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2012 Kukulu Hale Awards

Recognizing Excellence in Hawaii's Commercial Real Estate Industry

(page 2 of 9)

Developer of the Year – Ku Ho‘okela Award

Aulani: a Disney Resort & Spa

Disney is long known for its story-telling, so when the company planned Aulani, its first mixed-use resort (hotel and vacation club) away from a theme park, it wanted to honor the project’s host culture by telling the stories of Hawaii – through the resort’s architecture, design elements, themes and operation.

Headed by Senior Vice President and Creative Executive Joe Rohde (who spent part of his youth in Hawaii), Walt Disney Imagineers (WDI) took steps early on to engage the local community and capture the true essence of the Islands. A key element was the creation of a six-member Cultural Advisory Committee that worked with the company in the early planning of Aulani, providing valuable insight into the Hawaiian culture throughout the development decision-making process.

The Disney team spent time at Bishop Museum, the Ka‘ala Learning Center, visiting heiau and other culture sites around Oahu to insure that those working on the project understood Hawaii before they started planning Aulani. As the project progressed, the company kept the community informed through neighborhood board meetings, presentations to community and industry groups, and networking with business, government and community leaders.

The Hawaiian gods Kanaloa and Kane are represented in this lobby mural by Hawaiian artist Doug Tolentino.

Designed to mirror the Hawaiian concept of ahupua‘a, the natural progression of the land from mountains to ocean, Aulani opened to its first guests on August 29, 2011. When the third phase is completed in 2013, the two towers will encompass 359 hotel rooms and suites and 481 two-bedroom equivalent Disney Vacation Club villas.

From its collection of contemporary Hawaiian art and use of Hawaiian motifs throughout the property to landscaping elements and employee training programs, Aulani embraces the spirit of aloha and the Hawaiian concepts of malama ‘aina (care for the land) and kuleana (responsibility).

Four varieties of taro are grown and harvested at Aulani’s lo‘i kalo.

Inspired by the Hawaiians’ deep relationship with nature, designers implemented a broad array of green technologies to promote sustainability and energy efficiency throughout the resort. Guests are invited to participate in conservation efforts through such programs as resort-wide recycling; the Rainbow Reef snorkel lagoon and Makai Preserve where Hawaii’s marine life can be experienced up close; and Aulani’s lo’i kalo, where four varieties of taro are grown and harvested for consumption.

Local sourcing for produce and products is a priority as is local hiring. And the resort’s “Cast” of more than 1,000 employees each is required to take an all-day class called Spirit of Aulani, a training program created with Kapiolani Community College. The class covers everything from Hawaiian culture and language to the ways in which Hawaiian elements have been incorporated into Aulani, so that Cast members can help create the experiences that are expected by Disney guests.

Disney’s commitment to the local community extends well beyond the resort’s boundaries. At its groundbreaking in 2008, Disney donated $25,000 to each of four Leeward Oahu high schools; another $100,000 was donated during the grand opening to a number of programs focused on youth, community and Hawaiian culture. The company’s voluntEARS program engages employees in a variety of community programs, from blood drives to planting native plants.

From guest experience to corporate responsibility, Aulani remains focused on the core values of the Disney Company – kids and family – while incorporating the Hawaiian culture, the foundation upon which the resort was built.


More About Aulani

More than half of the waste materials from Aulani’s construction was recycled, including concrete, wood, steel, aluminum and other metals.

“Cool roof” technology helps keep buildings cool; organic “green roofs” also have been incorporated to deflect heat and provide natural shade

Aulani has a resort-wide recycling program that includes the usual paper, plastic, aluminum and cardboard as well as food waste, electronics, batteries and light bulbs.

The resort’s parking garage offers 34 electric car charging stations.

The central garden between the resort’s two towers is designed to simulate Oahu’s overall landscape:  dense and wet in the center; sandy and palm-tree lined on the outskirts.

Makai Preserve is a conservation lagoon that encourages visitors to respect Hawaii’s sea life through up-close experiences. A portion of the proceeds from the preserve supports conservation and research efforts in Hawaii through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund.

Aulani houses one of the world’s largest collections of contemporary native Hawaiian art, with more than 50 pieces throughout the resort.

Among the resort’s lounges and bars is the ‘Olelo Room, where the bartenders speak fluent Hawaiian and help guests with proper pronunciation of Hawaiian words.

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