Sprout Space: A Healthier Choice for "Temporary" Classrooms

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By Tristan Roberts

Mindful of the documented impact of classroom interiors on student progress (see “Study: Learning Can Be Harmed by Classroom Design,”), Perkins+Will has unveiled a new modular classroom design, dubbed Sprout Space, which incorporates both green building features and features that enhance learning opportunities, while being relatively affordable to schools.

According to Allen Post, AIA, of Perkins+Will, more than 7.5 million children are being taught in mobile classrooms in the U.S. While most of these estimated 300,000 classroom units are designed for temporary use, the actual average use exceeds five years, according to Post, and that provides an opportunity for a hybrid solution. Unlike most mobile classrooms, Sprout Space is designed to be placed on permanent footings—but it can also be disassembled and moved, and can be constructed in 60 days and delivered nationwide on two semi-trucks. With a construction cost of about $120 per square foot (and a floor area of 1,008 ft2 per classroom), the cost is greater than that of cheaper mobile classrooms, but Sprout Space delivers a lot more bang for the buck.

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Sprout Space was the modular category winner of the Open Architecture Challenge: Design the classroom of the future by Architecture for Humanity and the Open Architecture Network. Chattahoochee Hills Charter School (CHCS), located 30 miles South of Atlanta, Georgia, will be the first such permanent K–12 installation and will be composed entirely of Sprout Space classrooms.

Renderings: Perkins+Will

Targeting LEED Gold for permanent installations, the classroom design encourages a variety of seating arrangements for different teaching styles and for facilitating collaboration among students. Double doors open out to an exterior space designed for outdoor learning and equipped with exterior marker boards.

Aware of the terrible air quality of many classrooms, and of ballooning asthma rates, Post told EBN that low-emitting materials and good ventilation were priorities. “It doesn’t take more expensive materials to have low-emitting interiors,” notes Post. “The key is to have tight control over that and make sure no bad materials get in.” Daylighting and operable windows were also a focus of the design. Variable-refrigerant-flow heat pumps provide space conditioning, along with energy-recovery ventilation. Made by Mark Line Industries, the classrooms boast a mere 100 pounds of construction waste.

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January 28, 2013