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Living Building profile: Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Laboratory

In Hawaii, a sustainable high school is only the third building in the world to achieve Living Building certification.
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Written by Sun Kim, Contributing Editor on

Located in the Waimea area of Hawaii, the Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Lab is a science building where high school students study alternative energy. Using the building as part of its curriculum, the school practices and preaches sustainable energy use.

The Energy Lab is the first school and only the third building in the world to achieve full Living Building certification from the International Living Building Institute. The 6,100 square foot zero net energy and water building was completed in January 2010 and awarded Living Building certification in April 2011.

The Living Building Challenge is a performance based green certification program. The system consists of prerequisites, or performance areas, including net-zero energy and near net-zero water performance. Certification is based on the building’s actual performance (compared to LEED certification which uses a points for design system), monitored and verified over a 12 month period.

Some of the project’s technologies that fulfill Living Building Challenge requirements include the following:
1. A greyfield site that had been used to dump and bury bio waste and debris from a previous construction project
2. A potable rainwater collection system and leach field treatment and infiltration wastewater system
3. Photovoltaic arrays and windmills
4. Natural heating, cooling, and ventilation system consisting of operable windows, operable and mechanized louvers, screens, and roller shades
5. Low VOC (volatile organic compound) and zero VOC materials, furnishings, and finishes
6. An integrated design process involving the owner, the owner’s project manager, an energy/sustainability consultant, structural engineer, and MEP engineer

The most subjective of the Living Building Challenge performance areas is ‘Beauty’. The category refers not only to aesthetics but also to harmony with location, environment, and culture. The designers, Flansburgh Architects of Boston, and the school chose three native phrases to organize and express their ideas for designing beauty in a lasting way. Ike (sense of place), Kuleana (responsibility or territory), and Ohana (family or community) are evident in the building's use of materials, relationship to the site, and the mission of the school. The school's location in one of the most beautiful places on earth also naturally adds to the project's beauty.

The Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Lab uses elements of traditional tropical structures (e.g. open ventilation, jalousies or louvers, courtyard plan) with modern technologies to create a building that is respectful of history, the present culture, and future generations. The aesthetics are not brutal or plain, but reflective of the culture while still looking very modern.

Images: Hawaii Preparatory Academy, Flansburgh Architects

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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