A new green Kuykendall is in our future
Image: University of Hawaii Manoa

It’s about time

Architecture / With sea level rising, and a state goal of 70 percent clean energy (40 percent from renewables, 30 percent from conservation) by 2030, we need timely action from our biggest energy and water users. In that category, Hawaii’s state government sits right behind the U.S. military.

And, while you and I personally face the need to conserve on water and electricity, collectively, as inflation-beset taxpayers, we also have a major stake in how state government responds to soaring utility prices.

First, consider the whopping amounts of electricity government units consume. Hawaii’s Department of Education current monthly electric bills run around $34 million plus. When the legislature is in session, a typical monthly electric bill for our Capitol building runs anywhere from $128,000 to $132,000, or $1.5 million plus per year. University of Hawaii monthly electric bills systemwide in recent years have run as much as $42 million, and state airports pay about $30 million.

Meanwhile, HECO”s electricity rates, despite the recent 25 percent drop in global oil prices, have been rising. The HECO rate website announces that since mid 2011, Public Lighting rates have risen 14 percent and Big User rates have risen 18 percent

The 2011 U.S. Consumer Price Index tells us that while overall prices rose by four percent in the last half of 2011, Honolulu’s electricity prices rose 34.3 percent for 2011.

Then there’s water.

In the midst of what the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) cites as a 30 year Hawaii drought, and in the midst of more than 300 breaks a year in Honolulu’s aged 2011 miles of water mains, Honolulu’s Board of Water Supply (BWS) is raising rates at 9.6 percent a year . Sewage costs are rising at 18 percent a year.

Fortunately, the state has been taking action.

Chief changes

Chief Kalanimoku, originally Billy Pitt, was prime minister to Kamehameha and chief advisor to Regent Queen Kaahumanu, acclaimed for his common sense, willingness to learn and leadership in an era fraught with imported diseases and demands for change. How fitting that the first major installation of 1005 solar PV panels in the capital district sits atop the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and Department of Accounting and General Services (DAGS) offices in the Kalanimoku Building.Installed with $2.9 million from a federal energy efficiency and conservation grant (a 2009 Obama initiative) obtained by the state of Hawaii DBEDT, the solar panels supply 200 kilowatts of alternating current, which should add up to an estimated 5.4 million kilowatt hours (kwh) over the 18 years of the panels’ performance guarantee. A computer kiosk on Kalanimoku’s first floor allows workers and visitors to monitor the daily, monthly, and yearly solar electric output, which meets, from month to month, 33 to 43 percent of the building’s total electrical demands.

Kalanimoku’s PV, however, is only part of a much larger state Energy Conservation Measures (ECM) push. With $33.4 million in state capital improvements funding (creating 401 local jobs in 2011), DAGS has done 21 major retrofits for energy and water conservation (ECMs) on 10 state capital area buildings (1.3 million square feet). These new efficiencies now save the state 6.6 million kwh/year in reduced electrical consumption, or $3 million a year at current electrical rates.according to DAGS Planning Branch Chief Ralph Morita.

The upgrades include low- flush toilets and urinals, sensor activated faucets, weather-based irrigation controls, and sewer deduct meters to reduce sewer charges.The state reports annual savings from reduced water and sewage costs at $496.000.

As for the environmental return on investment, DAGS estimates reductions in greenhouse gases for the 10 State office buildings at: 10,856,528 lbs of CO2 (carbon dioxide),28,959 lbs of NOx (nitrous oxide), and 33,354 lbs of SOx (sulfuric oxide). This equates to 2,044 acres of trees being planted and 1,647 cars removed from the roads.

In terms of energy conservation, DAGS reports that 500 state staffers have taken a Green Champion/ Leading by Example pledge to lift thermostats, turn off unused computers and printers, and reduce the use of lights, paper, water, elevators, and power strips.

In additon, 100 Kw of solar PV will go on each of the following: DAGS Central Services warehouse at Mapunapuna,the Queen Liliuokalani/ Keelikolani building and the Makai Garage; plus approximately 50 Kw on the Vineyard Garage, totaling nearly 350 Kw more of clean solar energyIn addition, DAGS is developing an Investment Grade Audit to identify energy conservation measures in 33 of its facilities statewide.


Conservationist Shanah Trevenna of Sustainable UH and her graduate student colleagues at HUB (Help Us Bridge) have led the way with energy, water and waste audits of campus buildings. These revealed that UH Manoa uses three times the enenergy per square foot as does the UC Santa Barbara.

For Saunders Hall and Hamilton Library on the Manoa campus, HUB found possible yearly savings of $146,000 and $700,000, respectively, without retrofit costs.

Guided by the audits, UH reduced its electricity bill from $42 million in 2009 to $36.5 million in 2010. And, according to Sustainable UH’s website, “The reported number of head aches and eye strain reduced dramatically when excessive lighting was removed from Saunders Hall.”

Meanwhile, UH Manoa has big plans for greening its six million square feet of building space: It will add 3 to 5 MW of solar PV on campus, which will cover roughly 12 percent of overall electric demand.

In a unique collaboration involving the U.S. Department of Energy, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, local architects and faculty and students, UH Manoa is designing a state-of-the-art renovation of 48-year-old, 80,000 square foot Kuykendall Hall. The project aims at net zero energy, meaning that the building will fulfill all of its own energy needs. One hundred wireless sensors, 25 electrical circuits, and sub-meters will collect temperature, humidity, and air speed data to keep the building continually adjusting for maximum efficiency matched to workplace comfort.

According to Steve Meder, vice chancellor for physical, environmental and long range planning, “While advancing design possibilities, we are also developing a new, more integrated educational model that moves both professionals and students rapidly into real world innovations.”

DOE Schools

Trevenna’s work is rapidly expanding. In addition to the colleges, Sustainable UH is now “focused on training all the Department of Defense sites and the Department of Education schools to energy audit their buildings! So exciting to be addressing Hawaii’s two largest energy bills.”

At Keoneula Elementary School in Ewa, for example, HUB’s 85 page audit revealed possible efficiency savings of $83,500 per year. Most recently, DOE has undertaken a massive new 177 Kw solar performance contract installation at Aiea High School.

According to DOE Public Works Administrator Duane Kashiwai, there are performance contract solar installations scheduled for Kahuku, Waianae, and Kaimuki High Schools, and plans for solar installations on 15 schools on Kauai, where electric rates currently run over 40 cents per kwh.

Just in time?

On June 17, 2012 the Mauna Loa Observatory measured 395.75 parts per million(ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere, up from 375.54 ppm only ten years ago.

In Wayfinding, Navigating Hawaii’s Energy Future, Life of the Land Executive Director Henry Curtis writes, “Energy is the glue, the connector, the life blood of all that we do.” It has to be clean renewable energy efficiently used. Can Hawaii’s state government agencies show us the way?