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Converted shipping containers help in fight against COVID-19

Seniors in care homes able to see family, connect safely

There’s little question that PCL Construction has a diverse portfolio of projects. They’ve completed massive renovations and built bridges, even entire complexes, in Northern Ontario.

But their latest endeavour may just be one of their most creative. It’s also incredibly timely and of the utmost need.

The company has been retrofitting shipping containers and using them to facilitate personal visits at long-term care homes. They’re also being used to conduct COVID-19 screening and testing safely. These are just a couple of the ways that these pods are being adapted to community needs. There are, in fact, many possible uses and value, particularly in northern and remote communities.

It’s just the latest example of savvy thinking that solves a couple of very new problems—and other applications are currently in development..

Keeping seniors connected

As we know, long-term care residents are among the most vulnerable in our society, and they’re particularly susceptible to the COVID-19 virus. In Manitoba, renovated shipping containers are currently being used as personal care home visitation shelters. The province hired PCL to design and build 90 year-round visitation shelters to be attached to 79 personal care homes, and more units are being requested. 

They provide a safe, comfortable and convenient space where residents can safely connect with their family members, at a time when a connection is so important. As the temperature drops, the concern was that outdoor visits could not continue. But these visiting pods sited next to the PCHs allow families to maintain safe, comfortable, personal meetings with their loved ones during colder months and bad weather. These in-person visits help keep seniors’ loneliness and isolation at bay, ease mental and physical suffering, and make residents happier and healthier.

These modular units are fully insulated, climate-controlled and have two separate entrances: one for residents, who enter from their care homes, and one for visitors, both wheelchair accessible.  An HVAC system brings in fresh air and the space includes UVC germicidal lighting which sanitizes between visits. The units themselves offer diverse configurations and are connected directly to the exterior of the homes, ensuring residents remain sheltered as they move back and forth. There is room in each for one resident and up to five visitors; several units may be sited beside each other, though each remains completely separate. 

The shelters are outfitted with heating and air-conditioning so they can be used year-round. If more protection is needed, a divider can be added between residents and visitors. 

Providing safe testing 

Industries of all types need a way to screen and test safely. Citizen Care Pods are the result of a collaboration between PCL Construction, WZMH Architects, Citizen Care Pod Corp, Connectus Global and Microsoft. These modified shipping containers serve as portable contactless screening and testing centres, and can be used anywhere people gather, including schools, factories or job sites. 

The pods can go anywhere in the world and take about a day to set up. About 20-feet-long, they can screen roughly 180 people per hour; the 40-foot version can do 250-300 tests. Screening includes integrated artificial intelligence, a temperature-sensing biometric camera and a brief visit with a nurse who provides either a serology test or an antigen test. Other health and safety measures include contract tracing, signing in, hand sanitizer and a window that separates screeners from those being tested.

The pods are a safe, secure way to provide entry management and large venue screening. They are a creative, much-needed solution that provides a valuable service. They also help to lessen the risk for students and employees, who don’t have to venture out to private health centres to get tested.

Interest in customizing these repurposed shipping containers just keeps growing. They can be used to create fast-tracked testing facilities in areas of need, and, down the road, can help deliver a potential mass vaccination.

In recent months, PCL Construction has become subject matter experts in providing spaces that support families and public safety during the pandemic. They were able to fabricate and install 90 units across 79 different sites in a mere 8 weeks, a major success for the team and the subtrades. Learn more about this truly awe-inspiring teamwork.  

Edmonton, Alberta-based PCL Construction now has an office in Sudbury and is here to serve the communities of Northern Ontario. The company has national expertise, local experience, and is eager to help in any way they can. For more information, call 705-995-2225.