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High Performance Portable Classrooms
Portable classrooms have become a common and acceptable low-cost solution for school districts dealing with shrinking school budgets and expanding enrollments. This short-term fix often becomes a permanent classroom. 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.
The Oregon Department of Energy encourages school districts to purchase energy-efficient, "healthier," more durable portable classrooms. These high performance portables may cost more, but have a big payoff in lower utility bills and, more importantly, they offer a healthier, more comfortable classroom for students and staff.
Energy-efficient portable classrooms should have these specific features:
  • Efficient HVAC system (EER 12.5/COP 4.1)
  • Programmable thermostat (7-day programmable)
  • T-8 compact fluorescent lighting (0.885 Watts per-square-foot)
  • Higher insulation values (roof: R-30 or better; wall: R-19 or better; floor: R-25 or better)
  • Daylighting windows (lets in natural light, keeps out heat)
  • Efficient windows (low e; U value of .31 or less; shading co-efficient of 0.38 or less)
  • Continuously dimmable ballast
  • Low and no-VOC materials/paints/finishes
  • 2 x 6 wall construction
Call the Oregon Department of Energy, 1-800-221-8035 (toll-free in Oregon), for more information.
High Performance Portable Classroom brochures (pdf)
High Performance Schools home page
For a free copy of a video or DVD on High Performance Portable Classrooms, call the Department of Energy at 1-800-221-8035 (in Oregon) or (503) 378-4040 (Salem).
Study on portable classrooms