By Robin MacLennan
Ontario Construction Report staff writer
As the global pandemic descended on North America last spring, passionate and creative conversations lead to the creation of a modular, ready-to-use solution for COVID-19 screening and testing that would allow communities to re-open.
A multi-disciplinary team of industry leaders led by Citizen Care Pods Corporation & WZMH Architects collaborated with PCL Construction and Microsoft to bring the Citizen Care Pod from concept to completion in less than a month. It’s an exciting example of the entrepreneurial spirit we are seeing during the coronavirus pandemic and it is a unique opportunity in the design and construction industry.
“I was talking to Carl Demarco of Camillion Corp. and I came up with the idea of having some sort of mini/portable screening and testing centre at the entrance to the construction site to effectively create a safe zone for the workers,” said creator Zenon Radewych, Principal at WZMH Architects.
“A few days after our talk, WZMH Architects drafted the sea container solution, we reviewed it with Carl and decided we should seek the assistance of Canada’s largest builder – PCL Construction (Sean Barnes and Kelly Wallace) to build these units.”
They reached out to Julie Morin of Microsoft for advice on how to make the units ‘smart’ and employ technologies to make the screening process user-friendly and safe.
“So, from the late-night discussion to assembling a team to design-build the first four pods took around one week,” Radewych said.
The team includes not only a builder and numerous trades including the skilled workers from the Carpenters & Allied Workers Local 27 and a technology company, but also a wide variety of great design and engineering firms: Stephenson Engineering, Loring Consulting Engineers, Quasar Consulting Group and Parkin Architects.
A pod is set up at the College of Carpenters for screening students and instructors.
“The Citizen Care Pod is a unique ‘made in Ontario” solution to legitimate concerns about the spread of COVID in our workplaces, schools and colleges, as it provides confidence in a return to school that is safe and monitored,” said Mike Yorke, President, Carpenters District Council of Ontario. “The College of Carpenters is using the citizen Care Pod to instill confidence in our students, instructors and visitors that we place the highest of priority’s on jobsite Health and Safety.
“We also want to model good union citizenship within the community and hope other public institutions, city halls, colleges can look to what we have implemented and emulate that positive behaviour.”
He called the pod an innovative response to health concerns that is extremely mobile and provides a clean, climate controlled environment for those doing the screening and for students, instructors and guests of the college.
The Citizen Care Pod’s modular construction and integrated technology make it a sustainable, plug-and-play solution that can be rapidly deployed to support the safe reopening of the economy.
The smart screening and testing pod integrate intelligent technology within a modular design to support a safe, responsible recovery for governments, businesses, and communities around North America and the world.
“Safety has and will always been at the forefront of the construction sector and the trades. I think it’s safe to say that Ontario and Canada lead the way internationally for both the best skilled tradespeople globally but also the safest,” Radewych said.
“By testing at the college, the Carpenters are setting an example to all industries – inside and outside of construction – the importance of keeping workers safe so they can feel comfortable doing their jobs.”
PCL is manufacturing the pods by retrofitting 20-foot and 40-foot shipping containers with customizable options to support rapid delivery and installation to any site, including high-traffic and remote locations.
Equipped with a suite of intelligent, customizable technologies powered by the trusted Microsoft Azure cloud platform and Azure AI, Citizen Care Pods incorporate PCL’s Job Site Insights™ Internet of Things hubs to enable safety and security in the physical testing environment.
“With its customizable features, the Citizen Care Pod makes COVID-19 testing mobile for any high-traffic business or community to expedite testing, screening, and eventually vaccination on mass scale to support a health-secure future,” Radewych said.
To expedite production across North America, PCL is manufacturing pods at its facilities in Toronto, Alberta, California, Texas and Louisiana in addition to other markets across the U.S.
“The Citizen Care Pod has applications beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, including the option to add capabilities for testing and screening for flu season and viral outbreaks and delivering vaccines, and can be further augmented to address future public health needs,” Radewych concluded.