Modular construction takes a giant leap forward

May 01, 2006 |

Project FROG Inc. is a San Francisco-based firm focused on reinventing modular school construction. FROG stands for Flexible Response to Ongoing Growth, and the project's mission is to create versatile, portable educational facilities that deploy quickly and serve the middle ground between permanent construction and temporary classrooms.

The project team, including MKThink, a San Francisco design firm, and B&H Engineering, a San Carlos, Calif.-based manufacturing firm, first conceived of the ideal classroom based on learning behavior research, acoustics, air quality, and daylight. Aesthetically, the modules are colorful and visually exciting. The building's engineering benchmarks California's rigorous building codes. Product packaging focuses on practical requirements, such as transporting the components and easy site assembly.

All that attention resulted in two self-contained modules: the Dragonfly with a tapered floor plan (approximately 30 × 50 feet) and the Turtle with an angular floor plan (approximately 28 × 33 or 55 feet); double-wide modules are available, and several modules can be combined to create larger units, such as an auditorium.

Both the Dragonfly and the Turtle share the same three basic components: a Shed, a Sled, and a Power Pack. The Shed, which houses the classroom, is a lightweight, expandable frame with interchangeable wall panels. By varying panel materials, such as fiberglass, tensile fabric, or glass, the modules can be customized for different climates and uses. The Sled, a universal platform to which the shed attaches, houses the telecommunications and electrical infrastructure, as well as HVAC distribution components. The Power Pack clips onto a module and holds the main HVAC, electrical, and lighting panels and controls, while the rest of the compartment serves specialized functions, such as a restroom or a laboratory.

Project FROG was announced in March, and the firm expects to start shipping modules this fall. With proper maintenance, school districts and colleges and universities should expect these FROGs to have a long, productive life.

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