Jan 09, 2013
THEME: Learning

Sprout Space and the Future of the Mobile Classroom

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the term ‘resilience’ has become more frequently used when speaking about how our communities and the buildings we live, work, and learn in respond to climate change. The term has a broader reach, though, one that must also react to the ever-present realities of population changes and our variable economy. The question then is how can structures be resilient through an uncertain, potentially tumultuous future?

The classroom trailer is a symptom of this latter form resiliency – relatively inexpensive to construct, it offers a solution to overcrowding in a district that outgrows its more traditional buildings. In turn, this ‘solution’ has created its own problems – the rampant use of school trailers has left an incredible 7.5 million children learning in these ‘temporary’ spaces that often offer little in the way of healthy learning environments. The 300,000 school trailers in place in the United States are often of poor construction and even poorer indoor air quality. They also suffer from little to no access to natural daylight and often too little attention is paid to choosing low-emitting materials.

Children are more susceptible to the effects of poor indoor air quality than adults. Their developing bodies breathe faster than adults and as a result receive higher doses of indoor pollution per body weight. With asthma rates sky rocketing, 12.8 million missed school days each year, and with children spending on average 85% of their time indoors, we have an obligation to make our classrooms as healthy as possible.

I have been working on developing a sustainable modular classroom solution over the past few years called Sprout Space™ that attempts to address the issues of resiliency, self-sufficiency, mobility, indoor air quality, and healthy learning environments. Our goal is to give every child the same opportunity to learn, whether a Hurricane Sandy blows through or the school district is facing population growth or budget constraints that push back plans for the construction of a more permanent school building.

Sprout Space is also a paradigm shift in the modular classroom in that it is the first high-performance modular classroom designed by school experts. We redesigned the classroom from the inside out to produce a new generation of affordable modular classrooms for the 21st century. It is a cost-effective alternative not only to modular classroom units, but to traditional classroom buildings. It also has the ability to be implemented as a permanent structure. Its design encourages various teaching styles and seating arrangements, impromptu collaboration among peers, and outdoor learning through its exterior teaching walls.

Recently, Google announced that it is granting the US Green Building Council $3 million to focus on healthy building materials. At Perkins+Will, we have been working on this issue by fostering awareness of healthy building practices through our open building materials database Transparency. Our research also includes Healthy Environments: A Compilation of Substances Linked to Asthma (PDF), a report on the impact of materials in the built environment on occupant health. The report, prepared on behalf of the National Institute of Health, provides crucial insight given the growing epidemic of asthma in children. When we designed Sprout Space™, we benefited from this database by choosing materials that had been carefully selected to prevent off-gassing to create the healthiest indoor air quality possible. We also paid close attention to the interior finishes. The flooring, walls, paint, and ceiling are built from low-emitting materials and the HVAC system exceeds the latest LEED® and ASHRAE standards. Sprout Space is a unique and functional design that promises to provide children with a healthy and sustainable learning environment.

Check out Sprout Space™ on its own site.

For additional information, follow @SproutSpace on Twitter.

Sprout Space travels in the early morning to its future home at the National Building Museum

  1. Bonnie Morrison
    6:50 am on January 22, 2013 | Reply

    You have my attention! Looks and seems exciting!

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