Resource Conservation in Action

Changing behavior and culture has been a key component for realizing Punahou's Aim of "Educating for a Sustainable Future." But the School has also made significant advances at the institutional level in its resource management policies. These improvements have been achieved even with Punahou's size and infrastructure, and they are all the more compelling because of the message they send to other large institutions, educational and otherwise.

Green building design in the Kosasa Community includes energy efficient fans, daylight and motion sensors to automatically adjust interior lighting, and maximum use of natural ventilation and light to reduce air-conditioning and electricity.


Since 2007, energy use has declined by 6 percent across campus, despite heavier use of facilities for both School and community activities, and the addition of tens of thousands of square feet in new buildings.

The addition of photovoltaic (PV) panels on all new construction has become a cornerstone of capital projects. Punahou is already one of the largest single-source solar energy producers in Honolulu. Punahou currently spends about $2.8 million on electricity per year, roughly equivalent to $750 per student.

Punahou currently derives 12 – 14 percent of its campus power from PV. When the Sidney and Minnie Kosasa Community is finished, that number will be closer to 20 percent. While this may sound low, the present PV production puts Punahou in the top 2 – 3 percent of schools in the country, according to Vice President and Treasurer John Field '72.

Green building design plays an important role moving forward. The Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood currently harvests 93 percent of all its energy needs, and the first phase of the Kosasa Community is expected to harvest 100 percent, bringing its energy consumption to net-zero. Because all new campus facilities are built without tuition dollars, philanthropy plays a critical role in helping the School transform its physical plant.

This spring, the School is undergoing a comprehensive energy audit, the result of which will inform policies to bring Punahou closer to net-zero. Reducing energy use – through sustainable building design, installing energy efficient systems (for heating, cooling, lighting and other appliances) and behavioral changes – is also an opportunity for teaching and learning. Great examples of this at the instructional level can be seen in the Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood and Kosasa Community, as well as in other classrooms across campus.


Recycling has transformed the way Punahou deals with its waste over the past decade. Currently, all green waste and all asphalt removed during roadwork on campus is recycled. Materials from renovation or deconstruction projects (such as Hemmeter Fieldhouse and the Winne Units) are also recycled.

Recycling bins for bottles/cans can be seen across campus. While the decision was made to discontinue paper recycling (because of its fossil-fuel dependent offshore shipping process) in favor of reducing use, the School has switched to recycled paper options whenever possible, some of which end up as worm bin bedding and recycled notepads.

Beginning in 2011, a number of water fountains for refillable bottles have been installed around campus to discourage the purchase of single-use plastics. In 2008, the cafeteria installed milk dispensers, eliminating the use of 675 small milk cartons per day.


Punahou has systematically replaced its bathroom and kitchen infrastructure across campus with waterless urinals, low flush toilets and water-efficient sinks. In 2009, the cafeteria purchased a new commercial dishwasher which uses 50 percent less water than the old machine. In 2010, shower timers were installed in the pool area and locker rooms to increase awareness of shower durations, and water efficient showerheads were installed in the PE complex.

Over the past decade, there has been a commitment to native plant landscaping, requiring up to 50 percent less irrigation, and grounds staff has realigned all sprinkling schedules to evening hours to reduce evaporation.

In newer facilities, like the Kosasa Community currently for grades 2 – 3, ultra-low flow or waterless plumbing fixtures are accompanied by water metering so that students and faculty can track water usage. Bioswales, rainwater catchment cisterns and using air-conditioning condensate to irrigate green walls make smart use of existing water sources and channel runoff in environmentally friendly ways.

These are some of the ways that Punahou is updating its institutional practices and infrastructure to reduce its carbon footprint. While there is still a long way to go, given its size, age and complexity, the School continues to explore new opportunities for change – especially around opportunities for learning. This fall, Academy language teacher Ian Earle '89 will become a Faculty Fellow focused on moving the campus toward net-zero energy and connecting this with student and faculty learning.