Green Portable Classroom Sets New Standard

A prototype green modular classroom is being built under an agreement with Portland State University, which the partners hope will be a model for healthy, energy efficient portable classrooms that address overcrowding.

Governor John Kitzhaber, who designated the effort an Oregon Solutions project last year, says "I’m pleased that starting this fall, students in the Pacific Northwest will benefit from improved learning environments that are built right here in Oregon."

The classroom, known as Smart Academic Green Environment (SAGE) is designed to use half the energy of a typical modular, increase the building’s portability and improve indoor air quality.
The portable classroom – basically a stand-alone small structure that can moved – features double the number of windows; a heat recovery system that reduces or eliminates the need for heating, ventilation and air conditioning; increased interior airflow; and a steel floor, eliminating the need to pour a concrete foundation.

It costs 15-20% more than a typical portable classroom, but will cost less over time because of easier portability, lower energy use and decreased absenteeism.

"This will be the healthiest affordable modular classroom in America," says Margarette Leite, an architecture professor at Portland State, who initiated the project in 2009 with her husband and fellow architecture professor Sergio Palleroni in response to the quality of portables in their children’s schools.

The design was completed this spring by a team including the Department of Architecture and Green Building Lab at Portland State, Oregon Solutions, the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, American Institute of Architects, local portable manufacturer Blazer Industries, State of Oregon Building Codes Division, Portland Public Schools, and Energy Trust of Oregon, among others.

Blazer will build the first two classrooms this summer using donated materials and labor.

Two large national distributors of mobile buildings have committed to purchase a prototype. M Space of Park City, Utah, will display their unit at the entrance to the Greenbuild 2012 conference in San Francisco this November. This unit will eventually make its home in Portland so the team can study the building’s performance while in use as a classroom.

The second classroom is being purchased by Pacific Mobile and will be installed at a school in Chehalis, Wash., where the company is based.

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