Perkins+Will envisions a modular future for green education environments with Sprout Space™, part of the National Building Museum’s Green Schools Exhibit
In 2009, the Atlanta office of Perkins+Will entered Architecture for Humanity’s Open Architecture Network Challenge, which focused attention on poor education standards worldwide, and called upon the global design community to envision the classroom of the future. A concept designed by P+W’s Allen Post took the top award in the competition’s modular category, thus validating the firm’s lessons learned from years of experience designing sustainable K-12 school environments.
“There are 250,000 modular classrooms in the United State, which means that roughly 7.5 million kids are learning in these spaces,” says Post, noting that traditional modular classrooms have long been disliked by Perkins+Will’s education practice. As the firm has designed and completed schools around
the country, its designers have lamented to see LEED-certified projects supplemented with sub-standard modular classroom buildings as school populations grew. “At best they are marginal. At worst they are unhealthy,” Post says.
The Architecture for Humanity competition offered Post the opportunity to devise a better solution—one that, four years later, finally has been realized in built form on the west lawn of the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., as part of the NBM’s Green Schools, a 10-month long program and exhibition focused on greening the learning environment. Trademarked Sprout Space™, the sustainable modular classroom of the future is also finding its way into the real world as a pre-engineered building solution being marketed to the education sector through presenting sponsor Triumph Modular, and others.
According to Post, “healthy, sustainable, flexible” are the three pillars of the Sprout Space™ concept, with high indoor air quality, good acoustics, natural light, and efficient and functional space being the highest design priorities. In addition to featuring building materials, furniture, and finishes that are formaldehyde-free, eliminate harmful off-gassing, and include recycled content, Sprout Space™ incorporates glass walls and clerestories to allow daylight to flow in, uses energy- and water-efficient building systems (including a rainwater collection system), and employs a dynamic plan that can accommodate various teaching styles, seating configurations, and even outdoor learning opportunities—all in a unit comparable in size to a traditional double-wide modular classroom trailer.
As Post notes, many manufacturing partners contributed to the success of Sprout Space™, including Interface, which supplied carpet tile for the entry and breakout areas. “We vetted all our partners carefully to make sure we were working with the leaders on sustainability in the industry,” notes Post. Interface’s contribution is multi-functional, serving as a walk-off carpet, providing a visual shift from installed hard surface flooring to indicate a spatial transition, and providing a softer flooring surface for students to sit in the breakout area.
In addition to being a feature of the Green Schools exhibit, Sprout Space is actually functioning as a working classroom for school visits during weekday morning hours,
According to the National Building Museum, “This 3-dimensional teaching tool is the first net-zero energy, high-performance, modular classroom available for distribution at a national level. Sprout Space™ integrates many active and passive green strategies in order to reduce operating costs, increase student and teacher satisfaction, and provide a healthier indoor learning environment.”
Interface also contributed carpet tile to the main part of the Green Schools exhibit inside the NBM, in a gallery devoted to hands-on learning about sustainable building and design materials for the K-12 education sector.