As COVID-19 numbers in the country continue to grow, the question of whether hospitals could sustain the influx of patients becomes increasingly harder to answer confidently. There are simply not enough beds to go around, and many medical facilities have already started turning away cases.
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This was the problem that the group of architect William Ti, ophthalmologist Dr. Glenn Angeles, Major Melo Jaluague, Major Banjo Torres Badayos, engineer Dan Quiaoit, and AIM-Dado Banatao Incubator executive director Prim Paypon hoped to address when they met a few weeks ago. “We were just talking about how best to flatten the curve. I think that week, private hospitals started to send people home already,” Ti, the the principal architect of the WTA Architecture + Design Studio (WTA), says. “We felt like we needed to augment the capacity of the hospitals.”
Ti’s firm is known to find innovative solutions to problems. A couple of years back, they put up the Book Stop Project, a pop-up that went around Metro Manila as a means to answer the problem of waning interest in libraries. Their answer for the concern about patient capacity? An easy, fast, and scalable structure that could add beds to an overwhelmed hospital that they call Emergency Quarantine Facilities (EQF).
The idea was rooted on a similar structure, the WTA x Boysen Pavilion, that was used for Anthology, the annual design and architecture fair held in Intramuros. This year’s fair was held in February, and was curated by Ti. Built with wood and enveloped in plastic, the pavilion was made of an adaptable wall system that can transform into short-term relief spaces. Consulting with architects Rebecca Plaza, Denise de Castro, and Jason Ang, Ti’s group was able to repurpose and redesign the concept of the Pavilion into the EQF.
Each rectilinear EQF measures 6 meters by 26 meters, or roughly the size of 10 parking slots. It can house 15 beds, two toilets, a shower, a testing box, and disinfecting areas. “It’s divided into three sections. The front end, you have the nurse station, and you also have the patient’s entrance. The middle part is where you’ll have your beds,” Ti explains. At the back, it will have a separate testing area, and toilet and shower facilities for the patients and healthcare workers. Ti and his team will provide the structure, the ventilation system, and the beds.
All over the country
Like the Pavilion, the main materials for the EQF are wood and plastics. “The reason we used wood is even if you go around our country, even in the provinces, you would see wood, right? It’s available everywhere. And plastic also is something that everyone is familiar with. We use it every day,” Ti elaborate. “And these two materials are very forgiving. You can make mistakes, you can readjust. It’s flexible. Sometimes we have sites that are smaller, that are bigger. So we can adjust accordingly.” He says that it would be easy to find workers that can handle these materials as they wouldn’t need special tools, or equipment.
“The idea is how could we make a dent into this problem. So we wanted to do something that could be done all over the country by basically almost anyone,” the architect says, adding that construction for each facility takes about five days. “Actually, we have people doing it all over the country already—Cebu, Bicol—because it’s easy to adapt. And we made the drawings open source. And we put it up online. So anyone can just take the drawings, and maybe adjust it to anything they want. Everything is online.”
After finalizing the design, the group asked for donations from industry friends in order to jumpstart the initiative. With that initial funding, they were able to start construction on 22 sites. As they were putting up the first EQFat Manila Naval Hospital in Taguig, word got around about their project, leading to a torrent of requests.
3 in a row for Ospital ng Makati located at Pembo Elementary School. The construction team for this site is led by @story_of_luca . He is part of over a dozen architects and engineers leading the front as we collectively push to build a total of 60 Emergency Quarantine Facilities within and outside Metro Manila. This is how #WeBuildAsOne as our humble gesture of service to the nation. Help fund construction for EQFs at bit.ly/eqfacility Check out wtadesignstudio.com/eqf to learn more. #eqfacility #eqf #wehealasone #flattenthecurve #emergencyarchitecture
“The initial goal was six. We’re up to 60 already,” Ti reveals. “The idea was to build prototypes and for the government to pick it up. But the requests were coming in too fast. It’s a race against time basically.” As of today, they have completed 18 EQFs, with 28 others currently in construction from Batangas to Bulacan, and 19 more sites afterward.
What does their group need? Awareness and more funding
“We’re getting requests all the way in Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija. You know the farther it is, the more funding it requires for operation. Also, the materials are harder to come by right now because of the lockdown, and a lot of the warehouses are closed,” he says. “If people can open up their shops for us. We need manpower. The thing we need most are trucks. Without them it would be very difficult.”
They are aiming to finish all 60 EQFs by April 20, which will add around 1,000 beds to hospitals around the country. As Ti says, it’s a race against time—and for lives.