Categorized | Education, Featured, Sci-Tech

Changing the future: Energy lab coming to HPA campus

Construction is progressing on the Energy Lab at Hawaii Preparatory Academy.  The 6,112-square-foot building is scheduled to open in January 2010.

Construction is progressing on the Energy Lab at Hawaii Preparatory Academy. The 6,112-square-foot building is scheduled to open in January 2010.


Opening Planned for January 2010

WAIMEA, Island of Hawaii—The new Energy Lab at Hawaii Preparatory Academy is envisioned as a catalyst for change.

“This is a place where we will actually change the future,” states Upper School science teacher Dr. Bill Wiecking, who has been intimately involved with the development and design of the Energy Lab.  “We are in a position to make a tremendous mark on the whole green alternate energy future of how energy is produced, used, and handled.”

The timing for the project is right.  Hawaii is subject to the highest energy costs in the United States, partially because of its dependency on non-renewable energy sources.  Robbie Alm, executive vice president of the Hawaiian Electric Co., recently stated, “Hawaii takes $7 billion from our economy for fuel alone and sends it overseas.  It was reported recently that tourism spending has brought in almost $9 billion this year.  We basically take a huge chunk of that income and give it away.”


Rendering of the lab, click image to enlarge.

The good news is Hawaii also is in one of the best places in the world for renewable energy.  “The biggest energy resource we have at HPA is wind,” says Wiecking. “Living on the Big Island, we have access to wind and solar and all of the other alternate resources that are here, including the Natural Energy Lab in Kona, the wind farm at Upolu Point, Puna Geothermal, and the Mauna Loa Observatory, which is where the whole carbon dioxide curve first documented global warming.”

The Energy Lab concept developed at a Go Green charrette (workshop) in May 2007, when a group of students, faculty, administrators, and parents met for an intensive day-long session to create a vision for a sustainable campus.

“The idea of the Energy Lab kept coming up in our small group discussion, which was focused on energy,” recalls Wiecking. “In an hour, we had covered the walls with sticky notes.  There were tremendous ideas—from all the things we could do in alternate energy, recycling, co-generation, and wind, to metering electricity on every building on campus, to becoming energy self-sufficient and possibly even an energy exporter!”

An HPA parent with extensive experience in green energy utilities participated in the energy group discussion and saw the Energy Lab as a “logical necessity.”  He and his wife made a commitment to fund the Energy Lab.

“Our generation will not change,” explains the donor, who wishes to remain anonymous.  “The alarm is getting louder and louder, and the sad thing is that we are consuming our kids’ future.

“To improve the world, we must educate the children.  They are receptive, they are enthusiastic about learning and trying to find solutions to problems at their level.  Education is a very, very essential need. The children are the key to the future.”

Laurie Ainslie, who chairs the school’s Board of Governors, says the Energy Lab is unprecedented on many levels, particularly in how quickly the school was able to embrace this opportunity and bring the facility to life.

“As a small, independent school, we were able to move forward boldly when our donor presented us with this amazing gift and partnership opportunity,” says Ainslie.  “The Energy Lab will offer incredible learning opportunities for existing and future generations of students; it will be a model for global education in the 21st century.”

Architect David Croteau of Flansburgh Architects in Boston, along with his team of consultants, designed the 6,112-square-foot Energy Lab with input from the donors, Wiecking, students, and others, including project manager Ken Melrose.

Croteau’s inspiration came from three sources.  “The architectural form of the building is influenced by the architecture of Vladimir Ossipoff and harnessing the natural forces of the wind and the sun,” he says.  “The plan of the building was driven by the science program’s team-based and process-based pedagogy.  The trick of the project was to take these three influences and combine them into something new and exciting.”

Croteau envisions the Energy Lab as “a place where students would work in teams to research, design, and develop new and existing renewable energy technologies.  We are hopeful that students will take full advantage of the lab’s unique site to test these technologies.”

The two-story building, which also has a basement for storage, features open classroom areas and outdoor courtyards and decks, protected from the wind, which will encourage collaborative learning.  The Lab consists of three “zones” that mimic the creative process students experience when working on projects, from brainstorming to design to physical construction.

The long, mauka building features individual project rooms equipped with computers and SmartBoards that also can be used as monitoring labs and a video conference room for 12-15 people. The central structure is a collaborative, carpeted flexible open space with a central set of screens configured in a triangular shape so no matter where a student is in the room, the screens are visible.

The front section is a workshop where all building and testing will take place.  Tools and materials also will be stored here.

This design supports an educational model for the 21st century that Wiecking describes as “teacher moving from sage on a stage to more of a facilitator or resource; it’s a learning style where students work together in teams instead of being in a classroom with the teacher up front.”

In addition to being designed for implementing best practices in education, the Energy Lab is designed to be a working example of the benefits of sustainable design.

Wind turbines and an array of roof-mounted photovoltaic panels will strive to produce 100 percent on-site renewable energy for the lab on a net annual basis.  All wood will be Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified or from salvaged sources.  Every occupiable space will have operable windows and the building will be almost entirely naturally ventilated.  An innovative radiant cooling system, which uses colder nighttime air to chill water, will be used to condition warm spaces during the day.

“The building’s energy use and energy generation will be monitored,” says Croteau.  “Sensors will monitor and control artificial lighting and natural air flow. The building’s performance will be shown on monitors at the lab and around campus.”

Project manager Melrose adds,  “It’s a living building; it will teach through its operation with all of its systems clearly illustrated for learning purposes.  It’s intended to be a utilities-neutral building with hopes of exporting power.  It’s the first of its kind for a school building in Hawaii.”

Energy use in all campus buildings will be monitored from the Energy Lab, including a “test house,” one of the faculty cottages. “We’ll do the research and find out the best way to do things, model best practices with the kids, and share what we learn with the community,” says Wiecking, who sees the outreach component extending beyond local communities and schools to hosting national and international summer conferences, which is a natural extension of the Lab’s mission of education, monitoring, and outreach.

The Energy Lab could very well be the nucleus of a global student network in learning.  HPA already has established relationships with schools in Germany, Alaska, and around the state through its first Student Congress on Sustainability held in June 2008.  The Second Annual Student Congress on Sustainability was held June 11-14, 2009.

The Energy Lab also is attracting interest in partnerships from colleges here and on the mainland, including the University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), Stanford University, and Cornell University.

As work progresses on the Energy Lab, the school is planning for the integration of the facility into the K-12 curriculum, including bringing in expert speakers for seminars and brown-bag lunches.

“This is a building that not only is thought out for having people in it—and we know kids learn better when they’re comfortable,” says Wiecking. “There’s thought and intelligence to the design and if there’s an intelligence to the design, then people will be curious about it and they’ll want to learn, ‘why?’  At that point, we’ve already got them into the mission of the building, which is learning and education.  Our building will be a place that will inspire questions.”

Headmaster Lindsay Barnes sees tremendous potential in the Energy Lab. “First and foremost, the lab will be an instructional facility where our students can begin to learn about the functional imperatives of a post-Age of Petroleum world.  Those educated in sustainability and the dozens of disciplines (e.g., agricultural production, commerce, law, business, manufacturing, and engineering) touched by the quest for cleaner and renewable energy sources will be tomorrow’s leaders, and the Energy Lab will give our students a ‘head start’ in becoming the leaders of their generation.

“Second, we see the Energy Lab as an extraordinary resource for the Big Island.  In the field of agriculture alone, the outreach possibilities are enormous.

“Third, the Energy Lab is envisioned as creating a flagship identity for HPA, an identity to which no other school can lay claim and this can pay tremendous dividends in the recruitment of students and faculty, not to mention what it can mean in terms of friend-raising for the school.”

Wiecking adds, “A lot of the things we’re doing with the Energy Lab haven’t been done anywhere.  The building will be so completely off the grid and energy efficient with water catchment, passive water cooling…this building will do things that haven’t been done in any separate situation, let alone combined.  It will be a clarion of where a building can be environmentally.”

In fact, according to Buro Happold, an international engineering firm that has developed innovative building technologies for some of the world’s most renowned architects, HPA’s Energy Lab could be the first K-12 school facility in the world to meet the Living Building Challenge, a criteria that exceeds LEED Platinum certification, which the school also is pursuing.  Buro Happold used sophisticated computer models to study the effects of wind, sun, energy generation, and energy use on the interior environment of the building and monitored a “red list” of materials, like formaldehyde, not to be used in the building.

“I am not aware of another independent school with such an ambitious facility,” says Croteau.

Facts at a Glance

Architect: David Croteau, AIA Flansburgh Architects, Boston, Massachusetts
Project Manager: Ken Melrose, Pa‘ahana Enterprises
Contractor:  Quality Builders, Inc.
Square Footage:  6,112 under roof (4,363 sf upper floor; 972 sf basement; 777 sf outdoor classroom)

  • 1,680 (west lanai)
  • 1,000 (east lanai)
  • 1,910 (open deck)

Groundbreaking: August 14, 2008
Estimated opening: January 2010
Estimated cost: $7.69 million

One Response to “Changing the future: Energy lab coming to HPA campus”

  1. joni bund says:

    Wow, this sounds like the best school ever. Wish I was 65 years younger. Great opportunity for the next generation. I hope they are also using power from all that hot lava. I sounds wonderful. Keep up the great work.


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