Project FROG Becomes a Cinderella Story for Modular Construction

Project FROG’s quick-build, energy-neutral classroom of the future came to Greenbuild for its debut and departed the international conference amid announcements this week that the prototype will be used for a state-of-the-art science complex at a Connecticut school.

The 1,280-square-foot classroom was built on site in six days by Project FROG, a two-year-old firm based in San Francisco. The company called the prototype "FROG Zero" because the structure is capable of generating more energy than that required to operate its systems. The company acronym stands for Flexible Response to Ongoing Growth.

Its features include a 75 percent reduction in energy demand, high ceilings and enough windows to produce bright, open-air feeling indoors, peak air quality, fungible user technology, the capacity to customize for microclimates and advanced climate controls.

FROG Zero's makers also say the building produces virtually no carbon emissions, can provide 100 thermal comfort hours and has the capacity to return five times its energy use through solar power generation.

Those features are embodied in the modular building system that involves four basic pieces or shapes that the company calls wings, spines, the front porch and the engine room, which serves as the powerpack for the structures.

The pre-engineered components are like pieces of Legos or an Erector Set. They can be customized and configured as needed. The shapes "go together in lots of different ways and can scale up indefinitely," said Project FROG Founder and CEO Mark Miller.

The components of any one building or complex make up a kit, which is preassembled, packed flat and sent to the building site. The portability enables the company to source and assemble structures within a relatively tight radius of building sites and control waste.

Though it declines to discuss specific costs, the firm estimates its cost of production is 20 to 30 percent less than that of a comparable conventional building.

An architect by training, Miller's inspiration for the company grew out of work four years ago that involved schools and researching portable classrooms.