WZMH’s Response to COVID-19: Portable Virus Testing Centres

Since early April, WZMH Architects has been working alongside Quasar Consulting Group, Loring Consulting Engineers Inc., Stephenson Engineering Ltd, PCL Construction, Camillion Corp., Microsoft, and Parkin Architects Limited—with additional support from suppliers—to develop a Portable Virus Testing Centre (PVTC). The design, which they hope will soon be produced, aims to assist in testing members of the public with COVID-19 symptoms, lessening the stress on existing testing centres and increasing the number of COVID-19 tests that are administered and processed daily.

The Idea

The PVTC is a 20-foot-long sea container, retrofitted for use as a facility to conduct tests for viruses such as COVID-19. It can be equipped with up to four testing stations that physically and safely separate front-line workers from the general public.

The PVTC is meant to address the current COVID-19 testing requirements, but is also designed for the needs of future re-testing in the fall—or in the new year, should COVID-19 re-appear. The portable design allows for deployment to construction sites, and in front of entrances to hospitals, office buildings, schools, and places of large gatherings (i.e. at sporting events).

The overall size of the sea container allows sufficient space to comfortably fit all of the necessary equipment and supplies, enabling for healthcare workers to conduct testing and analyze the collected samples within a fully conditioned space. The PVTC is equipped with DC (low voltage) infrastructure, Wi-Fi, and can include an internal battery system which is connected to a rooftop solar array, allowing for the operation of the electronics equipment. The service areas include thermal cameras, a secure pass through, and can be equipped with biohazard gloves if required.


Portable Virus Testing Centre Variations

The team has designed five variations on the centre, tailored to the needs of different spaces:

Option 1 – Recessed Cubicles

Option 1 allows for three recessed cubicles within a 20-foot-long, extra high container. It provides enough space for three healthcare workers, storage, sanitization stations, as well as all of the required electrical, IT/communication components, and dedicated workspaces. Each person that approaches the station is separated from the two other individuals who are being tested by a divider made from glass, plexiglass, or a solid panel.

Option 2 – Cubicles Under Canopy

Option 2 offers a modified version of option 1, giving healthcare workers more dedicated workspace by allowing the full container to be used, and adding a canopy over top each of the three cubicles for the protection of those being tested.

Option 3 – Drive-Through

Option 3 features two testing stations opposite one another within the container, so that the healthcare workers can process two people simultaneously, while maintaining safe distancing practices. Testing can be done through a rolled-down car window, without requiring the person being tested to leave their vehicle.

Option 4 – Pass-Through Unit / Secure Testing

Option 4 allows the greatest number of tests to be administered simultaneously. The containers is divided into three sections, with the two opposite ends serving as the workstations for healthcare workers. Placing two workstations in each end creates four service areas—two on the outside ends, and two in the middle. The pass-through section in the middle of the container separates two people with a full-height divider.

Option 5 – Single and Dual Person Compact Unit

For locations that require a more compact unit, a final, lightweight option provides the ability to perform testing almost anywhere. This unit can be a single- or dual-person module. It is constructed from a plastic pallet base, topped with a pre-manufactured steel structure, fitted with insulated panels. This module can be maneuvered into position with the use of a forklift.


WZMH and its team designed the PVTC from a standard sea container so that delivery, installation, operation, and dismantling/removal of the unit would be quick and cost-effective. Pre-assembled units can be delivered to site by flatbed or truck, and can be put in place with a forklift or crane—or simply slid in place off the truck. Once in position, if required, it can be connected to AC power to activate the unit’s air conditioning and electric heating. Subject to weather conditions, separate ventilation fans are included that operate on DC power,  provided by the rooftop solar array and an internal battery.

The PVTC aims to provide a virus testing solution that can be deployed very quickly, and become operational without impacting the surrounding built environment, or requiring any modifications to current buildings and sites. The potable station can be stored and deployed every year during the flu season for testing and administering the vaccine or in the event of future pandemics.