Pop-up shops, student accommodation … ICUs. Two-bed prototype for a fraction of the cost of other options being built in coronavirus-hit Italy

The $100,000 units can be linked and help a hospital expand its ICU capability.
Stacks of space … the $100,000 units can be linked and help a hospital expand its ICU capability. Photograph: Squint/Opera

Architects have turned to shipping containers to make everything from pop-up shops to co-working spaces, and even teetering towers of student housing. But now the humble corrugated steel box might have found one of its most useful reincarnations yet, in the hands of an international network of architects and engineers who have come together to convert them into two-bed intensive care units for the coronavirus pandemic.

“A group of us started talking a week ago, wondering how could contribute our skills to this emergency,” says Carlo Ratti, an Italian architect based in Boston, where he teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “We all know there is a massive need for more intensive care units across the world, but there are problems with the two existing solutions – as an official report from the Chinese government found, based on their experience of the virus.”

One current solution, he says, is to take a convention centre and fill it with lots of beds, creating a field hospital overnight, as is now planned for the ExCel centre in east London. There is efficiency in the numbers, but Chinese authorities found that problems were caused by the intense concentration of contaminated air, with the result that many more of the medical staff became infected. The second solution is prefabricated hospitals, kitted out with the full mechanical ventilation and negative pressure systems needed for bio-containment, but which take several months to complete.

“We thought, is there any way that you can get the speed of convention centre or tent hospital, mounted in a few hours or a couple of days,” says Ratti, “but at the same time have something that is as safe as the prefab hospital?”

Tents used to make a field hospital in Crema, Italy.
Tents used to make a field hospital in Crema, Italy. Photograph: Marco Ottico/EPA


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been and continues to be an extremely high demand for accommodation cabins such as office and canteen cabins.

At present, we currently don’t have the following stock available.
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We also still have a large selection of varieties of used toilet block cabins, some with showers and drying rooms etc. (PLEASE CONTACT US)

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Please note, lead times for used 32ft office/canteen cabins and used toilet blocks etc is approx 6-8 weeks from date of order at present.

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We appreciate your patience and hope to have all used cabin stock available in the the near future.

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