Architect brings design insights to fight against the virus
The impact of architectural thinking is not limited to the structural design of buildings and their ambience. With CityU’s proactive and pioneering spirit encouraging novel approaches, such expertise has also helped the University’s researchers in the battle against COVID-19.
Mirna Zordan has been one key contributor. She was already a licensed architect in Italy by the time she joined CityU as a doctoral student. Mirna was particularly interested in exploring urban psychology and human environment interactions in high-density and therefore complex conditions. This is a growing field with a lot of potential for innovative and creative thinking. As such, she decided to study at CityU, an institution renowned for driving innovation.
Mirna was happy to be able to contribute her architectural and urban design knowledge and experience as a core member of a CityU research project that sought to build a device to answer the pressing need to prevent cross-infection in residential care homes for the elderly during the pandemic and address the lack of effective isolation facilities in many of these places.
Led by Professor Tsou Jin-yeu, Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, and Professor Thomas Ng Shiu-tong, who heads the same department, and supported by the University’s HK Tech 300 entrepreneurship programme, the research team went on to create a novel, low-cost negative pressure air shield made of simple materials such as aluminium tubes, cardboard and adhesive paper. The air shield was developed using computational fluid dynamic simulations. Mirna’s role included team coordination together with support to the design concept development suitable for an elderly home environment, management of resources, and media coordination and promotion.
With the project initiated when the pandemic was at its peak in Hong Kong in early 2022, the team had to race against time, Mirna recalled. This involved visiting elderly homes to conduct pilot tests and many rapid amendments to the design in order to optimise the air shield within the shortest possible period.
While the air shield was tested during the fifth wave of pandemic in Hong Kong, its usefulness extends well beyond COVID-19, being a valuable device to counter airborne disease transmission in the future, Mirna pointed out. The simplicity of the materials was an important factor to allow wide and easy access to resources for prototype self-assemblage, she explained. “This makes it equally significant in enhancing public health and people’s lives during and after the pandemic.”
Mirna was impressed to see students’ dedication and commitment together with the external involvement and support from NGOs and local authorities, which allowed the development of the air shield being encouraged at CityU, enabling innovation to be turned into social impact. In addition, the design concept addresses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for good health and well-being as well as envisioning future sustainable cities and communities, which in Mirna’s opinion represent an essential element of an architect’s mission.
Since receiving her CityU PhD, Mirna has been working and guest lecturing in different universities and institutions. Now she is an Assistant Professor at the School of Design, Southern University of Science and Technology, in Shenzhen. There, she is teaching, as well as carrying out research on human environment interactions and their impact on public health and well-being of urban populations in complex conditions, thus keeping up her all-round contributions to both the field and society.
活用建築專業知識，不但有助改善環境，更能應對疫情挑戰。在意大利修畢學士及碩士學位並取得建築執業許可證的Mirna Zordan，入讀城大研修建築學及土木工程學哲學博士期間，參與由城大創新創業計劃「HK Tech 300」支持的負壓空氣盾裝置研究項目，協助預防長者院舍出現交叉感染。
「由於裝置選用簡單材料且成本低，一般市民自行在家居隔離亦能組裝使用，無論在疫情下，或是疫後日常生活中，對提升公眾健康均大有幫助。」Mirna喜見城大鼓勵學生寓創意於研究實踐，並透過設立「HK Tech 300種子基金」，支持不同的研發項目，讓團隊在疫情期間，更有效地協助社會上高危人士應對疫情下突發危機帶來的衝擊，亦正能回應聯合國高度重視高密度城市居民的心理健康及可持續發展目標，改善人類福祉，實現建築師的重要使命。