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60+ Years of Design + Innovation

Transforming Historic Pearl Harbor Hangars into a Modern Marine Research Facility

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, USA

“NOAA is talking about importing this model—for sustainable design, adaptive reuse, and consolidation—to all its centers.”

Architectural Record

Located on a national historic landmark site on Oahu’s Ford Island, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Inouye Regional Center features the adaptive reuse of two World War II-era airplane hangars linked by a new steel and glass building.

The original aircraft hangars, designed in 1939 by Albert Kahn, inspired beautifully simple solutions for how the new center uses air, water and light. The team worked closely with local preservationists to keep the hangars close to their original condition.

The complex 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. It houses a diverse range of critical programs, functions and federal departments, including the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

Facilities include wet and dry research laboratories, a marine center, a library, administrative offices, conference and meeting areas, a dining hall and informal collaboration spaces.

The interior environment is based on the principles of campus design. Creating a central gathering place, the plan supports program-intensive workplaces with internal quadrangles of open space with primary and secondary circulation routes.

Connecting the front door of the campus with the waterfront, the three-story atrium knits together a sequence of materials and volumetric plane changes to give people a sense of progression as they move through the building. A series of interactive exhibits highlight the history of the island and region, as well as NOAA’s diverse mission.

Located at the northern end of the atrium, the dining hall provides users with a panoramic view to the water and the mountain range in the distance. The two-story fully glazed space maximizes transparency and creates a fluid visual experience. A 200-seat auditorium provides tiered seating for NOAA programs, while multiple conference rooms and flexible classrooms support collaborative activities.

The biological influences of the region guided the design of the LEED Gold project. A skylight diffuser system virtually eliminates the need for artificial light during the day. Hawaii’s first hydronic passive cooling unit (PCU) system uses chilled water from a nearby building and natural ventilation to condition the space through an underground air distribution system. A graywater capturing system is used to irrigate the native landscaping.

Reported Hawaii Business: “It’s a startling example of what can be done to design or redesign energy-efficient, commercial-scale spaces—and still be eye-catching, respectful of history and comfortable for those who work there.” 

HOK worked with Hawaii-based architect Ferraro Choi.




350,000 sq. ft. / 32,515 sq. m.


Facility Programming
Interior Design
Laboratory Planning
Master Planning


AIA Honolulu Chapter – Award of Excellence, Institutional

AIA Honolulu Chapter – Mayor’s Choice Award

AIA California Council – Merit Award, Interior Architecture

AIA San Francisco – Merit Award

IIDA Northern California Chapter – Merit Award  

ENR California – Best Projects 2014 – Award of Merit


Decrease in energy use compared to a conventional design


16 February 2016
“Ecological Design Shapes High-Tech Headquarters at Pearl Harbor”

15 January 2016
“Coastal Curation: 10 Oceanic Research Facilities That Advocate Awareness”

26 August 2015
“Biomimicry Inspires True Innovation”

1 August 2015
“From Sea to Shining Sea: NOAA Inouye Regional Center”
Architectural Record

1 July 2015
“Something Old, New, Borrowed and Green”
Hawaii Business

25 March 2015
“NOAA Regional Center Wins IIDA Merit Award”
HOK News

5 January 2015
“ENR California Honors HOK-Designed NOAA Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center”
HOK News

27 March 2014
“The Green Room: Sustainable Design in Eight Market Segments”
Interior Design 

9 January 2014
“How Reverse Engineering Can Spur Design Innovation”
Fast Co.Exist

19 December 2013
“NOAA IRC Dedication at Joint Base Pearl Harbor – Hickam, Hawaii”
US Navy News 

17 December 2013
“NOAA Dedicates Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center in Honolulu”
US Department of Commerce 

14 December 2013
“NOAA Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center Photo Gallery”
Honolulu Star-Advertiser