – around the US. At the end of last week, more than a dozen had been submitted.

“We’re leveraging our expertise to rapidly convert existing buildings to help public agencies and health providers prepare for the surge of anticipated COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks,” said Whitaker. “HKS is uniquely positioned because we have specialists in many building types, including health, public assembly venues, hospitality and education. We’re able to quickly collaborate internally with our cross-discipline teams and develop plans for alternative building conversion solutions.”

At the Suburban Center Showplace, a rapid, round-the-clock response effort is said to be underway, in which HKS, in its role as architect, is deploying its design experience in medical planning, code compliance, life safety, disability accessibility and more, in working alongside the USACE and Gilbane, in addition to other building trade contractors.

“As a former US Army officer, it’s the vibe of combat architecture, engineering and construction,” said Whitaker. “It’s the architecture, engineering and construction community collaborating in an emergency room setting, racing to prepare for the patient. We’re working with the USACE and Gilbane to quickly evaluate the site, roll up our sleeves ,and quite literally crank out hand sketches, diagrams and verbal design directions on site. 

While in the grip of the emergency, the architect says it is focusing efforts on applying its knowledge and skills to respond to the health crisis and help save lives. Looking forward, however, it is also determined to learn from this experience and help its healthcare partners plan ahead for the post-pandemic recovery and, in Whitaker’s words, “whatever the new normal will become”.