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04 Jun 2013

SEED Collaborative has teamed up with Method Homes for the construction of what it hopes will become the first modular building to pass the Living Building Challenge. The SEEDclassroom is designed to be a portable teaching space available at short notice, and yet one which meets its own energy and water needs.

The SEEDclassroom is a place for children to learn and think about sustainability (SEED itself standing for Sustainable Education Every Day). Each 900 sq ft (84 sq m) building catches rainwater to be used in the sinks and basins, from which water is intercepted once again, and filtered through a "living wall" of edible plants. The classroom's energy is provided by rooftop solar power.

The SEEDclassroom's composting toilet helps to minimize water use, as does the sink in the classroom's Living Laboratory. Its water comes from a water cooler-type transparent bottle, which is refilled by hand pump when empty. "We wanted to create a living laboratory in which kids could interact with the building to make learning fun and useful through real world applications," says SEED co-founder Stacy Smedley.

Inside, the classroom looks almost unfinished. The chipboard walls are visible, as are all the ducts, cables, conduits and structural supports, allowing the children to see firsthand how the building works.

Unlike other buildings which claim to be net zero consumers of water or energy on the basis of design data, those which pass the Living Building Challenge have proven that they are actually self-sustaining (as well as meeting a total of 20 criteria) over a 12-month period. However, there's a distinction between a building designed to pass the challenge and a building which has passed it, and for now the SEEDclassroom remains in the first camp.

Method Homes says that SEEDclassrooms are available in western Canada and throughout the USA, shipping 75 days or so after an order is placed. A prototype is on display at the South Lake Union Discovery Center in Seattle until Jun. 18.


By James Holloway

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