How did China build two hospitals in just 10 days

Friday 13 Mar 2020

The recent Chinese New Year of the Rat was besieged by an atmosphere of fear and distress prompted by an epidemic outbreak of the novel coronavirus that was titled by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “Corona Virus Disease COVID-19.” Since the first case was discovered in early January, to date, almost 60,000 infected cases and still around 10,000 suspected cases have been reported in Hubei, three-quarters of which are in Wuhan.

Wuhan’s usual medical resources are far from capable of taking in, testing, quarantining, and treating this many numbers of patients. At the onset of the virus outbreak, there were only 400 hospital bed spaces available daily for respiratory patients. On January 22, Hubei announced the construction of hospitals for exclusively treating COVID-19 patients. Within a span of 14 days, Wuhan had two hospitals accommodating almost 3000-bed spaces completed.

Moreover, large public buildings, including sports stadiums, exhibition halls and schools, were refitted into 11 field medical centres, and all existing hospitals were also redesigned and renovated to provide additional bed spaces. In merely two weeks, a rough estimate of 15,000-bed spaces was made available to patients and supporting medical teams. The speed and scale of the construction are unprecedented in a global context, how did China do it?

Let us first look at the two hospitals built from scratch in 10 days. They are called the “Huoshenshan Hospital” and the “Leishenshan Hospital,” meaning the Fire God Mountain and the Thor God Mountain respectively. Both Gods are described in ancient Chinese mythology as being able to defeat all evils, explicit of China’s determination to conquer the pandemic.

At the behest of the Central Government, Fire God Mountain started construction on January 22, shortly followed by the Thor God Mountain. What makes it possible to coordinate what seemed to be a disarrayed bunch of people, materials, and resources and put together a hospital that has over 1000 bed spaces, equipped with fresh air system, negative pressure system, emergency wards, sewage treatment, cafeteria, water electric and gas network, and dormitory for 2000 medical workers, in merely ten days?

Here are some interesting yet touching details behind building the hospitals:

The hospitals started construction right before the CNY, and most workers have gone back home to celebrate with their families. The “China Construction Engineering Bureau” who took the lead in constructing the projects sent notices recruiting workers who were based in Hubei, almost 8,000 workers showed up, most of them voluntarily enrolled to show support.

A Beijing Design Institute took 78 minutes to update and complete all architectural and structural designs of the hospitals, and they were in charge of designing the Beijing Xiangtangshan SARS hospital 17 years ago.

The designs were then handed over to the projects’ designated design Institute that spent one hour on assembling 60 onsite designers and several hundred online BIM designers. This massive design team used 24 hours to complete all design specs and coordinated onsite drawing details with the construction team.

Besides the spirit of unity of the Chinese inspired by a time of national crisis, the prefabricated construction technology and the BIM system that the Chinese government has been promoting in recent years significantly accelerated the speed of construction.

Because of BIM and PC advancements, each stage of the project is able to interlock with the next accurately, greatly reducing convergence time in between. The efficiency of this system is not only demonstrated in the construction of the two hospitals, but also the refitting work of the 11 field hospitals in Wuhan.

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