Outbreaks of infectious disease are becoming more frequent, as the world becomes more connected and rising global temperatures create more favourable conditions for the transmission of disease. In the previous part of this series, we considered what resilient healthcare looks like in a post-pandemic age, and how we can apply the lessons of COVID-19 to better prepare for other threats to resiliency, such as climate change. In this highly networked world, we have found that a system-wide view is essential for resilience planning. In this article, we’re taking a closer look at what resilience actually looks like for individual healthcare facilities. It comes down to one concept above all: viable flexibility.
Even before COVID, there was a growing recognition that buildings of every kind needed to be more flexible, as technological change far outpaces the development cycle. But in practice, any redundancy in a design has often ended up on the cutting room floor, because it adds cost, or complexity, or because it is not compliant with building codes or standards. The pandemic has added powerfully to the case for flexibility – disrupting operations in every part of the built environment, and promising to disrupt markets for many years to come.
In healthcare, a gargantuan effort was required to replan and reengineer buildings almost overnight so that they could safely cope with COVID-19, and attention is turning to how the switch to “pandemic mode” might be made more easily in future. Greater flexibility would have helped this time. It will make us more resilient in future outbreaks. But it can also help us to overcome existing gaps in provision, to respond to other radical changes that we know are on the horizon, and to changes that we can’t foresee.
“All we know is that there will be change,” says Suzanne MacCormick, global healthcare lead at WSP. “One of the many lessons of this crisis is that flexibility of space is paramount to enable optimum resilience and provide readiness for the unknown. Instead of ‘value engineering’ out everything that makes a project resilient, we should engineer in added value.”