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NREL Training in Hawaii Leads to New Partnerships and Student Opportunities

May 7, 2012

As part of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative’s partnership with the Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL), members of NREL’s Integrated Deployment team conducted hands-on training on NREL’s Building Energy Optimization (BEopt) modeling software for University of Hawaii Community College instructors.

The training was vital because DHHL has provided land for University of Hawaii Community College students, under instructors’ supervision, to design and build homes on the Big Island every year. In the past, sustainable and energy efficiency features were not considered for these student-designed homes.

DHHL decided the homes the students build should incorporate suitable features of the highly successful Kaupuni Village project, which incorporates sustainability and energy efficiency to meet net-zero goals. BEopt was used as a key tool to analyze and optimize Kaupuni Village—thanks to the BEopt training, instructors are able to train students on the tool and help them build the capacity and capability to design energy-efficient homes. DHHL plans to extend the student-led home design program from the Big Island to other islands including Maui, Kaua’i and O’ahu.

In the meantime, instructors from the University of Hawaii’s School of Architecture were also in attendance and were so impressed with the training that DHHL and the University of Hawaii’s School of Architecture and College of Engineering have now signed a partnership agreement to offer architecture and engineering students the opportunity to use DHHL's land, homes, and development projects as a learning laboratory as well.

The School of Architecture has committed to designing 10 homes in 10 years for DHHL's Kanehili subdivision in Kapolei. Architecture students will be involved in all aspects of designing affordable, custom-built, green, energy-efficient homes for qualified Native Hawaiian beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust. The College of Engineering plans on incorporating engineering research and innovation to help DHHL identify current and long-term infrastructure and maintenance issues on its homes and land. For example, students may take part in assessing rock fall mitigation concerns, drainage and water infiltration problems, or structural concerns with roadways.

“We are so happy that our efforts under the Integrated Deployment program are blossoming into such as an exciting collaboration. It’s wonderful to see the University of Hawaii build a unique partnership to develop ongoing workforce development in building energy efficiency and renewable energy,” said NREL senior engineer Kosol Kiatreungwattana, who conducted the initial BEopt training.

—Devin Egan