Waikoloa Middle School Classroom Building

In 2013, WRNS Studio was selected to serve as Sustainability Advisor to the Hawaii Department of Education (DOE) — the eighth largest school district in the country, with 255 schools, 3,872 buildings, and 44.6 million total square feet — helping the DOE achieve its goal of 90% renewable energy at all public schools in the state by 2040 and supporting the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative. In the Sustainability Advisor role, WRNS helped Hawaii’s public schools in their quest for energy independence and the goal to be sustainable, vibrant centers of their communities. This landmark plan is called Ka Hei, which comes from a snare used by the Hawaiian god Maui to capture the sun. It also means “to absorb as knowledge or skill.”

Following our work as Sustainability Advisor, WRNS Studio was asked to apply efficiency and conservation measures identified for Ka Hei to the new Waikoloa Elementary and Middle School Classroom Building (“Waikoloa”). As the first implementation of the Ka Hei program, Waikoloa serves as a teaching example for the DOE and its design teams by emphasizing comfort, wellbeing, efficiency, conservation, and flexibility.

The L shaped classroom building and office annex surround a courtyard etched with a graphic pattern and rock salt finish, characteristic of Pahoehoe lava. Providing a central gathering space for the school, the courtyard links a diverse set of programs on the ground floor including two science classrooms, an art classroom, and the faculty suite with abundant outdoor teaching space. The building’s second floor houses a special education classroom and four additional general classrooms, while taking advantage of the site’s significant grade change to connect the new building with existing the upper school campus.

Located on the edge of a lava field in an arid region on the leeward slope of Mauna Kea, the building was designed to be intentionally porous, leveraging the trade winds for natural ventilation. An insulated roof with high solar reflectivity, operable windows, louvers and overhangs cool interior spaces, with passive Night Ventilation Terminals drawing out excess hot air. Landscape shading further reduces heat gain and establishes a canopy from the harsh daytime sun. Water conservation and management strategies decrease dependency on the municipal water supply while putting sustainable design on display for students.  For example, an overflow rain garden is situated adjacent to the science classrooms. Rip rap swales protect the terrain from soil erosion and all rainwater is filtered into a catchment cistern for irrigation. Extensive energy modeling informed key decision-making regarding operational expenses and the potential return on investment for building systems.
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