SSI News Blog

Four participants in an SSI refugee employment program have joined a workforce constructing Australia’s first purpose-built coronavirus testing centre for use by governments here and around the world.

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Construction began in Marrickville on April 17, supervised by architect and disaster and emergency response specialist Professor Robert Barnstone and P&G (Purpose and Growth) director Douglas Abdiel.

P&G is an Australian not-for-profit manufacturing firm which is partnering with other organisations to rapidly deploy a range of health facilities in conjunction with disaster relief teams in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Increased community testing will be crucial to Australia’s path out of COVID-19 restrictions to ensure “second wave” infections can be quickly identified and contained.

Professor Barnstone said, “Purpose-built testing centres will be invaluable for frontline workers all over the world and can be built quickly using off-the-shelf materials in abundant supply.”

Mr Abdiel said P&G had the ability to rapidly expand its workforce to suit government demand.

“We are deliberately building these facilities with the help of our newest Australians, many of whom arrived in this country just a few months ago,” he said.

“Not only are they eager to contribute to their new homeland, but their skills are representative of those that exist throughout the developing world. These designs will be within the reach of the entire globe."

The testing centre is based on a shipping container, which doubles as the packaging for transport.

It is intended as a drive-through place to conduct COVID-19 tests and either process them when a fast test is available or store them for shipping to laboratories. It has an open-plan design and complies with social distancing recommendations to reduce risk for health workers and the public.

In addition to the testing centres, P&G also has designs for hospital structures housing ICU bays and a nurses’ station.

Professor Barnstone said, “As the number of coronavirus cases increases, Australia faces a serious shortage of hospital beds and will need to look at solutions like field hospitals.

“We have designed a way for governments to quickly create more space using locally available, mass-produced and easily assembled materials.”

By using recycled shipping containers as the core structure, the price of the buildings will be less than a third of the cost of conventional designs. Both designs use prefabricated panels for exterior and interior walls. 

Read more about SSI employment programs here

Read more about P&G and how to get involved in COVID-19 relief here

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