Hawaiian Homes Instead

March, 2007

In the explosion of subdivisions across Hawaii, something has largely been missing — a local sense of place. Homes designed for the California coast or the scrublands of Florida just don’t reflect Hawaii’s spirit.

They look as local as a wool jacket and tie on Bishop Street.

For over a year now, the University of Hawaii School of Architecture has been quietly doing something about it. With the backing of state Department of Hawaiian Homelands, graduate students have been asked to hammer out home designs that incorporate culture and climate, use local materials and don’t cost too much for people of modest means to build.

It’s a tall order.

Here’s a look at their process of innovation.

Pictured is a traditional hale design that uses structurally insulated panels manufactured to reduce heat transference and keep the home cool. This design, and the next two, were part of the first stage of idea development by architecture graduate students.

Pictured is a home that is open below the main living space, allowing air to pass under the home and keeping it cooler than a conventional Mainland home.
The defining characteristic of this design is the fusing of outdoor and indoor elements. Many Western homes segregate their parcels and run counter to a Hawaiian sense of closeness to nature.
In this stage-two design, students are shooting for homes that are easy to manufacture and assemble, to keep building costs down. The open interior also allows more individual design expression for homeowners. The housing materials are made from local eucalyptus trees. An underlying goal of the project is to spawn more local forestry development and reduce imports.

The next stage involves building homes to scale in a studio in Kalaeloa Harbor. Also, students will be asked to expand their concepts into landscape design and to crunch some real numbers on costs with the business school folks.


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Scott Radway