What is a portable classroom?
A portable classroom (also known as a “relocatable classroom or simply a “portable”) is a type of mobile modular building. They are usually used by schools or other educational facilities to provide extra classrooms or office space when there is a shortage of space in the main building. They are convenient solutions because they can be removed from the premises easily or relocated to a different location if needed. At the same time, they offer comparable space to classrooms located inside the main building, and they are very cost-effective.
While most schools use portable classrooms as a temporary space solution, some may choose to use them permanently or semi-permanently. Many modular building suppliers offer the option to opt for a “portapack,” or a series of portable classrooms connected by a hallway. Sometimes, you can even connect portable classrooms to the main building.
Why do schools need portable classrooms?
There are many different uses for portable classrooms. But most commonly, schools or other educational facilities look for portable classrooms when they are:
- Undergoing construction in the main building, such as building an addition
- Experiencing a spike in student population
- Suffering from damage, such as a natural disaster or mold, in the main building
- Budget cuts or financial challenges to adding more space
- Looking to reduce energy consumption
- And more
Even if schools are not facing a shortage of space, portable classrooms are an attractive option to many. They help educational organizations cut costs, reduce their energy usage and utility bills, enjoy better HVAC circulation and climate control, and reduce the amount of land the school is using. Additionally, if a school is experiencing a time constraint and needs more space quickly, a portable classroom might be the best choice. A portable classroom can be up and running in a couple of weeks, whereas construction can take several years.
How much do portable classrooms cost?
The cost of a portable classroom varies, mostly depending on size, customizations, and whether you choose to lease or buy. Since they are designed to be temporary space solutions that are cost-effective, schools typically choose to lease when they need a portable classroom. However, there are options for schools that plan to need their portable classroom for a longer time. If you need the space for longer than 2-3 years, a modular building may be the better option for you.
|Lease||$100-$600 per month|
About $1,000 for delivery and installation
|Buy||$10,000 – $100,000 (+ customizations)|
About $1,000 for delivery and installation
Portable classrooms can cost between $40-$200 per square foot, depending on the overall size and customization features. When buying, they range about $10,000-$100,000 depending on the size, and expect to pay more for customizations. On average, they cost between $100-$600 per month to lease, depending on size and customizations. Smaller units will land closer to $100 a month, while large units will cost closer to $600 per month.
There are a couple of other things to keep in mind, regarding cost. As with any modular and mobile office building, there are initial delivery and installation costs. These can cost about $1,000, on average. Additionally, because these modular buildings will be used as classrooms, there are certain codes and regulations that must be followed. Most states require permits for portable modular buildings, which include necessities like ADA compliance and fire alarm systems. This can impact customization costs.
What sizes are available?
There are a variety of sizes available for portable classrooms, depending on your needs. The most common size for a single classroom is 24’ x 34’, with about 800-900 sq. ft. of space. However, sizes can vary and some double portable classrooms (24’ x 64’) offer as much as 1500 sq. ft. of space.
|Classroom size||Common Dimensions||Square feet||Accomodates # students|
|Small to medium||14’ x 49’|
14’ x 54’
24’ x 36’
24’ x 40’
24’ x 44’
|Less than 1,000 sq. feet||Up to 50 students per whole unit (may be broken into 2+ separate classrooms)|
|Large||36’ x 40’48’ x 40’24’ x 68’28’ x 70’56’ x 68’||1,000+ sq. feet||50+ students per whole unit (may be broken into 2+ separate classrooms)|
Generally, when deciding on a size for your classroom, you want to think about your class sizes. You should ask questions like:
- How many students do you need to accommodate per class?
- How many classrooms do you need?
- Do you need to use some of the space to add a bathroom?
- What kind of layout do you want to use in the classroom?
Remember that different types of educational facilities have different preferences and needs when it comes to class size. When planning, a good rule of thumb is to designate at least 20 square feet per student. If the classroom is meant to be an art studio or a lab space, you should lean toward 50 square feet per student. This means - if you have classes with 25 students, you should plan for at least 500 sq. feet per classroom. A lab or art class of 25 students would need around 1,250 sq. feet of space.
Included Features vs. Add-on Costs
Luckily, most portable classrooms come with included features when leasing or buying. This is helpful because even though you will likely still need to add customizations, these features give you a head start!
Most portable classrooms will come with the following features:
- Flooring, including vinyl tile or carpeted floors
- Ceiling lights
- Electric, heating and cooling systems (HVAC)
- Exterior siding, such as wood paneling
Even though most portable classrooms come equipped with many features, remember that there are items you need to provide to get your unit up to par with a typical classroom. Schools who need a portable classroom will likely need to add-on:
- Restrooms (ADA compliant)
- Furniture - desks, chairs, etc.
- Technology - such as projector systems
- Steps & ramps (usually requires an additional cost)
- Fire alarm system and safety equipment\
- Video surveillance or security system
- And more
If you’re ready to get started comparing options for portable classrooms, we're here to help! We partner with the top modular building suppliers who offer portable classroom options and can cater to your local area. Take a moment to fill out our modular building form, and we’ll be in touch with you in minutes!