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How Carlo Ratti turned shipping containers into intensive care units

The prefab mobile health units are a 2020 Innovation by Design honoree.

How Carlo Ratti turned shipping containers into intensive care units
[Photo: Max Tomasinelli]

The international design firm Carlo Ratti Associati turned unused shipping containers into intensive care units to support northern Italian hospitals overwhelmed during the pandemic. These connected units for respiratory ailments (CURA) help hospitals extend their emergency facilities. Each temperature-controlled pod is equipped to treat two ICU patients, including ventilators, monitors, and stands for intravenous fluid dispensation. To make sure that the atmosphere is clean, an extractor fills the space with negative pressure, which greatly reduces the spread of airborne diseases. The units were also designed with families in mind: Two windows carved into the container let people check on their sick loved ones and allow doctors to monitor progress. The designers of CURA also outlined tech specs in open-source files available online, so that the concept can be replicated by anyone, anywhere in the world. The CURA pods can be installed in about an hour, making it faster than most existing options on the market, Carlo Ratti says, adding that even a tent structure requires more time to set up, as it needs to be equipped with medical equipment that comes preinstalled in CURA. “Health authorities can attach units to current hospitals or build a whole new hospital solely with CURA pods,” Ratti says. “They can also quickly move modules from one place to the other, following the mutating front line of the virus.”

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WATCH: 7 innovative designs helping us through the pandemic

See more honorees from the 2020 Innovation by Design Awards here.

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