Canadian Consulting Engineer

SMS designs portable ICUs made of shipping containers

May 31, 2020

Portable ICU

Image credit: SMS Engineering.

In response to COVID-19 and the risk of a second wave of infections, Winnipeg-based SMS Engineering has designed portable health-care treatment units based on repurposed shipping containers, freely offering the drawings as ‘open source’ for anyone to develop.

SMS is experienced in planning and managing health-care projects, including tertiary treatment facilities that take years to build from start to finish, but the firm has also long used cargo shipping containers for the controlled agriculture industry, as they provide an airtight environment against disease and other external factors. Hence, the company could apply the same concept to the health-care sector as a ‘micro-hospital’ that can be deployed rapidly and inexpensively.

The design is based on a scalable model, starting with 10 beds, with heat recovery systems to minimize energy use and HEPA filtration to maintain healthy air. Each pod features patient headwall, patient care bonding and medical gas connections. Power is provided with a prefabricated electrical room, which incorporates automatic transfer switches (ATSs) to enable connections to both a utility/customer power source and a backup generator. Finally, portable hand-washing stations eliminate the need for plumbing during installation.

To download the shipping container intensive care unit (ICU) drawing set, visit






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