What Does A Sustainable Classroom of the Future Look Like?
Did you know that currently American school children attend classes in more than 350,000 portable classrooms. In the next two years, 100,000–150,000 more portables are projected to be added to the academic landscape. Standard portable classrooms provide a quick solution for expansion, but they are typically not the optimum healthy living environments for students.
That’s where the SEEDclassroom has an impact. SEEDclassrooms provide a healthy and sustainable alternative to standard modular classrooms, which typically have poor daylighting and inadequate access to natural ventilation, and are constructed of materials that can have high levels of toxins, like vinyl wallcovering.
“Portable classrooms are typically a band-aid for schools in need of space,” said Stacy H. Smedley, co-founder of the SEEDcollaborative and preconstruction manager and sustainable initiative lead for Skanska USA Building. “SEEDclassrooms are not a band-aid; they are a temporary or permanent space solution with a positive learning impact. We want to find ways to educate and inspire kids to see the importance of sustainability and the role buildings can play in our lives, while also providing the classroom space that schools need.”
SEED stands for Sustainable Education Every Day, and SEEDclassrooms are modular hands-on sustainable learning spaces built to Living Building Challenge™ standards. They are brightly daylit, well-ventilated places that have exposed systems—with accompanying lesson plans—to make them the ultimate teaching tools. They also are net-zero-energy and net-zero-water.
Two SEEDclassrooms have been built in Seattle, one has just been completed at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, and one is under construction at a charter school in Washington, DC. With our focus on transparency in manufacturing sustainable products, providing the Phipps classroom with Red-List Free, healthy flooring products was the perfect fit. In fact, with products that meet the Living Building Challenge standards, we’re hoping to be a national partner in SEEDclassrooms.
The carpet tile selected for Phipps SEEDclassroom— the Sequences II Collection—is one of more than 490 of our products that are Red List Free. Sequences II carpet tile has EcoFlex NXT, which is a PVC-free backing that is lighter than similar PVC products, making it easier to install and reducing the carbon footprint in shipping.
Unveiled in 2015, the Phipps SEEDclassroom features nontoxic materials, generates its own energy, and recycles water on site. The building shows what healthy spaces look like for kids and calls attention to the importance of providing healthy learning environments for children.
“With Mohawk, we were able to design a custom carpet floor that we know is healthy for kids,” Smedley said. Children even helped design this special floor in the Phipps classroom—they wanted it to look like water, and SEED pulled from previous student input to make it look like the view of water from above, similar to what would be seen out an airplane window. “So we used the colors of water and other textures of blue (in the Pix II design from the Sequences II Collection) to create a beautiful landscape on the the floor rather than just a typical carpet.”