Friday, October 23, 2020
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Q&A: Behind the Mobile COVID-19 Testing Pod

Q&A: Behind the Mobile COVID-19 Testing Pod
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Led by the Citizen Care Pods Corp., a multi-disciplinary team—WZMH Architects, PCL Construction, Insight Enterprises, and Microsoft—collaborated to bring the project from concept to reality in less than a month

How does one create a safe bubble on a construction site? That was the challenge Zenon Radewych, principal at Toronto-based WZMH Architects, discussed with client Carl Demarco of media entertainment company Camillion Corp. when the pandemic started spreading across North America in mid-March. Together, they came up with the Citizen Care Pod—a portable unit like a shipping container, where on-site workers can be screened and tested year-round for COVID-19. 

Together with PCL Construction, Citizen Care Pods Corp. has built and sold more than 100 pods for between $20,000 to $140,000 each since its June 16 launch (Demarco is CEO and Chairman). The group collaborated with Microsoft to develop the technology used inside the units.

For Canadian Business, Brenda Bouw talked to Zenon Radewych about the Citizen Care Pod:

Zenon Radewych, principal at WZMH Architects

What do these pods look like?

The pods are about nine feet high, eight feet wide and come in either 20-foot or 40-foot lengths—that’s the size of one or two parking stalls. We also have smaller, 4-by-4 foot or 4-by-8 foot telephone-booth-style pods. The intention of those smaller pods is that they be used for screening and testing at places like airports and conventions centres. 

The biggest order we’ve had to date is 90 pods purchased by the Manitoba government to use as visitation rooms for families with loved ones in long-term-care homes. 

How is the unit built?

We start off with a raw sea container and cut openings for doors and windows. We fully insulate it and finish it on the inside with materials you’d see in a lab or hospital environment and put in an advanced heating and air conditioning and ventilation system. The units are pressured, so if there’s an opening in the glass when there’s testing, for example, any contaminants from the outside won’t flow inside. We also use HEPA filters to capture any bacteria inside. 

It’s basically a building you plug into a wall outlet and away you go. It’s good for year-round use. It’s also very easy to transport; you can put it on a flatbed truck, on a plane, a train or a boat. 

What’s it like working with different companies on this project?

It’s very collaborative. There is no captain of the ship. We’re all captains in our own way. That’s made it pretty fun. What often happens in a lot of projects, when you get a lot of captains, there’s usually a lot of conflicts. On this project, there wasn’t. Everyone put their egos aside, put on the table their areas of expertise and we ran with it.

Is the company profitable?

It’s not a profitable business yet. It might take a while. It’s still very much about seeing how we can help at this point: How can we give back, based on what we do?

How does it feel to be involved in the fight against COVID-19?

Having something like this to work on, especially at the beginning of the pandemic when things were very grey and uncertain, is great. It has put a smile on the faces of the people working on it; the energy and enthusiasm from the team were very high because we knew we were working on something good. It’s our little contribution to hopefully making a bit of a difference.

This interview has been edited and condensed.



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