With the population boom in California resulting in a greater increase in the ensuing student population than anywhere else in the country, the predictable portable-building stopgap has come to be seen as a necessary evil.

But as the rise in the use of portable buildings continues – an estimated third of all public school buildings in California are portables – the need and the demand for higher quality portables are raised also.

Accordingly, the Division of State Architects or DSA has raised the level of basic energy requirements for portables in their Title 24 2005 requirements. This is good news for the students and educators, potentially bad news for the architects and designers of new school buildings, as their old design ideas won’t necessarily meet the new code and could result in total loss of funding from the OPSC.

Luckily, Building Systems Management and Engineering has studied the specific concerns that are raised for portables under Title 24, 2005, and have come up with salient solutions and approaches in order to bring portable compliance up to speed.

First, most importantly, designers and architects must work with their choice of portable manufactures to create an optimal portable that includes an integrated design.

“Serious redesign is required now,” says Rosemary Lieberman, president of Energy Solutions for Schools.

“Nothing less than a change in the culture of thinking must take place now. Now schools are expected to meet the highest standard of energy efficiency there is for schools – in other words, all schools must endeavor to become ‘green’ or ‘CHPS’ schools.”

“CHPS schools or ‘green schools’ have been coming along for the last five years but now they are a reality.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that, but people have to be aware that if you don’t embrace the new design, you won’t be embracing the money,” Lieberman said decisively.

Accordingly, BSMESI is instructing its clients to pay particular attention to the following areas in portables:

Work with the portable manufacturer to get what you want. “In the old days, portables were perceived to be rigid in their design and standards. Whether or not that was true, it’s certainly not true now,” says Eric Berg, an engineer with Building Systems Management and Engineering.

“Portables can be as flexible as traditional permanent buildings in their specs. Manufacturers of portables will work with the architects and provide anything they want to incorporate the design,” says Berg.

A first line of defense will be insulation. BSMESI recommends upgrading to R19 insulation for the walls and floors of portables and R30 for the roofs. In the past this grade of insulation was not always incorporated in portables.

Second – creative lighting is key. Once again, stodgy assumptions about the limitations of design in portables can prevent schools from getting all the money in energy grants due to them. So designers and architects need to consider skylights, to utilize natural resources. “There was a time when people didn’t consider putting skylights in portables. Now people are considering it. The current kind of skylight we recommend is Solatubes. It’s designed to be put into a pre-existing structure,” says Berg.

As for regular lighting itself, BSMESI is recommending that portables employ the high efficiency and occupancy sensors. .

BSMESI also recommends school architects consider a “cool roof system “ for their portables. (Due to the new “low slope” roof requirements, “cool roofs” will be required under the new Title 24, 2005 code).

“That can be a simple as using a selective surface or special paint on the roof, one that reflects radiation from the sun very well, but absorbs it a low level,” says Berg.

Finally, the HVAC system a portable employs must be of the highest level of efficiency. The cost of energy is calculated by its use during peak hours. Crucial to keep in mind is the fact that school with the most portables – as sign of crowding in the district – are also more likely to be year-round schools too, for the same reason.

For example, Bard makes high efficiency systems with a SEER value as high as 12 as opposed to the standard of 10.

“Year-round schools will get killed on Title 24 2005, and rates,” warns Lieberman. “So they should be particularly conscientious, or they could find themselves going to the DSA and getting turned away.”

This all sounds like a lot of new, stringent specs to keep in mind, and there isn’t even a new calculations system in place yet, until Energy Pro V. 4 comes out at later this year.

In the meantime, BSMESI employs the state’s own Alternative Calculation Manual to creatively address these new requirements. That gives school districts more leeway in that not every prescriptive requirement has to be met as long as the building as a whole meets Title 24 2005 standards.