Portable Classrooms - Indoor Environment

Portable classrooms have become a common and acceptable low-cost solution for school districts dealing with shrinking school budgets and expanding enrollments. In many instances, this short-term fix often becomes a permanent classroom. As an example, nearly one third of all portable classrooms in Oregon are more than 20 years old.

While initial costs of portable classrooms are low, their on-going operating costs are high. Portable classrooms usually have minimal insulation. Other major problems with portables include poor indoor air quality, inadequate natural light, and an unstable room temperature. Most portable classrooms are built with materials and finishes that emit high volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These noxious fumes are even more of a concern because of the poor ventilation in most portables.

Project Description

Portable Classroom Evaluation � The Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) evaluated measures for portable classrooms to improve energy efficiency and improve learning conditions through improved indoor air quality and enhanced interior lighting. Baseline characteristics in terms of the envelope and equipment within the schools were developed based on information collected from portable manufacturers around the U.S. Using the baseline, FSEC designed, specified, located, monitored and evaluated standard baseline and energy efficient portable classrooms at schools in three varied climates. The energy efficient portable classrooms, called PERCs (Performance Enhanced Relocatable Classrooms) are improved modular built classrooms constructed in a factory and delivered to school sites. They are not only designed to use less energy than the typical modular classrooms built today, but have improved indoor air quality and enhanced levels of natural lighting, which has been shown to increase test scores and enhance attendance levels for school children. In each of the three test locations (Florida, New York, and North Carolina), the PERCs were located next to the conventional built relocatable classrooms. The improved modular built classrooms were tested to determine the benefits of enhanced systems and construction practices in relocatable classrooms. The three test schools were: