In an era of rising fuel costs and rising sea levels, islands are especially vulnerable. And recent years have seen Hawaii taking a leading role in cutting its carbon footprint and generating its own renewable energy. From using seawater to cool municipal buildings in Honululu to pioneering an ocean thermal power conversion plant to leading the nation in electric vehicle (EV) adoption, it’s clear that the archipelago is making strides to green its operations. So it seems only fitting that the University of Hawaii Mānoa’s (UH Mānoa) new research laboratory building has taken LEED Platinum from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

Despite the state’s increasingly eco-friendly profile, however, it hasn’t so far seen a huge green building boom, so the building that houses the university’s Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) Hale marks a couple of real milestones in becoming the first research laboratory building in Hawaii to take the USGBC’s highest level of green certification, and the eighth construction project in the state to do so.

C-MORE, University of Hawaii
image via University of Hawaii

Designed by Group 70 International, the building is home to a host of green features, including ultra low-flow toilets, automated faucets and waterless urinals that cut the building’s potable water use by 48 percent, and an underground storm water chamber detention system that treats 25,000 gallons of storm water run off on site each year.

A 2,400-square-foot green roof helps to reduce the building’s temperature, increase carbon dioxide removal and provide habitat for insects and birds; it features a variety of native and adapted plants, including Aloe, ‘Akulikuli, Sedum and Portulaca. Likewise, native, drought-tolerant plants like ‘Aki‘aki and Naupaka—and a drip irrigation system with rain-sensing irrigation controls—aid in the building’s water conservation strategy.

Solar hot water heat recovery helps to reduce the building’s energy consumption by 52.2 percent over a standard laboratory of similar size and function, adding up to a 31.4 percent savings in energy costs each year. Natural daylighting helps to curb the building’s energy needs, along with smart controls that shut off lights when rooms are unoccupied and reduce lighting levels according to the amount of daylight detected.

C-MORE Hale is one of seventeen National Science Foundation-sponsored Science and Technology Centers across the country, and offers 30,000 square feet of research laboratory and support spaces for the study of ocean microbes. C-MORE Hale was completed in 2010, and—like San Diego’s LEED-registered Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine biotech laboratory—focuses on architecture  that promotes interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers.

C-MORE Hale constitutes the second major national recognition for UH Mānoa’s green efforts in recent months, as the university’s chancellor, Virginia S. Hinshaw, was recently included in a group of public and private sector leaders invited to the White House in December 2011 to highlight their energy reduction initiatives as part of the White House Better Buildings Challenge.

During the event, President Obama and former President Bill Clinton praised the university’s achievements and goals, including its aim to renovate the half-century-old Kuykendall Hall to zero net energy status. If achieved, this would make the hall the first such retrofitted building in the state.

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