Punahou’s ‘Net Zero’ Project Wins Award

The American Council of Engineering Companies of Hawaii (ACECH) recently awarded its top project award – the 2021 Grand Conceptor Award – to Punahou’s “Path to Net Zero” initiative.

Punahou has set a goal of becoming a Net Zero school, meaning the School will consume only as much energy as produced. To reduce its energy footprint, Punahou has already completed several projects, including installing energy-efficient LED lighting; installing more energy-efficient air conditioning systems coupled with high-powered fans; and adding solar power
systems to increase photovoltaic production.

Every January, ACECH offers engineering firms an opportunity to showcase their best projects and to receive recognition through the Engineering Excellence Awards (EEA) competition. The coveted Grand Conceptor award is given to the project that reflects the highest degree of uniqueness, innovation, sustainability, complexity, successful fulfillment of client/owner’s needs and perception by the public and future value to the engineering profession.

RHA Energy Partners, an engineering company Punahou hired to work on its Net Zero effort, submitted the award application for the project. Judges for the council’s 2021 Engineering Excellence Awards had much praise for the Net Zero initiative.

“To me this project is an engineering feat and truly noble endeavor by Punahou School,” said Gary Yamamoto, a retired civil and structural engineer who served as a past president of ACECH. “We are in a global warming, climate change, carbon pollution crisis. This is the first large-scale, whole campus educational project of its kind in Hawai‘i. Over the past four years through a design-build concept, the project involved master planning, design and construction of solar panel installations, LED lighting, HVAC retrofits and sub-metered energy monitoring. All these improvements have been done with no classroom or space downtime with after-hour coordination.”

Alumnus Eric Imada ’07, who served as emcee of the ACECH Award Program, said Punahou’s efforts made him proud. “Punahou School’s Path to Net Zero project is the first large-scale campus-wide educational project of its kind in the state and Punahou has pioneered and set a model not only for educational institutions but for any business to learn from and improve upon,” he said. “The project itself – coupled with the incorporation of energy-related topics into the curriculum like renewable resources, consumption awareness and energy-efficient facilities – is an inspiring commitment from our School.”

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