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11 January 2016

Design of NOAA Inouye Regional Center Integrates Sustainability and History

NOAA Daniel K. Inouye

In this Laboratory Design article, Tom Fortier, regional leader of Science + Technology, and Paul Woolford, design principal in San Francisco, share how HOK’s design of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center (IRC) integrated the historic significance of the site with a mission for sustainability.

An adaptive reuse of two World War II-era airplane hangars, the IRC accommodates 800 people in a high-performance research and office campus that integrates NOAA’s mission of “science, service and stewardship” with the region’s cultural traditions and the island’s ecology.

“Ford Island was part of the Japanese fleet attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The island has been designated as a national historic landmark, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation lists the island as one of the most endangered historic sites. Historic guidelines required new buildings and landscape elements be compatible, but not mimic Albert Kahn’s original architecture and site design. The historic tarmac and hangars represent recent naval history; the water’s edge serves as a metaphor for Hawaiian ocean culture. NOAA in the Pacific Region has a strong relationship with Polynesian culture and the ocean. The intersection of the two represents a collaborative fusion and respect for both traditions.


“Two historic airplane hangars are linked by a new addition, a simple glass-and-steel building that beautifully complements Kahn’s original structures. The three-story atrium is the centerpiece of the facility—a central gathering place activated by natural light. The island’s ecology was a fundamental model of inspiration and efficiency for the IRC’s design. Biomimetic lessons from nature and the ecology formed design principles, such as the morphology of the native Hawaiian albizia saman trees that thrive on the site. The broad-canopied tree captures water vapor as their leaves open and close with changing light. This influence is translated into the design of the IRC’s passive cooling and lighting systems—a natural ventilation system that captures prevailing sea breezes and funnels them over chilled coils of water from geotherthemal undersea wells. The weight of the cooled air drops fresh air supply into vertical “thermal chimneys” that feed an underground air distribution system and through a system of raised floors, relying on the buoyancy of rising warm air to reach exhaust vents. As a result, most spaces in the building are ventilated without mechanical fans. The IRC is the state of Hawaii’s first-ever facility to utilize a hydronic passive cooling unit (PCU) system to condition the space.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center's integrated daylighting system provides a significant reduction in energy consumption.

“The facility’s integrated daylighting system provides a significant reduction in energy consumption. Existing floorplates are long and wide, 730 by 270 ft, with occupants as far as 135 ft from a window. In response, a skylight diffuser system on the roofs was designed, virtually eliminating the need for artificial light during the day. Based on extensive psychometric/bioclimatic chart profiles, the IRC’s natural illumination systems provide a consistent spread of 30 footcandles/sf across the floorplates, reducing electrical lighting loads by 50 percent. A grid of apertures sprinkled across the roof was designed with tubular devices under the apertures that direct sunlight down into the building’s core. Below, these devices are translucent reflectors that capture sunlight and glow like a light fixture during daylight hours. They also reflect light back up to the ceiling, which acts like a luminaire.”

Laboratory Design