As school budgets continue to dwindle while enrollments soar, schools districts across the US turn to portable trailer classrooms as the default quick fix. In fact, the use of portable classrooms continues to grow at more than 20% every year. Scrambling for fast and inexpensive solutions, school boards typically perceive these portable classrooms as only temporary fixes. However, more often than not they turn out to be faulty long-term solutions that are failing to provide our children adequate learning environments. Many districts are finding that investing into cheap portable classrooms is backfiring in a number of ways, including increasing maintenance and repair costs of these substandard spaces and poor academic performance.
As a result, some schools are looking for alternatives and successfully find them in high quality modular construction solutions, such as Sprout Space. These innovative modular classrooms are a unique collaboration project between Triumph Modular (a leading Northeastern US provider of high-quality relocatable and permanent modular buildings) and Perkins+Will (a leading integrated design firm). Sprout Space classrooms provide superior solutions that challenge all preconceived notions of what a temporary educational space can offer in terms of a cost, design and functionality. Sprout Space combines affordable cost with state of the art architectural design, Eco-friendly construction, flexible and functional learning environment and the highest health, safety and energy conservation standards.
Dismal state of trailer portable classrooms
According to the estimates by the Modular Building Institute (the trade group for modular construction), there are currently 180,000 portable classrooms in use across the US. More than half of these units are in the high-growth states of California, Florida and Texas. As it turns out, these solutions are by no means temporary. According to a report by the San Francisco planning and design firm MKTHINK more than 79 % of portable classrooms are used for longer than two years. Moreover, the State of Florida found the average age of a temporary portable classroom was nineteen years. Typically, to save on costs, school districts settle on having a standardized design for the trailer classrooms and low quality construction materials. This design ignores specific climate, architectural, location, and learning needs, while inadequate materials lead to costly maintenance problems down the line.
Since space is an issue for many schools, the classroom trailers are often placed in remote areas, such as parking lots or athletic fields. This means that students and teachers are required to walk under inclement weather conditions just to reach the cafeteria, gym, library or restrooms. This is not simply an inconvenience; poor location also takes away from valuable instruction time, and creates additional supervision and discipline issues.
Temporary classroom trailers are typically equipped with low quality HVAC systems, allowing the school to save on the initial costs of acquiring the trailer. However, over the course of its lifetime, many repair and maintenance issues arise, forcing schools to spend a lot of money to upkeep the faulty HVAC system. Additionally, studies conducted by the California Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Health Services clearly reveal other problems associated with these substandard systems as compared to traditional classrooms. These include: higher rates of dirty air filters (40 percent vs. 27 percent), blocked outdoor air dampers (11 percent vs. 3 percent), and poor condensate drainage (59 percent vs. 12 percent), which can lead to microbial contamination.
Unhealthy learning environment
In addition to high maintenance costs, trailer portable classrooms present a far more serious problem: they fail to provide an adequate learning environment conducive to academic success. Across the states, students, teachers, and parents complain of mold, moisture, temperature control issues and an overall uncomfortable space. Often, teachers in portable classrooms have to turn off the ventilation system because they cannot yell over the loud racket of the system to talk to students. However, turning off the system also poses problems. A shut off system reduces airflow and causes accumulation of indoor pollutants, which in turn have reportedly been linked to increased incidences of student allergies, headaches and cold symptoms.
A Better Alternative: Sprout Space Modular Classrooms
Sprout Space is a culminating result of a collaborative partnership between leaders in education design and modular construction, combining years of innovative practices and expertise in both areas. As an expert in modular construction, Triumph Modular Inc. is recognized for pioneering the production of first LEED green portable classrooms. In 2011, the company has also won first place honors nationally in the Green Education category as well as “Best of Show” award at the Modular Building Institute’s national awards ceremony. In turn, Perkins+Will (partnered with DeKalb County Schools) won an international award in the 2009 Open Architecture Challenge: Best Re-locatable Classroom design competition, which was hosted by Architecture for Humanity.
The goal of Sprout Space is to provide a high performance modular classroom based on the educational needs of real students in real schools in their communities. These needs include natural daylight, good indoor air quality, adequate space, proper temperature control, and good acoustics. Sprout Space classrooms are targeted to provide optimal solutions where schools demonstrate a 3 to 5 year need for additional space with the potential to serve longer in case of future planning uncertainty and budget shortfalls.
Benefits of Sprout Space Classrooms
Superior health and safety standards
Sprout Space is specifically designed with children’s health and safety in mind. Classrooms are built with green, low-emitting materials and state-of -the-art HVAC systems that meet the highest indoor air quality standards. A healthy learning environment means fewer sick days, and improved academic performance.
Optimal learning environments
Sprout Space classrooms are well-suited to meet a variety of student’s academic needs and learning styles. Flexible designs offer custom seating configurations as well as outdoor learning opportunities. For example, to encourage experiential learning and to complement different teaching styles, each classroom opens up to the outdoors through large bi-fold doors. Moreover, classrooms are designed to receive ample natural daylight, which has been proven to increase students’ test scores and retention rates.
Green sustainable design
In building Sprout Space classrooms a variety of cutting edge green building practices, sustainable recycled materials and Eco-friendly design features are utilized. These include but are not limited to: daylighting, integrated rainwater collection, FSC-certified wood, high-reflective roofing, and bio-based insulation and flooring. The collective result is an all around win: a school is able to significantly cut its maintenance and repair costs, reduce spending on electricity heating and cooling throughout the year, while also helping lower our carbon footprint on the environment.
Pre-engineered offsite construction
By choosing Sprout Space classrooms school districts are guaranteed high quality spaces because of the stringent quality control standards integral to the process of pre-fabricated, factory-built construction. Moreover, in comparison to on-site construction, schools receive a number of important advantages, such as: reduced construction costs, up to 50% faster project completion time frames, up to 50% of less construction waste, and reduced health and safety risks for students and staff during the time of construction. Moreover, these high quality modular spaces have a much longer service life compared to the typical, “old school” trailer classrooms, offering schools an option to repurpose their modular classrooms in case their learning space needs change.