S.A.F.E.S.T: Smart testing cabin for COVID-19 installed at 8 hospitals in Mumbai, India

The S.A.F.E.S.T (Safe and Fast Evaluation Swab Test) cabin by DIY.health and Ikkon Architects is a design invention addressing medical needs of the coronavirus pandemic.

by Meghna Mehta Published on : Apr 29, 2020

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak across the world, collecting swab samples for potential patients is proving an uphill task for medical workers. The procedure must avoid virus transmission to the doctor, due to which they are required to wear a complete-cover PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) suit all day. This not only restricts regular activities such as eating and using the restroom but also increases medical waste as once worn, the PPE suit needs to be replaced with a new one.

DIY.health, a medical research start-up based in Mumbai and helmed by Dr. Rajit Shah and Dr. Swapneil Parikh, recognised this predicament faced by doctors and the medical staff, and decided to take immediate action. Together with Konika Heer of Ikkon Architects they designed the S.A.F.E.S.T (Safe and Fast Evaluation Swab Test) cabin. Initially, the cabin was self-funded by DIY.health to be installed on the grounds of the Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai, India, where COVID-19 patients were being examined. After its successful installation and massive potential to support medical staff and hospital infrastructure, the BMC (Brihan Mumbai Corporation) sponsored the cabin's installation across seven hospitals in the city and the initiative continues.

S.A.F.E.S.T cabin installed at the grounds of Kasturba Hospital, Mumbai, ready for testing  | Safest Cabin | Swab Testing centre | Mumbai hospital | STIRworld
S.A.F.E.S.T cabin installed at the grounds of Kasturba Hospital, Mumbai, ready for testing Image Credit: Courtesy of Ikkon architects

“In anticipation of a huge strain on the healthcare system, we wished to come up with a timely healthcare solution for the coronavirus pandemic. It was our effort to help patients, doctors, medical staff and we are thrilled to see it being used across eight city hospitals with two more underway, providing maximum quality of care and safety for the required testing. Our hope is that it speeds up the process and keeps the virus at bay,” says Dr. Shah.

The S.A.F.E.S.T cabin had to be designed to be easy-to-build, transport, and adaptable to any location. “Since swab collection poses a great danger and difficulty for the doctors, the brief demanded a safe enclosure where the doctors could collect swab samples without wearing a PPE, and giving access to the patient through medical grade gloves,” explains Heer.

Removable acrylic rings to change the gloves at the S.A.F.E.S.T cabin  | Safest Cabin | Swab Testing centre | Mumbai hospital | STIRworld
Removable acrylic rings to change the gloves at the S.A.F.E.S.T cabin Image Credit: Courtesy of Ikkon architects

Initially, they designed a large cabin of around 80 sq.ft. which would have a toilet, basin, working table and storage space such that the samples can be inspected there itself. However, considering the limitations of providing water and drainage connections at different locations, this did not prove practical. “After discussions, we decided that the cabin should only be a source of collection, and inspection would be done in separate labs. This trimmed down the cabin requirement to a mere 16 sq.ft. space,” adds Heer. The project then evolved into a standalone compact enclosure for single person use. This made the enclosure cost-efficient as well as easy for air control, assembling and transportation.

  • Drawing shows the intricate details of the cabin with AHU unit, air curtain and insulated puff panels | Safest Cabin | Swab Testing centre | Mumbai hospital | STIRworld
    Drawing shows the intricate details of the cabin with AHU unit, air curtain and insulated puff panels Image Credit: Courtesy of Ikkon architects
  • Cabin features of the S.A.F.E.S.T cabin | Safest Cabin | Swab Testing centre | Mumbai hospital | STIRworld
    Cabin features of the S.A.F.E.S.T cabin Image Credit: Courtesy of Ikkon architects

The 4’x4’x8’ cabin appears like any another security cabin but stands apart for the many intricate details that were designed to make it virus-free. The enclosure is made of insulated puff panels and locks the air to maintain positive pressure to prevent any external ingress. The gloves screwed to the glass cut-outs on the front can be changed through removable acrylic rings.

Parikh shares what makes this idea and innovation unique: “The most outstanding feature of this cabin is its robust air treatment methodology. The heart of this cabin is the AHU (Air Handling Unit) which not only provides the required temperature of air but also filters the air due to its triple air filtration process achieved by the use of the highest medical grade.”

The swab testing centre successfully installed at the BYL Nair hospital, Mumbai | Safest Cabin | Swab Testing centre | Mumbai hospital | STIRworld
The swab testing centre successfully installed at the BYL Nair hospital, Mumbai Image Credit: Courtesy of Ikkon architects

Owing to technologically advanced techniques, the cabin has an air quality equivalent to that of an operation theatre. The AHU carries out the filtration as well as maintains the required ambient temperature for the user inside. Before letting the air back into the atmosphere, it is treated with virus burners. The Hepa Filters (EU12) filtration system provided in the cabin is better than the standard required by general biosafety labs. As an additional layer of precaution, the cabin has a Plasma Air Steriliser that destroys any pathogens in milliseconds, usually seen in virology labs. The doorway is facilitated with an air curtain, supplying a high velocity of air-stream across the opening to avoid flies and other insects from entering the cabin.

The swab testing centre successfully installed at the Podar hospital | Safest Cabin | Swab Testing centre | Mumbai hospital | STIRworld
The swab testing centre successfully installed at the Podar hospital Image Credit: Courtesy of Ikkon architects

The cabin is fitted with a two-way communication system so that the doctor and patient can interact over the speakers without any physical touch. The collected swab sample is dropped outside into collecting bins further sent for testing. The build quality and design ensures that it can be used in any weather condition, using easily available materials anywhere with the help of local labour.

Dr. Rajit Shah and Konika Heer after the installation of the S.A.F.E.S.T cabin at the Podar hospital | Safest Cabin | Swab Testing centre | Mumbai hospital | STIRworld
Dr. Rajit Shah and Konika Heer after the installation of the S.A.F.E.S.T cabin at the Podar hospital Image Credit: Courtesy of Ikkon architects

S.A.F.E.S.T cabin is currently being used at Kasturba Hospital, Podar Hospital, B. Y. L. Nair Hospital, King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital, Kurla Bhabha Hospital, R N Cooper Hospital, Sevenhills Hospital and LTMGM Sion Hospital and is currently underway at Bandra Bhabha hospital and the D Y Patil Hospital. DIY.health along with Ikkon architects is further designing S.A.F.E.R. (Safe Assessment Fast and Effective Resolution) - a potable medical check-up centre that can be attached to the S.A.F.E.S.T cabin system to carry out data collection and medical analysis of patients.

Project Details

Name of the Project: S.A.F.E.S.T (Safe and Fast Evaluation Swab Test) Cabin
Location: Kasturba Hospital, Podar Hospital, B. Y. L. Nair Hospital,
King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital , Bhabha Hospital, R N Cooper Hospital, Sevenhills Hospital, LTMGM Sion Hospital, Mumbai
Area:  16 sqft
Time taken from Conception to Construction: 15 days
Time taken for Construction: 3 days
Architectural firm: IKKON ARCHITECTS
Principal Architect: Konika Heer
Design Team: Konika Heer, Bipin Singh

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About Author

Meghna Mehta

Meghna Mehta

An architect by education and a journalist by passion, Mehta pursued a crossroad between her two interests. Having completed an M.Arch from CEPT University in Ahmedabad, she has worked in the field of architectural journalism for over 5 years. Besides content generation for STIR, she continues to teach in architectural schools in Mumbai.

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