LOOK: DIY COVID-19 home isolation room explained by a healthcare architect
Hospital architect Dan Lichauco illustrates how to apply the negative pressure technique used in hospitals in a DIY COVID-19 home isolation room
March 23, 2020
Written by Denny Mata
Sketch by Dan Lichauco
As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rise in dramatic exponents in the Philippines, the lack of hospital space and quarantine facilities to accommodate the patients becomes painfully more apparent. Last Saturday, 21 March 2020, three patients in Quezon City were reportedly sent back home despite testing positive for the virus.
According to the Department of Health Memorandum 2020-0108 issued on March 11, “persons under investigation (PUIs) and positive for COVID-19 patients who exhibit mild symptoms with no comorbidities and are non-elderly are advised to be sent home for strict self-isolation and close monitoring by local health authorities.”
To successfully isolate PUIs and patients with mild symptoms at home, healthcare architect Dan Lichauco shared on his Facebook page, on the same day, a sketch of a do-it-yourself home isolation room employing the same ventilation technique hospital architects like him use in healthcare facilities: negative room pressure.
Recent research findings of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the US National Institutes of Health, on the characteristics of the novel coronavirus say that the virus can stay in the air for at least three hours. Hence, ventilation systems in hospitals are crucial in preventing the spread of the virus, even more so in homes with PUIs and patients positive for the virus.
Isolation rooms for patients with airborne pathogens such as the novel coronavirus should be negatively pressurized to prevent the virus from drifting in space and contaminating other patients, healthcare workers, and hospital equipment. These negative-pressure rooms normally have an ante-room that acts as a positive-pressure room to ensure that the airborne contaminants do not escape into the corridors.
DIY COVID-19 home isolation room
While homes are not equipped with the same HVAC system as hospitals, Lichauco suggested an easy-to-follow solution.
According to the architect, the best isolation rooms to isolate are the ones with attached toilets so that the person in isolation does not have to leave the room. “The general idea is to prevent the air from the bedroom from escaping to the other parts of the house and to push the contaminated air out the window. Notice how normally the cool air in an airconditioned room escapes to other parts of the house when the doors are opened—this is to prevent that from happening,” he further explains to BluPrint.
- Put electric fans outside the bedroom, directly facing the bedroom door in a fixed (not rotate) position.
- Turn off the air conditioner, open the window on the opposite side of the door, and turn on the outside fans. Make sure that the air conditioner is facing the door. Then, open the bedroom door. (This requires the cooperation of both inside and outside persons.) The outside fans will push the outside air into the bedroom and escape through the open windows. Best if the window openings are bigger than the door. For rooms without airconditioning, fans inside the bedroom should face the open window. Then, turn on the outside bedroom fans before entering the bedroom.
- Other decontamination activities can include having a bucket with a bleach solution, to put used dishes in before sending out. It is also wise to put the used sheets and clothes in a bag or soak in a disinfectant solution before sending out. Put other trash and tissue in a bag as well before sending out.
- Do not touch the outside doorknob.
- When sleeping, keep the air conditioning low and open a window to minimize the bedroom air from leaving through the gaps in the door.
Lichauco’s sketch shows how air is pushed in when the doors are open, thus helping to contain or keep the contaminated air from escaping into the other areas of the household. One must remember to keep the outside of the isolation room’s open window clear, meaning no one should pass by or stay in the area.