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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’s 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 715 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.

The AIA COTE selected the project as one of the year’s best examples of sustainable design excellence. It also won a prestigious American Architecture Award as selected by the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design.

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 Committee on the Environment – Top 10 Green Projects

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

The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies – The American Architectural Award

IIDA Northern California Chapter – Merit Award

Historic Hawaii Foundation – Preservation Honor Award

ENR California – Best Projects 2014 – Award of Merit


Decrease in energy use compared to a conventional design


29 June 2018
“NOAA Inouye Center Wins Prestigious American Architecture Award”
HOK News

1 January 2018
“NOAA Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center Case Study”
High Peforming Buildings

19 April 2017
“NOAA Inouye Regional Center Selected as AIA COTE 2017 Top Ten Project”
HOK News

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