Imagine a classroom flooded with natural light, where your eyes weren’t assaulted by the ever-present flickering of fluorescent lighting. Imagine how that might have affected your attention span while struggling with that calculus text. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of daylight on the learning environment, according to American School & University magazine. Some of the findings demonstrate “enhanced student performance and mood, increased teacher and student attendance, reduced energy costs, as well as a positive effect on the environment.”
Project FROG knows that—and acts on it. The green-building company founded in San Francisco in 2006 makes technologically advanced, energy-efficient building modular systems, primarily used in schools, and says it can do so much more quickly—at a cost about 25% less than comparable permanent structures. Very cool.
But, then, imagine that structure with a living roof, designed for energy efficiency, with building sensors that keep track of energy use and maintenance to make modifications easy. Imagine cost savings of up to 75% on energy consumption and the cache of having at least a Silver LEED certification.
Do these classrooms look like any you’ve ever been in?
Look pretty good, don’t they? Perhaps that is why 4-year old Project FROG—which stands for “Flexible Response to Ongoing Growth,” has already garnered more than $13 million in venture capital. Perhaps it’s why the modules captured the attention of CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Perhaps it’s why the company has garnered numerous awards including the 2009 OG25 Business Awards bestowed by Opportunity Green on innovative green startups and the 2009 Top 10 Building Products Award from BuildingGreen.
Modular green building units
The company’s modular structures cannot compete in price with the ubiquitous Katrina-style trailers that some schools use for extra classroom space. But, CEO Ann Hand and president Adam Tibbs explain that its structures are significantly less expensive than comparable permanent structures because of the use of proprietary software the company developed. The software automates the design and build process for the company’s modular systems and Project FROG can now draw from its catalog of design models—many of which have been approved at state levels by architects certified in those states—that are suitable for many different sites and situations. This can create hefty savings in the “soft” building costs, including services, consulting and labor.
The modular units snap together. They’re “sturdy enough for zone 4 seismic areas and can withstand 110 mph winds,” and make use of recycled content. The construction of the modules also reduces waste from about 30% to nearly 0%—in part from algorithmically based formulas for cutting steel to get the most pieces from it.
The Crissy Field project
The new center in San Francisco’s Crissy Field, looking out to the Golden Gate Bridge is Project FROG’s fourth completed project, according to Mark Miller, AIA, LEED AP, founder of the company and lead designer of the project. The 7,500-square-foot facility complete with seismic joints, was made from a kit, built to contemporary codes, and can be relocated. Salvaged railroad ties are used. Solar generator provided power for site construction lighting and most work. It is now one of the nation’s greenest park-based buildings.
In fairness, I know nothing about how Project FROG deals with its employees, what benefits or flextime it might offer or whether it makes philanthropic contributions. I could have asked. However, the company’s commitment to energy conservation, waste reduction, construction materials recycling—combined with its belief that its projects can help America’s future do better, learn more and become cognizant of sustainability—is enough for me to put Project FROG on my list of favorite companies.