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Green Inside and Out

It makes sense: Kaua‘i’s first green building will be a world-class botanical research center.


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The columns are up, the foundation is poured, and when it’s finished around the end of this year, the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) will boast Kaua‘i’s first green building. The two-story, 20,000-square-foot structure will house a state-of-the-art Botanical Research Center containing a rare book collection, a herbarium with more than 56,000 plant specimens, a 15,000 volume research library, lab space, and additional educational and research areas.

The new building has a minimalist vibe, and a “green” design.

Rooftop photovoltaic panels will produce an estimated 10 percent of the building’s energy. A rainwater catchment system, equipped with a 25,000-gallon underground storage tank, will irrigate the property’s upper gardens. Recycled hardwoods and use of natural daylight also help. Because of its green components, the building hopes to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, which would acknowledge its environmental prowess. Additionally, the reinforced concrete building will have a backup generator, and will be able to withstand Category 5 hurricane winds.

Architect Dean Sakamoto, explains, “One of the building’s requirements was that it needed to be … temperature and humidity controlled, so that the rare books, the plant specimens and the reference library would stay intact over many years. It has to be a strongbox, so I’m basically building a storm-proof, refrigerated tropical building.”

Established more than 40 years ago, NTBG is dedicated to all things plant-related, including conservation, research and education. Its campus headquarters in Kal-aheo, Kaua‘i, is made up of three buildings, designed by late, famed architect Vladimir Ossipoff, separately housing its herbarium, lab, library administrative and education areas. For decades, a fourth building was envisioned as the crown jewel of the campus. “Having everything in different buildings is problematic for us, because we can’t take herbarium specimens out of one building and put them into the next since the materials need to be protected from temperature and humidity changes, and isolated from pests,” says Charles “Chipper” Wichman, CEO and director of NTBG. “This building will bring all of our essential functions into a single building, and we’ll be able to have complete interchange of all of the collections.”

The new facility will serve as everything from an extensive resource center for international researchers to a living classroom for local schools, covering everything from horticulture to ethnobotany. “One of the things that NTBG is interested in is growing people as well as plants, so we are very hopeful that this will become a facility where some of our local people start their careers.”

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Honolulu Magazine February 2018
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