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Shipping containers become ICU for Covid patients

As the COVID-19 spread went unabated (and is still continuing in some parts) creating healthcare centres to treat Covid patients became a challenge. China built 1,000 bed hospital in few days. India converted railway coaches into makeshift hospitals. And Italy, one of the earliest and worst sufferers of the pandemic, used shipping containers as intensive care units (ICU)!

The first prototype of an open-source project to create plug-in intensive care units (ICU) from shipping container was built and installed on April 19th, 2020 at a new temporary hospital set up in Turin, northern Italy, one of the world’s hardest-hit regions by the pandemic. CURA (acronym for “Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments” and also “Cure” in Latin) was a quick-to-deploy solution to expand emergency facilities and ease the pressure on healthcare systems treating patients infected by coronavirus.

CURA was designed and produced in four weeks as a result of the joined effort of an international task force. The group includes, among the others, designers at Carlo Ratti Associati with Italo Rota, engineers at Jacobs, and health technology company Philips for medical equipment supply. The first prototype in Turin was developed with the financial sponsorship of the Pan European bank UniCredit. CURA is supported by the World Economic Forum (COVID-19 Action Platform and Cities, and Infrastructure and Urban Services Platform). The list of contributors feature Humanitas Research Hospital (Medical Engineering), Policlinico di Milano (Medical Consultancy), MIT Senseable City Lab (Research), Studio FM Milano (Visual Identity & Graphic Design), Squint/Opera (Digital Media), IEC Engineering (Fulvio Sabato – Safety and Certifications), Alex Neame of Team Rubicon UK (Logistics), Ivan Pavanello of Projema (MEP Engineering), Dr. Maurizio Lanfranco of Ospedale Cottolengo (Medical Consultancy), Gruppo Boero (Painting Products).

Each unit is hosted in a 20-foot intermodal container, repurposed with biocontainment equipment. An extractor creates indoor negative pressure, complying with the standards of Airborne Infection Isolation Rooms AIIRs. Two glass windows carved on the opposite sides of the containers are meant for doctors to always get a sense of the status of patients both inside and outside the pods. Also, this would potentially allow external visitors to get closer to their relatives in a safer and more humane setting. Each pod works autonomously and can be promptly shipped to any location around the world, adapting to the needs of the local healthcare infrastructure.

CURA has been developed as an open-source project, with its tech specs, drawings and design materials made accessible for everyone online on https://curapods.org/open-source-files. Since the project’s launch, in late March, more than two thousand people have shown an interest and contacted the CURA team to join the project, reproduce it, or provide technical advises.

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