Sadly, the Hawaiian Islands are home to more threatened and endangered native species per square mile than any other place in the world. For this reason a group of concerned individuals rallied together to start the Hawai'i Wildlife Center in Halaula, Hawaii. Designed pro bono by Boston-based Ruhl Walker Architects, the center has slowly evolved over the last few years to provide space for wildlife care and rehab facilities along with an outreach garden and an open-air education pavilion. An airy design with slatted walls takes advantage of the warm climate and natural ventilation, while daylighting and solar power reduce energy usage.
The HWC is dedicated to the conservation and recovery of Hawaii’s vulnerable and endangered native wildlife and hopes to achieve this through hands-on treatment, research, training, science education, and cultural programs. The center consists of three integrated and sustainably designed components: a wildlife care and response facility, an interpretive and outreach lanai and native species garden, and an open-air education pavilion. An staging porch (also open air) acts as the emergency entrance for injured birds and local school groups can come learn about the center’s work in the large open room on the opposite side.
The building’s design was inspired by archetypal Hawaiian commercial architecture from nearby towns, but was modified for energy efficiency and sustainability. HWC’s front flat facade conceals a conventional shed with gable roofs behind them. The facade is composed of fiber cement lap siding installed with gaps to encourage natural ventilation, while the sides are covered with translucent corrugated polycarbonate. Slats on the front act as a giant “window” letting in daylight, but protecting the building from the rain. The walls of the main treatment facility in the back are clad with locally fabricated corrugated steel. Natural ventilation and daylighting throughout the space are key design strategies to reduce energy usage. Rainwater is collected and stored in catchment tanks, then heated with a solar hot water system, while a rooftop photovoltaic system provides non-emergency electricity.
Stage 1 of the project was completed in March of 2011 and resulted in a finished exterior shell, outdoor areas and a roughly built interior. As of August, the center had finished fundraising in order to complete construction and over 100 people volunteered to plant native vegetation around the center. The HWC relies on donations from generous individuals to run the center as well prepare for emergencies such as oil spills and disasters to help wildlife recover.
Images ©William Ruhl/Ruhl Walker Architects