The Future is Green

Larry Schoff, Technical Analyst with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Rebuild America/EnergySmart Schools, says the future of modulars is all about energy efficiency.

“Energy bills are the second-leading cost to districts nationwide after personnel and personnel-related costs,” says Schoff. “In today’s struggling economy, schools can’t afford not to reduce that number by incorporating energy-efficient designs and operations.”

In an effort to explore energy-saving alternatives, the Florida Solar Energy Center is currently conducting a study in Florida, North Carolina and New York, in which today’s modulars are being compared side-by-side with those of tomorrow. The futuristic “high-performance” classrooms contain more efficient lighting and HVAC systems; thicker and more substantial insulation in walls, floors and ceilings; and more sophisticated windows and doors. They also include custom skylights and reflective roofing materials that are designed to reduce heating, air conditioning and lighting costs in many geographic areas. All of these materials are readily available, Schoff says, and can be ordered today in most states across the nation.

“The future is now,” says Schoff. “The technology exists to take portable classrooms of the past to the next level — modular. It’s just a matter of getting people to ask for it.”

The numbers should be enough to convince schools that high-performance is the way to go, he says. The average energy savings per unit, per day is approximately 79 kilowatts – or a 47 percent of overall energy costs over standard modular construction. The Energy Center’s goal is to get that number up to 50 percent.

But raising the savings will be the easy part. Although the end result is a substantial reduction in energy costs, the initial price to schools is about 10-15 percent more, which shies away understandably cost-conscious school boards, Schoff says. However, like anything else, once the consumer to increases the demand, the market will become more competitive and the cost will come down.

“It is like when computers first came out,” says Schoff. “The cost was high until they became mainstream. Now everyone can afford to have one.”