In March of 2020 very little was known about COVID-19 and the impact it would have on our community. It was the height of the pandemic and few industries were considered essential. As design professionals, opportunities to serve our community were limited.

One of our longest client relationships is with Mercy Health, a large non-profit health care system in Michigan. When their facilities team approached us with a COVID impact problem our healthcare leadership quickly assembled a project team with the specialties to address the challenge.

Helping plan for an unknown future

Mercy Health knew that change was coming quickly, even as infection rates remained low. To help prepare for the future, we were asked to provide an assessment of non-medical spaces to evaluate how each might be repurposed for COVID patients, if the need ever arose. The goal was to remain flexible and allow the spaces to be adapted to current conditions – whether treating patients or serving as a community vaccination site. Several spaces were evaluated including offices and entire floors of the recently closed Hackley Hospital in Muskegon.

Being familiar with the proposed spaces meant we were able to quickly determine how best to repurpose them. Having identified the needs, attention shifted to patient flow and specifically on patient experience and mass population management. How would patients and staff move about the space in a way that maintained social distancing and ensure as safe an experience as possible?

In addition to thinking through patient flows, our engineers consulted with Mercy’s facilities team on strategies to mitigate the risk of infectious disease while inside their facilities. This included altering HVAC units to bring in the maximum amount of outside air possible, best practices for surface sanitization, and a PPE disposal plan.

We’re thankful these repurposed spaces never had to be used for patient care. However, the flexibility each space provided meant they were easily adapted as Mercy Health pivoted to start large-scale vaccination clinics. In total, we helped develop plans across five locations, only two were ever needed.

West Michigan’s largest vaccination clinic

Our vaccination site planning didn’t end with Mercy Health. When Spectrum Health announced plans to have the largest vaccination site in West Michigan at DeVos Place, a convention center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, we were selected to provide similar expertise. DeVos Place is a familiar client for our project teams as well as the adjoining DeVos Performance Hall where we have completed several projects over the years. Our familiarity with the building ensured we were quickly and efficiently able to create flow plans to move mass population through the clinic. Running at full capacity, the clinic can accommodate more than 12,000 people in a single day.

We could have never foreseen that our experience and expertise in space planning would ever be needed for such a thing as COVID. We are happy we were able to support our partners and serve our community when help was needed most.

Resiliency planning can never happen too soon. See how our multidisciplinary healthcare team can help.  

Need to schedule your COVID-19 vaccination?  

  • Mercy Health: You can find out more here. 
  • Spectrum Health: Learn more and schedule your vaccine here.