August 20, 2013

School on, power off

Hirono chats with Kawaikini students over energy-efficient buildings, sustainability

PUHI — Not too long ago, Kawaikini charter school had classes under large tents. Today, the Hawaiian immersion school’s 125 students learn in style, inside two state-of-the-art energy-efficient buildings and several structures on a 10-acre property next to Kauai Community College in Puhi.

“I was here to see what they’re doing regarding the energy-efficiency buildings, because that’s something that Hawaii needs, to really continue its commitment to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels,” said U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, during a visit to the school Monday morning.

Hirono spent about an hour at the school, trading stories with students and staff, and learning about their outdoor activities, which involve lots of hands-on Hawaiian culture learning.

Kawaikini Executive Director Samuel Kaleimakamae Kaauwai said from kindergarten to fourth grade, students are taught exclusively in Hawaiian language.

From fifth to 12th grade, students have one hour of English language learning per day.

“It’s clear that the kids are thriving here, they learn by doing,” said Hirono, adding that when she went to school, she “didn’t get too much of that.”

“I’m glad that education is changing in away where the kids are able to express themselves in a lot of different ways,” she said.

Leilani Spencer, the school’s project manager, said the twin pre-fabricated energy-efficient buildings came from the Mainland and were put together about a year ago, relatively quickly and with nearly zero waste of construction materials.

Both buildings face north, allowing their photovoltaic system to process energy from the sun during most daylight hours. The design of the walls and the roof also allows the most amount of sunlight without compromising privacy.

“These classrooms are terrific, they didn’t have to turn on the lights,” Hirono said.

Spencer said the buildings’ cooling system has four phases. As the temperature rises, the system cools off the students by opening louvers and turning on several fans, which have a gradual power scale. If it does get really hot, the central air conditioner kicks in, she said.

The AC system also runs through a hollow floor. Some of the removable carpeted tiles have a vent, and can be easily shuffled around for more efficient cooling.

Sensors inside the buildings measure temperature and humidity, and send the information straight to Project Frog, the San Francisco, Calif.-based company that provided the building.

“Hawaii is the most oil-dependent state in the entire country,” Hirono said. She added Hawaii spends somewhere between $5 billion and $7 billion importing oil each year.

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By:  Leo Azambuja
Source: The Garden Island