Greens Portable buildings

Woodburn teacher Ben CotaBen Cota has 14 years of experience in the hot, cold, noisy, and sometimes stuffy conditions of teaching in a portable classroom he says is 20 years old.

Cota explains, “This absorbs way more heat per classroom than inside. You don’t have that huge air conditioning and heating units.”

So Cota says he’s always opening and shutting the window.

“Open a window, here comes a lawn mower. Close the window. Open a window, here comes recess, ” he says laughing.

PSU architect Margarette Leite and her husband, architecture and engineering professor, Sergio Palleroni.Cota says his students put up with a lot. And he winds up using class time to adjust the temperature or to respond to uncomfortable kids.

Ben Cota: “They do complain all the time: ‘It’s too hot in here, it’s too stuffy, it’s too cold.’

Rob: “Do you find yourself agreeing with them?”

Ben: “Yeah, most of the time, I agree with them! Most of the time, I just nod, and say ‘Yeah, I know sit down. We’ve got stuff to do.’”

Students and teachers aren’t the only ones complaining. Margarette Leite remembers joining the chorus of concerned parents and neighbors, when her daughter’s class moved to a Portland portable.

NonePSU architect Margarette Leite and her husband, architecture and engineering professor, Sergio Palleroni.

Rob Manning / OPB

“Neighborhoods consider them an eyesore, generally, and most people are not excited about them, for a number of reasons — so we thought it couldn’t be that hard to make something that works as well as a modular classroom, but looks better and is a much healthier place for our kids to be, ” Leite said.

Leite wasn’t just dreaming. She’s an architect at Portland State University and is married to architecture and engineering professor Sergio Palleroni.

NoneTogether they’ve spent the last few years designing a new kind of portable.

Palleroni says greener and healthier portables have been designed before. But school districts buy portables to put up classrooms cheaply, and the green alternatives can be pricey.

Palleroni expalined, “So that’s why we thought ‘Can we do this, at a price, that we can buy the dang thing, you know?’ If we did, now that would be transformative.”

Palleroni and Leite say they’ve done it.

The sticker price on a typical modern portable is about $60, 000. Palleroni and Leite have designed a “green” portable for $75, 000.

It looks different. Old portables — like Ben Cota’s in Woodburn — have few, small windows. The mockup of the “green portable” has lots of windows.

PSU student Cady Head-Skoglund helped design the portables in her architecture and engineering classes. Gervais superintendent Rick Hensel

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