Location Honolulu
Size 29,000 ft²
Completed 2010
Program Research laboratories, lobby, offices, conference rooms

The faculty and staff of the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education, known as C-MORE Hale, at the University of Hawaii at Manoa used to be scattered across campus. Now, thanks to a new facility, C-MORE Hale, they’re under the same roof—a living one at that. Designed by Group 70 International, the building offers state-of-the-art research amenities alongside highly efficient systems and earned LEED Platinum certification in 2012, a first for a laboratory building on the islands. Architect Kimberly Polkinhorn notes that honoring the environment is quintessentially a Hawaiian theme, and here she explains how C-MORE Hale honors its natural site and the environmental research happening inside. By Kelli McElhinny


Architect Group 70 International
Owner University of Hawaii at Manoa
General Contractor Albert C. Kobayashi, Inc.
Landscape Architect Walters Kimura Motoda

Minimal Air Exchange

The C-MORE researchers study microorganisms that make their homes in the sea, and this work requires large, open laboratory spaces. Buildings dedicated to such scientific research typically consume a great deal of energy, especially through HVAC systems. In particular, the continuous need for fresh air poses a problem for sustainable design. Group 70 worked with the university to reduce the number of air exchanges per hour from the standard 12 to 10. When rooms are unoccupied, a time-based direct-digital-control (DDC) system drops the air-exchange frequency to five per hour. Solar-hot-water panels were installed on the roof (No.1), but the designers had underestimated themselves: the building’s domestic-hot-water use was lower than expected. So the hot-water system was revised and now is used to supplement the HVAC-reheat system and further offset energy use. In collaboration with Thermal Engineering Group, the architects incorporated additional features as well, ultimately cutting the building’s energy consumption by more than half compared to a conventional laboratory of similar size and use.

The south façade of C-MORE Hale is a 30-foot curtain wall made of high-performance glass with a low-E coating. The architects made every possible effort to capture natural light.

Captured Sunlight

Natural light is abundant in Hawaii, and C-MORE Hale’s design allows for more than three-fourths of the spaces to be daylit, helping qualify for Daylighting and Views EQ Credit 8.1. “We tried to capture as much daylighting as possible in concert with sun shading and the use of spandrel panels,” Polkinhorn says. The building’s south façade is a 30-foot curtain wall made of high-performance glass with a low-E coating, a visible transmittance of 46, a shading coefficient of 0.27, and a solar-heat-gain coefficient of 0.23 (No.2). Additionally, eight Solatube light pipes bring light to the building interior’s offices and public spaces. Because the need for artificial light varies, the facility is equipped with Lutron EcoSystem smart controls for lighting management, including daylight and occupancy sensors that can dim lights to 10 percent (No.3). Group 70 also took steps to manage the heat accompanying that natural light. Angled masonry walls on the eastern and western sides of the building block direct light.

The Walters Kimura Motoda-designed landscape features native vegetation and a high-efficiency drip-irrigation system that saves about 47,000 gallons of water each year.

New Water Ways

Designed to reduce potable water consumption by 48 percent, C-MORE Hale earned three water-efficiency credits. Its Zurn waterless urinals alone save 45,000 gallons of water per year. These required some education for maintenance staff unaccustomed to cleaning the devices. “The waterless urinals received some pushback,” Polkinhorn says, “but the C-MORE group wanted to set an example of sustainability on campus.” The building also features low-flow fixtures and toilets. Water-conservation efforts extended to the building’s exterior as well. A RainBird high-efficiency drip-irrigation system saves about 65 percent in irrigation, or just under 47,000 gallons of water each year (No.4). A less visible water-management solution is the underground Triton storm-water-detention system, which comprises underground chambers and keeps 25,000 gallons from entering the storm-water system. “The storm water is held and allowed to percolate back into the ground and recharge the water table—a hidden green feature,” Polkinhorn says.


Certification LEED Platinum
Roof 2,500 ft² green roof, 60 PV panels
Ventilation Air-exchange frequency occupancy controls
Water Waterless urinals, high-efficiency drip irrigation, underground storm-water retention
Lighting Occupancy sensors, daylighting for 75% of interior spaces

Tropical Green Roof

Several more sustainable features sit atop the building, including a 2,500-square-foot green roof, the first of its scale on the campus. The green roof reduces storm-water runoff, helps cool the building, recaptures carbon dioxide, and provides a habitat for insects and birds. “The green roof was an element that we suggested early on,” Polkinhorn says. “We felt that it was a great [way] to reflect the life-sciences work being done in the building and C-MORE’s values of environmental stewardship.” The roof contains a modular system of Liveroof trays that were nurtured for six months in a nursery before installation. It includes native and adapted plants such as aloe, akulikuli, and portulaca. A series of 60 laminate Unisolar photovoltaic panels also is found on the the roof. The system, which includes a Sunny Boy inverter, has a capacity of 8.16 kilowatts and is expected to generate 48 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day. Not that it was needed, but this renewable-energy system wasn’t given credit during the LEED-certification process, because the photovoltaics were added after its completion and financed solely through the fundraising efforts of C-MORE director David Karl.

Sensitive Siting

The building’s exterior setting achieved a balance between maintaining existing features and introducing new, sustainable ones. Polkinhorn says Group 70 was tasked with keeping as many of the trees as possible. They did so and found space for new plants as well. Landscape architect Janine Mori from Walters, Kimura, Motoda designed a setting that used native vegetation, such as ’aki ’aki and naupaka, and dry streambeds lined with river rocks to reduce the use of turf grass. Reinforcing the work done inside, pavers include images of marine microorganisms (No.5). Vegetation choices for the green roof also will provide a case study for such features in Hawaii.