Sustainable Business Oregon: PSU's SAGE program spices up national modular classroom options
Author: Andy Giegerich, Sustainable Business Oregon Editor
Posted: May 14, 2013

The original story and more photos are available on Sustainable Business

Portland State University’s sustainable architecture program is about to deploy its first set of green portable classrooms on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

The city of Cambridge, Md. hopes to use the structures as it educates children on the ecologically and historically significant Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The modular classrooms design project, called SAGE (for “Smart Academic Green Environment”) are designed to use half the energy of a typical modular building. PSU’s sustainable architecture team plans to sell the units to Triumph Modularwhich will use three of the structures to help enable primary school students study fragile habitats near Cambridge, Md.

The units cost some $75,000 apiece.

PSU’s designers are also hammering out details that would allow four distributors to help supply the classrooms nationally and in Canada.. The effort had been launched by the Oregon Solutions group with the support of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

The Cambridge deal indicates that PSU’s green classrooms could begin sprouting around the country.

“It’s important because we’ve gotten interest from around the country on this and we’ve taken it beyond Oregon Solutions,” said Margarette Leite, an assistant architecture professor at Portland State University who designed the units with her husband Sergio Palleroni and their students. “We’ll start further research to get this up to scale” and develop the classrooms for various climate zones.

The PSU team had hoped to strike a deal with the Gervais school district to supply 10 units. But Gervais voters didn’t approve a bond that would have funded the deal.

The modular buildings feature heat recovery systems for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, more windows to increase natural lighting and a steel floor structure that improves portability and reduces overall cost.

Leite and Palleroni began designing the green portable classrooms in response to the quality of portable classrooms used in their own children’s schools.

Palleroni said the Cambridge project will initially serve students in three science classes. District officials could one day, though, need more.

“It’s for classes within a restoration project” in a fragile corridor near the Chesapeake Bay, Palleroni explained. “Its within marshes where kids can go out and see (wildlife). The idea is that it’s a new environmental building that’ll have very little impact and essentially be passive,” meaning it won’t require much energy to operate.