West Hawaii Explorations Academy pool

This multi-building campus features a winged-canopy open air auditorium at its heart, where students gather for announcements, assemblies, and other events. The eight-paneled pavilion “roof” is brightly colored and vaguely reminiscent of a circus tent, bringing a bit of fun and liveliness to the school campus. So far, the first 12,000 square feet (Phase 1) of the site’s planned 20,000sf have been completed.

Related: California’s first LEED Platinum school teaches with the environment

The Academy’s buildings are LEED equivalent, which means they was designed to meet the sustainability standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council, but they did not pursue the costly certification process for the school. Specifically, the school was designed to achieve LEED® 2009 For Schools Platinum. The Academy is a net-zero energy facility, and uses cold deep seawater distributed by the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) “as a source of chilling for cold earth agriculture projects,” according to a statement from the firm.


For the students in attendance at the Academy, of which there are currently 190 of the planned-for 350, learning must be a lot of fun. The atmosphere of the campus is fresh and energetic, with a strong connection to nature built-in — courtesy of the intentional outdoor spaces. The campus includes wet laboratories, computer labs, and the amazing outdoor auditorium mentioned earlier, in addition to features you won’t see at most public schools, like the shark/reef/touch pool that also serves as a unique focal point. The Academy is also home to agriculture and aquaculture project areas as well as a multi-sport play court. Future phases of construction will bring a certified kitchen and additional classroom spaces.

+ Ferraro Choi