NOAA Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center

Architect: HOK

Associated firm: Ferraro Choi

Owner: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii

Project site: Historic structure or district

Building program type(s): Data Center, Food Service—Restaurant/Cafeteria, Laboratory, Office—100,001 or greater, Public Assembly—General, Public Assembly—Library, Public Safety—General, Storage— general, other

Located on a national historic landmark site on Oahu’s Ford Island, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Inouye Regional Center features the adaptive reuse of two World War II-era airplane hangars linked by a new steel and glass building. The hangars inspired beautifully simple design solutions for how the center uses air, water and light. The LEED Gold complex accommodates 800 people in a research and office facility that integrates NOAA’s mission of “science, service and stewardship” with Hawaii’s cultural traditions and ecology. The interior environment, which is based on principles of campus design, creates a central gathering place.

NOAA Inouye Regional Center - Integrated Sustainable Design; Image: HOK

“One reason we are able to successfully come together is due to our location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and a lifetime of lessons that come with it. There is an inherent connection between Hawaii’s people and the sea, reverence for her power, reliance as a food source and a respect for the sea and the environment through the generations.” —Former US Senator Daniel K. Inouye

Located on a national historic landmark site on Oahu’s Ford Island, the LEED Gold National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Inouye Regional Center features the adaptive reuse of two World War II-era airplane hangars linked by a new steel-and-glass building. The program consolidates more than 800 people from 15 NOAA offices that had been spread across Oahu into a single building with primary missions of environmental prediction and marine stewardship. With a goal of fusing knowledge of the ocean and the atmosphere for environmental intelligence, the research and administrative campus is designed to be a living laboratory that reinforces NOAA’s mission.

Designed in 1939 by Albert Kahn, the original aircraft hangars, which narrowly escaped destruction during the Pearl Harbor attacks, provided a model of efficiency for simple, sustainable design solutions and a healthy workplace.

The ecology of the Pacific Islands and the mission of NOAA inspired the biomimetic design of integrated systems for air flow, daylighting and water distribution. Lessons from nature that formed design principles include emulating the morphology of native Hawaiian trees for passive cooling, ventilation and lighting systems. The design conserves and reuses water and captures renewable energy through solar photovoltaic and solar thermal systems.

Viewed through lenses of history and biomimicry, the new center provides beautiful, innovative solutions to modern problems.

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of design completion: 2010

Year of substantial project completion: 2014

Gross conditioned floor area: 350,000 sq ft

Gross unconditioned floor area: 0 sq ft

Number of stories: 3

Project Climate Zone: 1A (ASHRAE)

Annual hours of operation: 2,080

Site area: 1,263,000 sq ft

Project site context/setting: suburban

Cost of construction, excluding furnishing: $157 million

Number of residents, occupants, visitors: 800

Project Team

Architect, interior design: HOK

Principal, project manager, project architect: Ferraro Choi and Associates

Project engineer, general contractor: Walsh Construction

Civil engineer: Kennedy Jenks Consultants

Structural engineer: SOHA Engineers

Mechanical engineer: WSP Flack + Kurtz

Security, acoustics: Shen Milsom Wilke

Fire protection: S.S. Dannaway Associates, Inc.

Sustainability: Built Ecology

Commissioning: Glumac Engineers

Landscape architect: Ki Concepts

Food service: George Matsumoto Associates

Vertical transportation: Syska Hennessy Group Inc.

Historic preservation: Mason Architects

Exhibit space: Downstream

Graphic design and copy writing: Design Asylum Inc. Phase 3

Cost estimating: Davis Langdon

Code consulting: Rolf Jensen & Associates

Environmental, geotechnical: Kleinfelder

Geotechnical engineer: Geolabs

Door hardware: Door Hardware Consultants

Traffic consultant: Wilbur Smith Associates

Air quality, wind: Cermak Peterka Peterson Inc.

Seawater consultant: Tom Nance Resource Engineering

Photographers: Alan Karchmer Architectural Photographer; Andrea Brizzi Photography

Third party rating systems

LEED: Gold


Annie Chu, FAIA IIDA


Woodbury University

Los Angeles, California

Steve Kieran, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C

Kieran Timberlake

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

David Lake, FAIA

Lake Flato

San Antonio, Texas

Bungane Mehlomakulu, PE LEED AP

Integral Group

Austin, Texas

Amanda Sturgeon, FAIA

Living Futures Institute

Seattle, Washington

Jury comments

"This project transformed a historic Albert Kahn industrial building into a new research building with a laboratory-focused program. The building achieves significant energy reduction from an innovative passive downdraft system, providing 100 percent natural ventilation in office and public spaces. The project rejuvenated the site through the creation of a new waterfront public space. The building is designed to resist a 500-year storm event, and the flexible space can be used for critical response in the event of a natural disaster."


Image credits

NOAA-exterior1_rlm edited

Alan Karchmer Photography








US Navy Archives, Alan Karchmer & Andrea Brizzi




Alan Karchmer Photography


Alan Karchmer Photography