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They’re called portable classrooms. In reality, they are single-wide trailers and kids don’t like them. Dingy and dim, they have become part of the landscape at over-crowded schools, intended to be temporary but accepted as the status quo.

Now there’s an alternative. “The Pea PoD,” designed by a group of architects at Perkins + Will, carried off the prize for “relocatable classrooms” in an international competition held by the Open Architecture Network.

The brief required a cost-conscious design that could be prefabricated and trucked to and from schools, adaptable to different kinds of sites.

The seven architects, all of whom are part of the firm’s K-12 practice, knew from experience that the required rectangular shape was a built-in problem. The optimal classroom space is square. It offers students similar sight lines and proximity to the front of the classroom and gives teachers more flexibility in configuring desks and tables.


Their solution was to build the single-wides with sliding walls so they can be abutted to create a square. The leftover spaces become extra interior space at one end and a porch for a garden at the other.

PeaPoD was designed to meet LEED certification, with sustainable building materials, rainwater-collection system and ample daylighting, which contribute to a healthier learning environment as well as reduced utility costs. 

Allen Post, who shepherded the project, notes that students in the trailers often feel isolated from the rest of the school. The team’s plan includes suggestions for configuring the modules to create courtyards.

Creative details include glass garage doors that can open in good weather and a whiteboard on an outside wall, both a teaching tool and a spot for legal graffiti.

Perkins & Will teamed with the DeKalb County school system on the project. Post says they hope to build a demonstration model for Druid Hills High School, for which the firm has designed an addition under construction.

Open Architecture Network, an online, open-source repository of ideas and plans, is an arm of Architecture for Humanity, a non-profit organization that matches volunteer architects to needy clients all over the world.

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