Planting a SEED for sustainable portables

SEED Collaborative designs net-zero-energy portable classrooms

A non-profit group in Seattle is working to create a net-zero-energy portable classroom for schools that are looking for additional space that is environmentally friendly.

The SEED Collaborative, whose focus is sustainable education, is hoping the portable classroom prototype it is designing will provide a learning environment that is more healthful than existing portables, which often are plagued with less-than-adequate indoor air quality.

The SEED (Sustainable Education Every Day) Project aims to have its portable classroom ready for unveiling in May at the Living Future UnConference in Seattle. The first SEED is expected to be up and running for the 2013-14 school year in the Grande Yellowhead Public School Division No. 77 in Jasper, Alberta.

"We are excited to offer a healthier solution to address the growing need for classroom space in communities across the globe,” says Stacy Smedley, a co-founder of SEED, which initially was known as the Sprout! Collective. “Our goal with SEED is to provide widespread access to sustainability education.

SEED intends for its sustainable portable classroom to cost $225,000 to $250,000, including delivery and installation. The structure will be composed of a core module, which houses everything it needs to be self-sustaining, and auxiliary modules that attach to create a classroom, entry and lab area.

"Children should have a chance to learn in and from a classroom that is healthy, environmentally restorative and inspiring," the Collaborative asserts in a brochure promoting the SEED project.

Among the features of the classroom:

  • toxic chemicals and material components (e.g., phthalates, formaldehyde,lead, PVC) are not used in any part of the classroom.
  • All of the water for sinks and irrigation comes from only the rain that falls on site. SEED also treats and infiltrates all water used in sinks and toilets, so no water goes down the drain.
  • A living wall of edible plants in the classroom and vertical gardens on its exterior produce food that students can eat.
  • A self‐contained composting toilet unit breaks down waste into compost, which can be used to fertilize non‐food‐producing vegetation.
  • All of the energy the classroom needs for lights, equipment, systems, and plug loads (such as computers) comes from site‐specific sun or wind power.

The classroom also will come with an integrated sustainability curriculum, called a SEED Packet, which provides lessons geared toward K-12 students to interact with and learn from the building.

The founders of the SEED Collaborative are Smedley, an architect with KMD Architects; Ric Cochrane, project manager for the Preservation Green Lab, a sustainability and advocacy think tank; and James Jenkins, sustainability manager for BNBuilders.

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