ACT Health COVID-19 Response, ACT

Canberra’s 51-bed COVID-19 Surge Facility designed and built in 6 weeks


Due to rising cases of COVID-19 presenting in Australia in the first quarter of 2020, the ACT Government commissioned Aspen Medical to build and operate a 51-bed facility that responded to patients infected with or suspected of having COVID-19. Practical Completion of the facility was to be on May 15, 2020. With seven days design-time and 37 days for construction, the facility was built with off-the-shelf and locally manufactured materials to meet the recommended requirements of the World Health Organization specifically for COVID-19 care.

Upon engagement from Major Projects Canberra to construct the COVID-19 Surge Centre in Canberra, Australia, very little was known about the virus. It was clear that a tailored solution that responded to the unique characteristics of the virus needed to be implemented in the new health centre in order to provide a robust solution to what was predicted to come in a matter of weeks.

Aspen Medical has become the world leader in the delivery of healthcare solutions in any setting, particularly those that are remote, challenging, or under-resourced. Our team of infectious control specialists, veterans of the Ebola crisis in Africa, provided the necessary input to develop a bespoke mechanical response within the facility which isolates individual patients from each other to prevent cross contamination due to proximity. The response included staffing areas that were positively pressurised to keep infection away. The facility was designed so staff and patient travel ways were separated. Sets of patient bays were organised so the patient capacity could be scaled up or down depending upon the need.

The brief provided by Canberra Health Services included the following:

  • construction and operation of a 51-bed facility including patient service panels, treatment areas, administration and nurse stations and staffing facilities. The beds were to be divided up as follows:
    • 6 resuscitation bays
    • 44 patient bays
    • 1 palliative care room.
  • the facility was to be capable of coverage 24 hours per day
  • the facility was designed in keeping with the World Health Organization (WHO) Sudden Acute Respiratory Infection Treatment Centre (SARITC) Manual (Draft 3.0, March 2020).

The fact that this fully serviced, high-quality healthcare facility was planned and constructed in an accelerated timeframe is tribute to diligent project management, fluid and flexible engineering, and strong partnerships with authorities and stakeholders.


  • the location of the facility was not determined until April 7, 2020, as such the unique infrastructure requirements for the facility could not be planned for
  • there was no tolerance for long-lead times, meaning that all materials and equipment would have to be off-the-shelf or able to be quickly and locally assembled. Additionally, that equipment had to be compatible with every other element in the building
  • there was no time to fully develop a design for tendering.


View the video walkthrough of the temporary COVID-19 Surge Facility in Canberra here or watch the short video project profile here.

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