Perkins and Will’s New York studio has teamed up with Danish firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects and multidisciplinary design group Arup to create a proposal for retrofitting defunct school buses into mobile COVID-19 testing labs as a means of improving testing in underserved communities. Informed by the newly approved Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 test, the design concept would outfit school buses with ID NOW rapid-testing instruments as well as sanitation infrastructure such as plexiglass shields, negative air pressure systems and gravity-based hand washing sinks. All elements of the mobile testing lab would be sourced off the shelf from vendors for easy replicability. 

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diagram of bus with information on COVID-19 testing

The health and economic ramifications of the pandemic have disproportionately affected lower-income and underserved populations. In an attempt to make testing more accessible, the interdisciplinary design team has created an open-source mobile testing lab to serve vulnerable and isolated groups. To follow social distancing guidelines, patients would be encouraged to make appointments through a mobile app; however, smartphone access would not be a prerequisite for access.

Related: Studio Precht designs a fingerprint-like park for social distancing

diagram of bus being outfitted with lab technology

For safety, the public would not be allowed onto the bus; a canopy and protective barrier would be installed on the side of the bus, and samples would be taken from behind a protective barrier. Samples would then be labeled and brought into the lab environment on the bus via a pass-through box. Each lab would host two technicians who analyze the samples with the ID NOW rapid-testing instruments, record and upload results to the federal government’s official database and then discard test samples and expended materials in biohazard waste bags for safe disposal. Results would either be verbally communicated or transmitted via the smartphone app to the individual.

floor plan of bus transformed into a COVID-19 testing lab

“We aim to bring together intuitive technology and service design into a unique mobile care space,” said Paul McConnell, Arup’s director of digital experience design. “Through rapid prototyping, we can better learn and refine how we get people through the process and give communities the confidence to return to normal.” The retrofitted buses would draw electricity from generators mounted on the roof. Perkins and Will is presently looking for more project partners to expand on the design concept.

+ Perkins and Will

Images via Perkins and Will