UIA/PHG International Student Competition

- 2015 First Place Winner -

Mobile Isolation Unit Design : Curb Communicable Disease Epidemics

This competition sought innovative approaches that help curb the outbreak of communicable disease epidemics, increase people’s awareness of global impacts of ongoing or potential public health threats, and to encourage more students to be interested and engaged in health-related design.

Our mission was to develop a mobile unit that can facilitate the swift diagnosis, isolation and treatment of patients with Ebola or other communicable diseases, and safely transport infected patients to facilities that are able to provide appropriate care.

Project Overview

Globalization and fast transportation networks have brought people living closer to each other but also created unpredictable public health threats from time to time. An unknown disease or virus that was originally contained in isolated areas can affect any corner in the world within just a few days. In the past several months, the world has witnessed the exponential spread of the Ebola outbreak. The World Health Organization reported that the number of Ebola cases were 9,936 with 4,877 deaths as of October 22, 2014. The same situation happened 11 years ago when SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) infected 8,273 individuals in 37 countries with 775 deaths. To fight against Ebola, SARS and other communicable disease epidemics, health organizations should act quickly to identify, diagnose, isolate and treat patients. However, this may be impossible in many regions, especially in developing countries or remote areas, due to the lack of quality healthcare resource. Therefore, a flexible, effective and affordable measure is needed to provide swift response to communicable disease epidemics. (UIA-PHG 2015).

Learning Objectives:
1.) Critical analysis of Mobile Isolation Unit Design and their potential in curbing communicable disease outbreaks.

2.) Use of shipping containers, or other fast, deployable methods to design responsible approaches to clinic modules.

3.) Design Strategies and considerations to combat the specific epidemic of Ebola.

4.) A case study example of this design implementation with a Village Assembly model in Sierra Leone.

Understanding Ebola
Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive care and the patient’s immune response. The following basic interventions, when used early, can significantly improve the chances of survival. We began to try and map, graphically convey and understand the Ebola epidemic at large, as well as the patient needs and lifecycle of the virus.

Survival Outcome

The progression of illness is quite fast, usually 1-2 weeks from Illness to death. However patients can recover. Most
of the recovery outcomes depend on the level of treatment and immune system of patient. This is where the built environment intervention can take place. True impact of treatment begins before the architecture is even there.

1.) Education & Outreach

2.) Early Identification

3.) Contact Tracing

4.) Treatment - Symptoms Management

5.) Sustainable Implementation

A Village Assembly: Sustainable Roots, Adaptive Response, Effective Treatment

Spatial Program – In this culture, you are often designing for the family and community. The village concept derived from these roots, with the respect in mind of:

1. Entry - Potential patients are screened and triaged. Separation of patient and staff flow, changing and disinfection between low and high risk zones.

2. Open Courtyard space provided for staff and patient sanctuary, zoning buffer and visual focal point. A place for morning gathering and prayer.

3. Triage happened at entrance. Suspected cases are admitted to suspected-patient zone. Disinfection and testing confirmed here.

4. Suspected cases are admitted to suspected-patient zone. Disinfection and testing confirmed here.

5. Positive Ebola Patients moved to confirmed case zone. Provided good symptoms management and isolated units.

6. Waste removal transfer for disposal. Separation, disinfection, morgue, burial and deceased patient discharge.

7. Supporting surrounding spaces to include educational space, Patient visitation and staff/housing space.

Mapping Movement: Patient, Staff, Waste Management and Environmental Systems

People – Separate Staff (Back) Flow from Patient Flow (Front), Triage at Patient Screening to separate into different suspected vs confirmed village assemblies.

Staff/Workers Core where utilities and staff function and work space occurs. Outer edge for sanitary concerns Latrines, Morgue and future expansion.

Materials – Supply Flow, from back entrance near staff to storage, pharmacy, labs and staff corridors. Waste Flow following opposite flow out the other area of confirmed cases village.

Elements – Tented structure to deflect heat and provide shaded work space, and means for rainwater collection, Solar panel implementation above the staff work core and supply containers,

Ventilation – (patient unit) Passive and active systems and openings to accommodate natural ventilation.


Unit Design:

Flexible Modules, Sustainable Materials, Affordable Units

Each shipping container converted into two patient wards. With natural shading devices, passive means of heating and cooling and latrines to the back. The unit would be stilted up to accommodate grade changes and drainage. Double stacked structures to provide more of a dynamic work space, and passive and active system implementation.

Rapid Response: Quick Response, Multi-Transit Oriented, Flexible Solutions

Military Plane - Both 20- and 40-foot containers can be placed on-board C-17 Globe master III and C-5 Galaxy aircraft. High-wing, 4-engine, T-tailed military-transport aircraft, can carry large equipment, supplies and troops directly to small airfields.

Cargo Ships - They are a common means of commercial inter modal freight transport and now carry most seagoing non-bulk cargo. Container ship capacity is measured in twenty-foot equivalent units. Feeder or World-wide foreign-going vessels carry 10,000 containers

Land Trucks - Inter-modal units seamlessly fit on the back of flatbed trucks, some of which utilize cranes to hoist and move containers on site. Carrying capacity per truck is up to 40’ long containers (2 patient units).

Helicopters - Sky cranes provide flexible staging options to hoist and transport individual shipping containers to remote site locations. They are ideal at providing palettes and supplies to rural areas.

Site Construction - Flexible staging and pack able, deploy-able rafters to elevate shipping containers above uneven topography. On site construction with modules that easily pack inside shipping containers.


This project was awarded and presented at the UIA PHG International Conference in Dalin, China in July 2015.

This project was subsequently  presented at McMillan Pazdan Smith in May, 2015

and the Patient Centered Design First Annual Conference in September, 2015.


Press Release Links: World Architecture Community         World Competitions Page

For more information, and to view the project boards  please visit : UIA PHG Results Website 2015