SAGE Classrooms installed at Portland's Lincoln High / by CPID

Healthy, portable classrooms designed by PSU Architecture students and faculty open at Lincoln High School

Author: Karen O'Donnell Stein

School may have gotten underway a few weeks ago, but students at Lincoln High School still have something new to look forward to. On September 26, four brand-new, sustainable, healthy educational spaces, known as SAGE (“Smart Academic Green Environment”) classrooms, opened their doors on the campus, providing new spaces for academic classes, club meetings, and lectures by community business leaders.  

In 2015, Portland Public Schools selected the SAGE classrooms as the solution for replacing the former portable buildings at Lincoln High School that had been damaged in a fire in July. Seeking an option that would be economical, as well as moveable to another site when the entire campus undergoes a major renovation in the coming years, district leaders met with City of Portland officials and determined that the sustainable SAGE classrooms would best meet the needs of the school and its students.

The SAGE classrooms were designed by Portland State University School of Architecture students and professors Margarette Leite and Sergio Palleroni, as a healthier alternative to the ubiquitous portable classrooms installed at schools across the country. SAGE classrooms feature efficient energy-recovery ventilators that provide fresh air, large windows that allow students a view of the outdoors and plenty of ambient natural light, nontoxic materials, VOC-free paints, vaulted ceilings, and a structural design that gives the classrooms a spacious feel. The structures are designed for both sustainability and affordability.

The project was designated an Oregon Solution by the state’s governor in 2011, which resulted in the formation of a multi-partner team of public agencies and commercial entities that supported the development of the product. The SAGE prototype was introduced in 2012 at the National Green Building Conference in San Francisco. The SAGE classroom received a 2013 SEED award for Social, Economic and Environmental Design.

A total of 59 SAGE classrooms have been installed at 32 schools around the Pacific Northwest, ranging from the Seattle area to Corvallis. 

“We’re so proud that PPS chose the SAGE classrooms for Lincoln High School, especially since the school is less than a mile away from Portland State University, where the idea for SAGE was conceived and where so much of the design work took place,” said Leite.

The SAGE classrooms at Lincoln will hold classes in finance, business management, marketing, and social entrepreneurship classes, as well as theory, government, economics, and IB anthropology courses. Student-run clubs will meet in the classrooms at lunchtime, and teachers will host guest speakers from the business community, according to Lincoln’s principal, Peyton Chapman.

The four-classroom structure’s open-air corridor is covered by a canopy so that students can stay dry from rain as they walk between classes. Restrooms have been added as well, providing some relief from recent overcrowding issues at the school.

A team of Pacific Northwest companies came together to bring SAGE classrooms to Lincoln High School. Contractor Pacific Mobile Structures, manufacturer Blazer Industries, Mahlum Architects, and construction firm Ross Builders NW collaborated with Portland Public Schools to purchase and install the structures at Lincoln. 

Leite said she expects that future architecture classes at PSU will visit the SAGE classrooms to learn more about healthy, environmentally friendly building methods up close.

“We are so glad that PPS is moving toward healthier and happier learning environments with the SAGE classroom. We are hopeful that we will be able to collaborate with this amazing team again at other Portland schools,” said Leite.