Introducing: the Social Contact Pod

Introducing: the Social Contact Pod

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Design for togetherness

The most vulnerable in our society have the greatest need to be protected from the Covid-19 virus. However, to protect them from contamination they are isolated from their friends and family, in care homes, hospices and rehabilitation centres across the UK. Government guidance indicates that this situation will not change anytime soon.

In response Scott Brownriggs’ Design Research Unit has been working on a practical, rapidly assembled solution with CLT experts, Ramboll and M&E and sustainability specialists, Hoare Lea.

‘The Social Contact Pod’ allows families to spend valuable time with loved ones without the risk of contamination.

It recognises the desperate need for people, particularly the elderly to maintain a physical connection with loved ones despite the virus; bringing back that all important connection that has so swiftly been cut out of our lives. Allowing for that most human of actions, grandparents can hold the hands of their grandchildren once again.

Constructed from simple low cost, Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) panels (potentially surplus stock from house builds), it is lightweight, rapidly constructed and is easily transported on the back of a standard truck or pulled on a trailer. It can be installed at the entrance to a care home and/or dropped in a carpark or garden for immediate use. Importantly it’s been designed to be fully sustainable so that pods can be repurposed or recycled with relative ease when they are, hopefully, no longer needed.

Within the fully accessible design, a Perspex partition separates the two groups; an area of plastic membrane allows for human contact and hand holding.

In terms of internal comfort the pod has high levels of air quality and natural daylight, along with a comfortable temperature, acoustics, and access to fresh air. Simplicity is key to the design, the pods are cost-effective to run, with the lowest carbon emissions possible, and feature simple controls for people to adjust their environment as needed.

Each side of the partition incorporates a handle-less door, ventilation, a cleaning station with a sensor operated sanitiser and a flip up/down table. A perforated acoustic metal ceiling has integrated speakers to support communication.

With sustainability in mind, the Social Contact Pod is designed to be completely off-grid, powered by solar panels and battery.

Neil Wylde from Hoare Lea notes: “It’s a privilege to be able to address one of the many emotional challenges that people are experiencing due to Covid-19. Through the design of the Social Contact Pod, we hope to be able to bring back the much-needed physical connection that so many families and friends are craving. For a project like this, where safety is paramount, the internal environment and engineering is incredibly important. We focused on ensuring the space will improve the wellness of those who occupy it. Ultimately its off-grid design makes it not just a space that can provide precious moments for families and friends, but one that looks to how we can design for a better future.”

If successful, the Pod has the flexibility to be used in other scenarios, including providing a safe space for doctor-patient consultations.

We are looking for willing collaborators within the construction industry to help build a prototype, before a potential roll out in the next few months.

Ed Hayden, Director at Scott Brownrigg concludes: “The sudden and dramatic changes to our lives have affected all of us, but we have to be aware of how terrifying and isolating this is for the most vulnerable in our society. As architects and designers it is our duty to help to bring social contact back to the elderly and vulnerable in a safe and familiar way. We call upon our construction industry partners to join with us and create these social contact pods, and bring contact back into their lives”.

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