The Energy Lab Receives Highest Living Building Challenge Status

June 12, 2011

Recently the k-12 school, Hawaii Preparatory Academy, celebrated its first year anniversary of their Energy Laboratory. The laboratory, located on campus in Kamuela, Hawaii, received the highest level of certification under the Living Building Challenge.

Exterior of Energy Lab

The award is “Living” status and the Energy Laboratory is the third building in the world to achieve this honor.

The Living Building Challenge awards are only achieved after a building has been completed and in use for at least one year. It is a non-government organization founded in May 2009 by Cascadia Green Building Council. It is an international program with seven performance areas:

  1. Site
  2. Water
  3. Energy
  4. Health
  5. Materials
  6. Equity
  7. Beauty

These seven categories are subdivided into 20 imperatives to address all elements of a built environment and surrounding land use.

The highest status of “Living” is only achieved when a building meets the standards of:

  • Net-zero water
  • Net-zero energy
  • Exclusion of “Red Listed” products (Chemicals and materials considered harmful to the environment)

“The purpose of the Living Building Challenge is straightforward – it defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today and acts to diminish the gap between current limits and ideal solutions. Living Building Challenge provides a framework for design, construction and the symbiotic relationship between people and all aspects of the built environment.”

The Energy Laboratory is a 5,902 sq. ft. building meant to influence students to develop sustainable living practices. It was stated,

“HPA’s Energy Lab is a model for sustainable buildings and a place where young people will change the paradigm of thinking to a world of sustained abundance.”

Energy Ventilation Chart

It opened in Jan. 2010 and was designed by Flansburgh Architects. They partnered with Buro Happold who provided sustainability and energy consulting for the project.

Buro Happold is an engineering and energy consulting company that began in 1976 and has grown to 29 international offices. They are dedicated to sustainable design and state,

“We draw on the multi-disciplinary skills, knowledge and experience of our local experts to design and deliver award winning building, infrastructure and environmental projects that excel for clients, engage with communities and enrich the lives of users.

Sustainability, innovation and holistic consulting are at the heart of everything we do and we are committed to touching the earth lightly. We think harder and are dedicated to addressing the big challenges that face the planet – climate change, population growth and scarcity of natural resources.”

Flansburgh Architects brought in Buro Happold from the beginning to guarantee that they met the standards necessary for a green building and to meet the requirements of the Living Building Challenge and to be a LEED platinum certification candidate.

Energy Lab Exterior

The director at the Energy Lab, Dr. Bill Wiecking used his background in physics to do the preliminary design schemes of the cooling/venting systems. Then Buro Happold used computational fluid dynamics to establish the necessary placement of the windows and vents to provide the most effective natural ventilation system. Fans, air-conditioning units and carbon dioxide units were installed but because of Buro Happold’s studies, they were never used in the laboratory’s first year in operation.

Other notable achievements for the Energy Lab’s first year are that it generated twice the amount of energy that it consumed and the excess was distributed to the rest of the academy’s campus and that it has a net-zero water system. This system allows the building to require no external water supply sources; it harvests condensation, stores, recycles and reuses all of the required water.

Buro Happold’s studies and dedication to improving the built environment’s impact on the earth, along with Flansburgh’s design and Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s demand to be a living educational green example, were all brought to realization with the celebrated Energy Lab’s first year. Cheers to many more years of sustainability and many more inspiring designs!



Jennifer Shockley

Jennifer is originally from Colorado and has recently moved back from Michigan. She is finishing up her Master’s degree in Architecture. She is currently focusing on urban planning and sustainable design and hopes to gain employment at a design firm specializing in these areas. Jennifer also has writing experience serving as an editor for her school newspaper and college magazine. Jennifer has two cats named Prada and Dior-aptly named after her shoe obsession. You can follow Jennifer on twitter @jenshock81.