A modular hospital made of wood and metal “Velcro”

Canadian architect Tye Farrow used a Velcro-like metal material called Grip Metal by Canadian company Nucap to design a wooden modular template for temporary hospital amidst the Corona crisis.

Grip Metal (which you can find in our library here) consists of a thin gauge metal sheet with thousands of mechanically extruded hooks. These hooks allow mechanical bonding with other materials, such as wood.

Farrow’s practice, Farrow Partners, has been experimenting with Grip Metal since before the pandemic to bind scraps of wood into sturdy wooden brick of the size and shape of concrete blocks. Th bricks are assembled with Grip Metal and then subjected to enormous pressure by an industrial press. This causes the tiny hooks in the metals to form a permanent mechanical bond with the wood. The bricks tops and bottoms are lined with rip meal, which allows them to be securely stacked, like Lego bricks.

When the COVID-19 virus broke out, Farrow used these blocks to design a temporary modular hospital, to provide a healthy environment for the patients.

The entire frame of the hospital ward is made of Grip Metal-equipped wooden blocks. Once stacked, the metal sheets interlock, holding the bricks tightly together. Tie rods secure the structure, allowing it to resist physical stress.

The ward has a U-shaped floor plan. On the edges are 12 patient rooms of 12 by 14 feet each, allowing medical staff to move around freely. In the centre if the U is a clinical workstation. The ceiling of the middle part is raised to allow a row of windows and thus for natural light to come in.

Being modular, the design can be repeated to extend the hospital to 24, 36, etc. beds.

At the end of the hospital’s life, most of the structure can be reused. The Grip Metal blocks can be pulled apart to be reused in a different structure.

Currently, Nucap is producing thousands of the bricks, using wood salvaged from wooden shipping pallets. Their press can make 1,000 bricks per hour. Farrow Partners has already used the bricks to build a full sized mock-up of three intensive-care patient rooms in King City, Canada.

Images: Farrow Partners / Nucap