flexiblefullpage -
billboard - default
interstitial1 - interstitial
Currently Reading

Is there a way to test for Covid-19 without PPE?


Is there a way to test for Covid-19 without PPE?

By Luke Voiland, AIA | Shepley Bulfinch | July 14, 2020

A thorny issue shaping the current public health crisis is broad access to COVID-19 testing. If we could conduct wide-scale testing, we would be able to pinpoint the carriers and contain the spread of the infection. Yet testing has not been keeping pace with the growing contagion. Healthcare providers still face a dire shortage of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), leaving clinicians on the front lines vulnerable to exposure.

To tackle this challenge, we participated in a rapid design competition organized by the Regional Partnering Center in Tucson, Arizona. Collaborating with a multidisciplinary team ranging from clinicians and engineers to materials scientists invited by the University of Arizona, we developed a unique design concept: a testing booth that allows healthcare workers to administer tests without using PPE or being exposed.



We reimagined a premanufactured inflatable structure, shaped like a bubble and intended for pool covering, as a testing booth. The “Bubble” consists of fiber-reinforced vinyl, which acts as a protective layer, fully separating healthcare workers who are inside the structure administering the tests, from those being tested, who stand outside. The transparency of the vinyl allows them to interact in a similar way as being in the same room. The pressure of the air pumped inside to inflate the structure works to both keep it in place and stop infection particles from making their way inside. And the vinyl material enables regular cleaning and sanitation.

The pneumatic structure is equipped with glove ports. Once the testing is completed, the specimens are left in designated areas. After the people who were tested have left, they are collected and taken to the lab.  



The best part—the “Bubble” is light, sturdy and cost-effective. It can withstand extreme weather conditions and can be deployed quickly to parking lots or as self-standing healthcare facilities. As the design of our concept advances, we hope to share it widely soon.  


More from Author

Shepley Bulfinch | Aug 8, 2022

The technology balancing act

As our world reopens from COVID isolation, we are entering back into undefined territory – a form of hybrid existence.

Shepley Bulfinch | Jul 26, 2022

Better design with a “brain break”

During the design process, there aren’t necessarily opportunities to implement “brain breaks,” brief moments to take a purposeful pause from the task at hand and refocus before returning to work.

Shepley Bulfinch | Jul 11, 2022

Student life design impacts campus wellness

As interior designers, we have the opportunity and responsibility to help students achieve deeper levels of engagement in their learning, social involvement, and personal growth on college campuses.

Shepley Bulfinch | Jun 8, 2022

Welcome to the hybrid library

Libraries have grown to become the intellectual and social hubs of campus, where, prior to March 2020, students, researchers, and faculty gathered to collaborate and connect.

Shepley Bulfinch | Aug 3, 2017

Today’s university lab building by the numbers

A three-month study of science facilities conducted by Shepley Bulfinch reveals key findings related to space allocation, size, and cost. 

boombox1 - default
boombox2 -
native1 -

More In Category

K-12 Schools

School districts are prioritizing federal funds for air filtration, HVAC upgrades

U.S. school districts are widely planning to use funds from last year’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) to upgrade or improve air filtration and heating/cooling systems, according to a report from the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council. The report, “School Facilities Funding in the Pandemic,” says air filtration and HVAC upgrades are the top facility improvement choice for the 5,004 school districts included in the analysis.

halfpage1 -

Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021


Magazine Subscription

Get our Newsletters

Each day, our editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.


Follow BD+C: