Educating for a sustainable future is embedded in the Aims of a Punahou Education. Since the 2005 Sustainability Summit, which urged for greener practices at both the institutional and personal level, the School has advanced this goal in a variety of ways.

In addition to fostering a campus culture that holds sustainability as a core value inside and outside the classroom, Punahou has invested significantly in efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and to be a model for other schools in sustainable facilities design, programs and teaching philosophies. In 2018, the School announced the goal of becoming a net-zero campus.

Setting a New Standard with the Sidney and Minnie Kosasa Community for Grades 2 – 5
From building features that can teach students about principles of resource conservation to a landscape designed to support Punahou’s rich Outdoor Education and Hawaiian Studies curriculum, the Kosasa Community boldly affirms the School’s commitment to sustainability education through its learning environments and instructional program.

Many sustainable architectural features in the 2 – 5 community can be observed, interacted with, and even operated by students. Examples include: interior climate control based on centralized atmospheric data; transparent wall or floor cutouts that show structural workings of the buildings; digital dashboards that provide comparative information between buildings and also with other neighborhoods, like Omidyar; water management systems like the rain water cisterns, bioswale and gabion walls.

Punahou is a national leader in green educational building design. The past two Junior School facility projects earned a LEED Gold designation for Case Middle School and LEED Platinum for the Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood. The 2 – 5 community takes this further by being the first net-zero building for energy consumption on the campus, meaning all energy needs are harvested on-site (Omidyar is 93 percent).

Indoor/architectural sustainability features

  • JTouch interactive digital monitors can be used to show video, view websites or as a touch-screen for writing and visual diagrams [1];
  • Digital dashboards provide comparative information about energy and water usage in real time across multiple buildings;
  • Ventilation systems prioritize natural cooling as much as possible, including energy efficient fans and clerestory windows that maximize trade winds [2];
  • Water meter displays in restrooms and refillable water bottle stations quantify the number of plastic water bottles saved;
  • Temperature-sensitive display ports alert students when natural ventilation is preferable to air-conditioning [3];
  • Daylight- and motion-sensor lighting systems automatically adjust brightness for exterior light and shut off when the room is empty to reduce energy consumption [4];
  • Exposed structural elements and cutouts of interior walls and lanai floors make elements like insulation, plumbing and electricity visible and teachable [5].

Outdoor sustainability features

  • Photovoltaic panels support the buildings’ net-zero energy consumption [6];
  • Vegetative “green screens” and light-colored roofs absorb and reflect solar heat and reduce the need to cool buildings [7];
  • A 25,000-square-foot native Hawaiian forest environment with trails and boulders supports an outdoor classroom [8];
  • Numerous plants support Hawaiian Studies curriculum, including kalo, palapalai, pili grass, noni, lonomea, koa, kukui and ‘ulu [8];
  • Backyard garden plots are dedicated to each set of ground-floor classrooms, and a 4,000 square foot community garden is shared by the entire neighborhood [9];
  • Cisterns located outside of each building capture rainwater for gardening [10];
  • Permeable pavers, a gabion wall and bioswale absorb excess runoff – the bioswale also helps to illustrate the interconnected water systems of an ahupua‘a or watershed [11].