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Kaupuni Village: The First Net-Zero Affordable Housing Community in Hawaii

Photo of a a family standing in front of solar panels

The Young family, shown here, was one of 19 families given the opportunity to purchase a home in Kaupuni Village. Today, they are passionate about net-zero living, growing their own fish and vegetables among many other activities.

May 21, 2012

When 85% of the energy is supplied by imported petroleum and the average homeowner’s monthly utility bill can be upwards of $300, finding ways to reduce energy and save costs in Hawaii is a high priority. What’s more, the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI), which was launched in 2008 as a partnership between the State of Hawaii and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), strives to achieve 70% clean energy for the state by 2030.

Today, HCEI is one step closer to meeting that goal thanks to the success of the Kaupuni Village project. Located in the Waianae Valley in Oahu, Kaupuni Village is the first net-zero affordable housing community in Hawaii, achieving the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum designation due to the extensive energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable technologies and practices incorporated throughout each of the 19 single-family homes.

Kaupuni Village is located on land provided by the Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL), which selected native Hawaiian’s from a waiting list to help them attain home ownership on an island where the average median home price is $600,000. Kaupuni Village homes range from $260,000 for a 4-bedroom and $212,000 for a 3-bedroom.

Designed with Net-Zero in Mind

DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and members of its Integrated Deployment team worked with DHHL, the Hawaiian Homelands Trust, and the architectural firm Group 70 International from the beginning of the project, starting with the design of each of the net-zero homes and the village’s community center.

Ultimately, Kaupuni Village’s structures were not the only net-zero aspects—the entire community is self-sufficient and sustainable, keeping with traditional Hawaiian cultural practices where everything needed to live sustainably is provided from the local ecosystem. Even the nearby Ka’ala Farms, a partner in the project, provided workshops for residents on constructing dry boxes used to dry fish, raise tilapia, and grow fruits and vegetables.

Homeowner Education Key to Net-Zero

In April 2011, the homes were completed and residents moved in. NREL, DHHL, the Hawaiian Electric Company, and others provided training to more than 40 residents in November 2011 after assessing data collected on the energy features in the homes, including the electricity production of each home's photovoltaic system and the air conditioning usage. The monitoring and subsequent homeowner education was critical to Kaupuni reaching net-zero and helped residents understand how to monitor and optimize their energy use, providing the added benefit of an average monthly utility bill of $16 (the utility company’s minimum connection charge).

Today, residents are living “green” in the homes, which are designed to be at least 40% lower than the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code baseline. Features include:

  • ENERGY STAR® appliances
  • High-efficiency lighting and daylighting
  • Natural ventilation
  • High-efficiency air conditioners 
  • Solar water heating

Kaupuni Leads to Kalaeloa

DOE and NREL are currently working with the Hawaiian Community Development Authority to provide technical and design assistance and other expertise to the Kalaeloa project—a unique mixed-use net-zero energy community that will include 300 multi-family housing units and commercial spaces, which will incorporate many of the lessons learned from Kaupuni Village.

Download Kaupuni Village: A closer look at the first net-zero energy affordable housing community in Hawaii to learn more about Kaupuni Village’s successes. Learn more about DOE's and NREL's activities in Hawaii