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A fullness of living lightly

Isle students have designed a home that sparingly affects the environment

By Nina Wu

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:25 p.m. HST, Aug 05, 2011


Hale Pilihonua, with its long, cylindrical shape, looks like a design out of the space age with a round exterior covered with a combination of louvers, solar thermal collectors and photovoltaic panels.

Inside, the "net-zero" home features a comfortable living space with bamboo floors, integrated LED lighting and an aquaponics system to cultivate fish and plants.

Its shape is called monocoque — meaning semishell.

"It's built like a wooden boat or an airplane fuselage," said David Rockwood, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Hawaii at Manoa who is working with the team of students that designed the home.

On the Net:

» teamhawai'i | uh-manoa

"We wanted to have a simple, small but flexible space that is at the same time beautiful and allows a fullness of living," he said.

Hale Pilihonua (translation: house connected to the land) is the creation of students from UH-Manoa, Honolulu Community College and Kapiolani Community College who together make up "Team Hawaii" — one of 20 teams from around the world selected to compete in the 2011 U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon this fall.

Each team is designing a net-zero energy home — one that generates as much energy as it consumes — to be exhibited at the National Mall's West Potomac Parc in Washington, D.C., from Sept. 23 to Oct. 2.

The homes will compete in 10 facets with the winner selected according to several criteria, including affordability, attractiveness, livability and whether it produces more energy than it uses.

THIS IS THE FIRST time a Hawaii team will be participating. Competitors include the California Institute of Technology, the University of Calgary in Canada and Ghent University in Belgium.

The Hawaii team will construct the home in Honolulu, take it apart to ship components to Washington, D.C., and reconstruct it there.

Offering 684 square feet of living space, Hale Pilihonua is raised above the ground to offer views of nature. Its translucent shell is made of bio-based, fiber-reinforced polymer to let natural light in. It measures 16 feet wide by 47 feet long.

It is designed to provide natural ventilation and resist corrosion, termites and rot — all common in tropical environments.

If there's a flood, the home is buoyant, able to float.

Its minimalist approach combines Hawaiian and Asian sensibilities, Rockwood said, reducing the amount of material needed for construction.

While it looks very contemporary, the home's design is based on the Hawaiian concept of the house being "a gourd that holds the necessity of life," said team spokeswoman Elyse Peterson.

"We are embracing a lot of what Hawaiian culture is, which is why we have the name Hale Pilihonua. It embraces the culture of interconnectedness and aloha."

Up to 100 students from all disciplines are participating in the project, she said, making it one of the university's largest projects. What's great is that the students are learning technology to become Hawaii's future green-collar work force, she said.

Students from the UH colleges of engineering and architecture sketched out the design for the home. Students from the Shidler College of Business are taking care of marketing and fundraising, while KCC's culinary students are preparing a meal from the aquaponics system.

The team had raised almost $500,000 by early April but needs an additional $800,000, mostly in donations of materials and technical expertise, to complete the project.

The University of Hawaii Foundation is collecting donations on behalf of the project.






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