Portable classroom for Ottawa: From straw bale

Straw Bale classroom

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) is greening its complement of school portables with the addition of a “mobEE eco-classroom” – an efficient, healthy, relocatable school portable built with walls made of straw bales.

mobEE (“mobile Eco-Enclosure”) classrooms merge natural building techniques with state-of-the-art green building technology. The result is a learning space thoughtfully enclosed by the ideals of health, sustainability and energy efficiency. While perhaps the standout feature is the straw bale walls, mobEE also integrates naturally anti-microbial linoleum flooring, durable mineral-based paints, LED lighting, high efficiency windows and many other healthy environmental design features.

“We’re very excited about this pilot project”, says Peter Wright, the OCDSB’s facilities manager. “The portable’s design offers environmental and operational benefits and will provide a great space for learning.” The OCDSB is still determining which school will host the portable, which will open its doors to students in Sept. 2015.

mobEE was developed and tested over four years by Guelph-based Evolve Builders Group Inc. in conjunction with the Facility Department of Ontario’s Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB). Evolve’s president Ben Polley explains the inspiration for mobEE “Portable classrooms are necessary to respond to ever-changing enrollment patterns.  However by design, they are intended to be inexpensive and thus not long lasting. They also don’t always have a reputation for providing an environment that is ideal for learning. With mobEE we wanted to develop a green, high-performance, modular classroom that actually excites students and teachers and whose durability benefits administrators.”

UGDSB staff are pleased with the results. “I think the mobEE portable really helped ignite the class’s passion for the environment” states Paul Scinocca, UGDSB Operations Officer. “Parents and School Board officials are impressed every time they visit” says UGDSB’s Meghan Mintz, a teacher at Rockwood Centennial Public School. “After three years of use, our portable looks the same as it did the day it was built. On the inside the kids have given it a little ‘personality’ but it really has held up beautifully!”

Demand for mobEE is coming from all corners of the continent.  “Early this June, six new mobEE modules will embark on an epic journey from Durham, Ontario to the Pinoleville Pomo Nation in remote northern California. We are currently working on a bid that would send thirteen modules into a northern Ontario community accessible only by ice road” said Evolve’s Ben Polley. “We are thrilled that Ottawa-Carleton will be the first school board in eastern Ontario to open mobEE’s doors to their students.”

(See upcoming story in Ontario Construction Report.)


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