During the past several decades, California public schools have realized the instantaneous benefit from quickly built, quickly installed modular classrooms. They have also experienced the downside. “Modular Sprawl”, durability issues when temporary becomes permanent and careless placement has turned essential open space into congested building clusters.

The Santa Ana Unified School District Facility Master Plan identifies many of their fifty-eight campuses to undergo “Portable to Permanent” transformation. By accessing state Oversize Relief Grant (ORG) funding, numerous SAUSD campuses will have their precious playground space returned to them.

Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, originally constructed in 1933, is one of the fortunate schools. 12 modular classrooms in varying degrees of disrepair will be replaced by two new permanently constructed buildings; a two-story building housing primary grades and a single level kindergarten building. Site improvements include new kinder play, accessible pavements and a new lunch shelter.


  • Strictly controlled by District Administrative Staff
  • Administrators were very decisive with respect to budget adherence, programmatic content and purity of design
  • State funding via ORG with district matching funds comprises the entire budget. It is anticipated that no additional fund sources be accessed to augment State funding
  • The budget is extraordinarily tight and is a significant factor as to the extent of architectural detail and programmatic adherence.
  • Return of critically needed open space, elimination of sub-standard educational facilities, consolidation of new and existing building arrangement for safety and supervision all contribute to the socially responsible nature of the proposed design solution.

Due to the straightforward design approach and refreshing simplicity, the District’s educational program is fully supported.

Benjamin Franklin Elementary School is the oldest campus within a culturally rich District and adjacent neighborhood. This, coupled with the restoration of much needed open space on an already diminutive 2.5 acre site for 500 students inspired the following design concepts:

  1. Compact building design and placement
  2. Purity and restraint with respect to architectural detailing
  3. Capturing just the right amount of historical “style” to fit within a century old neighborhood.
  4. Utilization of timeless, durable and maintenance friendly materials expertly detailed.
  5. Budget constraints are not conducive to LEED or CHPS certification. Recycled construction material content, use of natural day light via Solar Tubes and highly efficient light fixtures and HVAC equipment will be included in the eventual construction documents.

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