Modular Building Institute

     MBI and BD+C Modular Advantage | Winter 2011

  Cutting-Edge, Green Modular Classrooms


More and more, school districts are realizing the benefits of sustainable building and are requesting that their classrooms be designed to greener standards. As a result, the commercial modular construction industry is taking notice and using green materials, energy efficient designs and HVAC units to accommodate the growing demand for environmentally friendly schools.

The Modular Building Institute (MBI), the international trade association for commercial modular construction, has modular builders from around the world as members of its association, including the leading dealers and manufacturers of modular classrooms. MBI encourages innovation and quality among its members and has reached out to join forces with the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) and the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) to keep on top of the latest in green building practices. As a result of these affiliations, the industry is capitalizing on the inherent greeness and resource efficiency of its off site, quality-controlled construction process and adopting cost effective ways to implement energy-saving modular classroom designs.

Featured are case studies of cutting-edge, sustainable modular schools.

Case Study Examples 

High Tech High 

High Tech High in Chula Vista, CA is LEED® Gold certified with the USGBC and was also submitted to the CHPS program. The project includes 59 modular units totaling 32,807 square feet and was completed in only five months.

Various green materials were used to enhance classroom acoustics, day-lighting and energy efficiencies. The modular units feature various high-performance products including, dual pane windows with low-E coatings, acrylic skylights, light fixtures with motion controlled sensors and low volatile organic compound paint. The project also incorporated renewable and recycled materials such as sealed lightweight concrete floors, Homasote 440 Sound Barriers, which are high-density fiberboards made from recycled newsprint that help to control acoustics in walls, and a sprayed polyurethane roof. All the materials, with the exception of the interior casework, were available locally, further reducing the carbon footprint of the project. For more information on the project, click here.

Jim Russell Racing Drivers School

Jim Russell Racing Drivers School in Sonoma, California was constructed with a large quantity of recycled materials, designed in a multitude of ecologically sound ways. A raised-access floor system enables all heating, cooling and data conduits to be located beneath the floor, completely freeing up the space above and allowing building use to change as needed. Energy-efficient systems include day-lighting and occupancy sensors to adjust heating and cooling. Lighting is extremely flexible, making liberal use of natural sources. Air is circulated with diffused methods that maintain both healthy quality and optimal thermal comfort. There is no off-gassing from paints or carpets. For more information on the project, click here.

Performance IQ

The P. IQ classroom is CHPS approved and has also been pre-approved by the CA DSA (California Division of the State Architecture). It has a full steel moment frame structure, a concrete floor, 6” steel studs, and 5/8” drywall underlayment, making it a strong and durable structure. Materials were selected from recycled or recyclable products as much as possible. The daylighting system leads to both energy and cost savings. HVAC costs are reduced because natural light produces less heat than artificial light.

This classroom costs less per square foot than the same classroom built with traditional construction. In addition to costing less, it can also be completed up to 40 percent faster. This classroom exceeds Title 24, California’s Energy Efficiency Standards for Residential and Nonresidential Buildings, by 26 percent in interior lighting and exceeds the total energy efficiencies in Title 24 by 40 percent. For more information on the project, click here.  To view an interior rendering of the project, click here.

Harvard Yard Childcare Center

The building features a variety of green, sustainable features to achieve the highest-quality, healthy environment for children. A focused design and construction plan for maximum energy efficiency includes solar tube skylights to maximize natural light use, sustainable “Green Guard” insulation, high-grade sealants, and a white rubber roof that reflects solar heat. Coordinated sensors and electronic control of the lighting system turns off lights when there is no activity in the room. Other features of the Child Care Center include exterior sun shades that shield the interior of the facility from the sun and reduce the need for air conditioning, recycled materials for the interior walls and carpet tiles, and a state of the art HVAC system that regulates and brings in air from the outside as needed.

A permanent building designed with flexibility in mind. Not only is the building relocatable, but the interior paneled wall system is also flexible. Currently designed for a child care center, the paneled walls can be taken down and reassembled to accommodate the next use - whether it is for a lab or office. For more information on the project, click here.

SmartSpace at the Carroll School

The SmartSpace classroom, installed at the Carroll School in Lincoln, Mass. is a LEED-level relocatable classroom. 

SmartSpace classrooms use recycled steel, a blanket of rigid insulation providing thermal protection that not only moves the dew-point away from the wall and roof cavity, but exceeds ASHRAE standards. Other materials used, recycled carpet and MDF wallboard, are strategies implemented that consider renewable resources such as FSC certified plywood and bamboo, which all work together for a more environmentally responsible design package.

Optimized ventilation, C02 sensors, materials that are formaldehyde-free or have low to no VOC’s; and better natural day lighting help to make the environment a healthier, more productive place to be. High efficiency, ducted HVAC unit with occupancy sensors and energy recovery systems works in tandem with superior lighting control sensor systems that balance the infusion of natural lighting through sun tunnels with efficient artificial lighting to reduce energy consumption. TPO “Energy Star” white roofing and insulated low E glass windows with sun-shades, work to reflect or temper solar heat gain. For more information on the project, click here.

Davis Waldorf School

Built in the factory in just four weeks, the Waldorf School’s new 4,000 square foot buildings in Davis, CA were designed by SEED (Sustainable Education Environments Delivered) for modular production. The Waldorf School’s new sustainably built Kindergarten, office and multi-purpose building incorporate sustainable building practices such as no VOC interior paint for high indoor air quality, Ecobatt insulation for energy efficiency, dual flush toilets for water conservation, ENERGY STAR®-rated Cool Roof for reduction in energy use and cooling costs, in addition to numerous skylights and ENERGY STAR® lighting fixtures for natural lighting. The school plans to install a green roof in the future. For more information on the project, click here.

Child Development Center at City College of San Francisco 

City College of San Francisco's (CCSF) permanent Child Development Center is the most energy efficient of its kind.  Made from predominantly recycled materials, the high performance units are equipped with energy reducing components such as occupancy and daylight sensors and a living roof. Additional design elements include a raised plenum access roof system with low/no volotile organic compound carpet tiles, excellent acoustical properties and an abundance of natural light. By using modular construction, CCSF realized significant economic savings that will multiply over time. Due to grouping/orientation, the CCSF modular units are more than 30 percent more energy efficient than Title 24 requires. For more information on the project, click here.

Student Green Design Competition

MBI also annually sponsors a student green design competition. Last year, MBI worked with Architecture for Humanity to sponsor the winner for the best relocatable classroom of the future design as part of its Open Architecture Challenge. The winner was Druid Hills High School in Georgia for a design by Perkins+Will. The project was designed to operate with significantly lower utility costs due to sustainable design features such as sun shades, integrated rainwater collection, photovoltaic roof panels, use of sustainable materials, generous day lighting, operable windows and natural ventilation. Find more information on the project here.

Read MBI’s white paper on how modular construction dovetails into the USGBC LEED® rating system here. Also read MBI's white paper on modular construction as a breakthrough to improve the efficiency and productivity of the U.S. construction industry here.




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