The portable classroom is just about as ubiquitous as the mobile home, so our ears perked when Toby Long, principal of Clever Homes and Toby Long Design, mentioned these first-generation, prefab, green portable classrooms. Working with the Chartwell School in Seaside, California — itself the first LEED Platinum campus in the country — Toby Long Design designed, fabricated, and installed two relocatable classroom structures on the Chartwell campus. Almost incredibly, the on-site work only took about four weeks.
The 960 square-foot structures were designed and constructed in accordance with the new 2009 Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) Criteria for Relocatable Classroom, making them one the first to be certified using the criteria in the country. Check out these green credentials:
- 90% off-site, efficient construction;
- 10' ceilings throughout;
- Over 300 square feet of glazing for abundant natural light;
- Operable clerestory windows and skylights for passive ventilation;
- Complete use of FSC-certified lumber throughout;
- Efficient radiant floor heating system;
- Efficient composite windows from Andersen;
- High recycled content gypsum board;
- Use of no formaldehyde insulation;
- Use of Cradle-to-Cradle carpeting;
- Use of recycled rubber flooring;
- Use of cement board siding and composite deck materials;
- Use of no-VOC paints and coatings throughout;
- CO2 sensors connected with the ventilation system;
- Daylight and occupancy sensors for fluorescent lights;
- Water efficient plumbing fixtures; and
- Use of green electricity from the Chartwell photovoltaic system.
Portable classrooms are used for a couple reasons: they help schools accommodate population fluctuations and they're cheap. Existing options may cost about $40-$50 per square feet, while building a new school or substantial addition may cost something like $250 to $300 per square feet, depending on where you're located.
Clever Homes intends to provide a high-quality green prefab school classroom closer to the affordability of portables with a price of $75-$100 per square foot. The difference, of course, can be attributed to designing and building these relocatable spaces with health and sustainability in mind. Clever Homes is developing an entire line of classroom structures and is currently building an off-grid, self-sustaining classroom, which we'll try to showcase in the future.