Visitors arriving at the 2008 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo held at the Boston Convention Center last November were welcomed by what many are hoping will be the “classroom of the future.” The 1,282-square-foot prefabricated pavilion, situated at the entry plaza to the convention center, used the best in class of sustainable materials and products. The single classroom prototype is the work of San Francisco–based Project FROG (Flexible Response to Ongoing Growth), a company that designs and manufactures smart building systems.

As with every highly designed detail in the FROG classrooms, the lighting serves the goals of a people-focused environment. Mark Miller, founder and CEO of Project FROG, explains, “Lighting is incredibly important to us because we are about creating high-performance facilities for users who are working on tasks that require their brains to be functioning at an optimal level.” First and foremost, Project FROG advocates the efficient use of available daylight, which is then supplemented with intelligent electric lighting strategies for both the interior and exterior of the building.

The pavilion that debuted at Greenbuild 2008 was a configuration called FROG Zero, named as such because it achieves zero net energy. The classroom is part of FROG 2.0, the platform that the company has developed to manufacture its “quick-to-deploy” smart buildings. “The design has an opinion, a point of view,” Miller says. “The [building's] orientation varies by having a high side and a low side, low wings and a high spine, as well as clerestories. These devices allow us to organize the building in a lot of different ways and get different results.”

To achieve indirect daylighting with no heat gain, Project FROG has developed a series of eaves that clip on to the structure depending on the climate where the prefabricated structure is located. Direct sunlight bounces off the low roofs on either side of the pavilion, up off the eaves of the high roof and into the clerestory. Drawing from this kit of parts, Project FROG can optimize each classroom depending on the site and user needs, and with a consistent goal to create an equal throw of light across the horizontal and vertical surfaces of the workspace.

Through the use of energy efficient lamp sources and smart luminaire technologies, the FROG Zero classroom operates at 50 percent below the energy requirements for California's Title 24. In addition, all of Project FROG's structures are designed to achieve LEED Silver certification and have the capability to be configured to reach LEED Platinum and above based on a range of design considerations. The classrooms also exceed the Collaborative for High Performance Schools best practices.

In order to achieve these energy-efficient and sustainability goals, Project FROG partnered with Acuity Brands Lighting to serve all of their electric lighting needs. “In terms of products and approach [Acuity] is a dynamic and forward-thinking company and that's why we were attracted to them,” says Miller. The FROG Zero classroom shown at Greenbuild showcased an array of lighting products, including intelligent ballasts and controls, emergency and exit lighting, and exterior luminaires.

The combination of prefabricated construction techniques, intelligent design solutions, and easy to install sustainable products and materials, raises this project to the top of the class in terms of affordability, innovation, and environmental responsibility. It proves that it is possible, in the words of Miller “to be better, greener, faster, and cheaper”—all at the same time.

Project Classroom of the Future Prototype
Location Greenbuild 2008, Boston
Design Team Project FROG, San Francisco
Photographer Courtesy Project FROG
Project Size 1,282 square feet Manufacturers/Applications Hydrel: In-grade exterior luminaires with 12W LED sources; Lithonia Lighting: Emergency and exit lighting; Peerless Lighting: SIMPLY5 Classroom Lighting Solutions (CLS), Indirect/direct T5 luminaires with integrated Synergy lighting control components and RELOC plug-and-play wiring