PSU professors to unveil new affordable, green portable classroom at Greenbuild 2012
Author: Suzanne Pardington, University Communications
Posted: November 13, 2012

Two Portland State University Architecture professors will unveil the first prototype of their new affordable, healthy, energy-efficient modular classroom Nov. 14 at Greenbuild 2012 in San Francisco, the world’s largest green-building expo.

Professors Margarette Leite and Sergio Palleroni and their students designed the Smart, Academic, Green Environment (SAGE) classroom to use half the energy of the typical modular, increase the building’s portability and improve indoor air and light. The prototype, manufactured by Blazer Industries in Aumsville, Oregon, will be showcased at San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center during the show and will eventually make its home as a working classroom in Oregon.

Notable design features include:

  • An energy-recovery system that reduces the need for heating, ventilation and air conditioning;
  • More and bigger windows to increase natural daylight, which stimulates learning;
  • Increased airflow to reduce interior carbon dioxide, a problem in typical portables that reduces student health and performance;
  • A steel floor structure to increase portability, making the unit less costly than a typical portable after one relocation; and
  • Environmentally-safe building materials that don’t leach toxins into the air.

The green portable costs just 15-20 percent more than a typical portable and is designed to create savings over time through increased portability, lower energy use and decreased absenteeism.

 “This will be the healthiest affordable modular classroom in America,” said Margarette Leite, an architecture professor at Portland State. “Every school district in the country could conceivably afford this classroom.”

Leite initiated the project in 2009 with Palleroni, her husband and fellow architecture professor, in response to the quality of the portables in their own children’s schools. School districts across the country have inquired about the classrooms. The Gervais School District north of Salem plans to use 20 of the classrooms to help develop a consolidated campus for its elementary, middle and high school students.  The project has won a 2013 international SEED award for excellence in public interest design.

The design was completed this spring by a team including Portland State’s Department of Architecture, the Green Building Laboratory at PSU, Oregon Solutions, the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Aumsville-based portable manufacturer Blazer Industries, State of Oregon Building Codes Division, Portland Public Schools, and Energy Trust of Oregon, among others.

Blazer built the first classroom using donated materials and labor. A large national distributor of mobile buildings, Pacific Construction Services of Chehalis, Washington, a division of Pacific Mobile Structures, bought the prototype, which will be on display at the entrance to the Greenbuild 2012 conference in San Francisco, November 12-16. This unit will eventually make its way back to Oregon so the team can study the building’s performance while in use as a classroom.

The governor’s designation as an Oregon Solutions Project in 2011 put in motion a process that ensures collaboration between government, business and non-profits to meet project goals. Gov. John Kitzhaber appointed the Green Modular Classrooms team, facilitated by Oregon Solutions, and led by Dennis Wilde, Chief Sustainability Officer at Gerding Edlen Development.