The COVID-19 field hospital within the Miami Beach Convention Center shows an appealing, organized assembly of geometric design: 450 partitioned patient rooms with crisp white curtains, aligned nurse stations, established functional zones. However, to truly appreciate the magnitude of this effort, we must look at the collaborative work effort required to deliver this rapid response alternate care facility in 13 days to The US Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District.

A project of this magnitude would usually take several months, but RLF’s multidisciplinary team of medical planners, architects, and engineers worked around the clock in double shifts to transform 250,000 square feet of exhibit-hall space to preempt the anticipated surge in patients testing positive for coronavirus in Miami.

Strategized components of this complex project included space planning, circulation routes, logistical services, patient care planning, general-care patient pod design, critical-care negative pressure pod design, and engineered building system solutions. These planning efforts supported the overarching design emphasis of patient isolation, infection control, fire protection, and life safety.

Each patient pod section is serviced with medical headwalls, nurse calls, electrical, data and communications, medical gases, and lavatory sinks. In a typical project, utilities would be distributed below grade or overhead, however this wasn’t practical. Instead, scaffolds between sections of pods were used to help distribute the services in a safe, organized, and temporary manner.

Air pressurization is an important measure for the safety and well-being of the healthcare team, thus contaminated air from the sealed critical-care pods is directly exhausted. The facility’s catwalks provide access to the existing air handling units distributed around the exhibit hall. RLF used these catwalks to install 300 HEPA filters to avoid exhausting COVID-19 infected air to the outside, where nearby patrons work on the loading dock.

Medical military planning and design expertise were critical components of the project’s success, however, the commitment and synergy of the project team was the true momentum. RLF’s established industry partnerships and a 20-year working relationship with design-build partner, Robins & Morton, enabled quick mobilization of a COVID task force team and rapid coordination across disciplines. Communicative efficiencies were created with sound, real-time decision making in the field by RLF’s subject matter experts, boosted by 24-hour virtual collaboration with RLF’s full team. As a result, on April 19th, a day early, the team handed over a completed field hospital to the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Scott Fote, PE, is Senior Vice President at RLF (Orlando, FL). He can be reached at