Last week I introduced Sprout Space, the modular classroom we designed at Perkins+Will that we hope will replace the trailers now used by eight million students in this country. These trailers, which are barely legal to be occupied as buildings, are often brought in by schools as temporary space when the school is experiencing growth beyond the capacity of its classrooms. Or they may be in use while renovation is taking place.
Intended to be temporary classrooms, these trailers generally stay in place from on average five to seven years, even though they are not designed as permanent space. The problems with these trailers are that (he majority are poorly lit with little natural daylight, noisy because of the side-mounted HVAC system and most alarming, can be toxic from the exposure to urea-formaldehyde and other harmful materials such as vinyl. (See Perkins+Will’s precautionary list of building materials.) These trailers are typically not designed specifically for classroom use but as generic temporary spaces and, in my opinion, are not hospitable or healthy learning environments.
Our challenge as we began developing the design for Sprout Space was how to design a modular classroom that is a proper learning environment.
We took ideas from what we do every day in Perkins+Will’s K-12 Education market sector and began the process from the inside out. We focused on the basic needs of a classroom and created a three-dimensional teaching tool, with the needs of students and teachers foremost in our minds.
In addition to creating Sprout Space as a teaching tool, we wanted these classrooms to be healthy, flexible and sustainable. And we wanted to design these buildings specifically to enhance learning.
Our design incorporates ample natural daylight, which has been proven to increase test scores and retention rates with the added benefit of significantly lower utility costs. Sprout Space’s modularity allows it to be flexible and well suited for various teaching styles and seating configurations.
Our research shows that children spend 80-90% of their time in a classroom. We wanted to encourage them outside. Each classroom opens up to the outdoors through large bi-fold doors. The exterior of the buildings have integrated marker boards for outdoor instruction and inspiration. The interior marker boards and tack boards are panelized as well and are interchangeable, giving the teacher more customization.
Other design features include a butterfly-shaped roof that collects the rainwater, integrated rainwater cisterns, a teaching garden, insulated hurricane-rated doors and windows, overhanging eaves, and with the option of photovoltaic cells on the roof, make the building a net-zero energy building One of my favorite aspects about Sprout Space is that in addition to the classrooms being net-zero energy, students have the opportunity to learn from their classroom.
To view a few of the features of Sprout Space, view this short Sprout Space Fly-Through video.
– Allen Post, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Perkins+Will