Kaupuni Village: A Model for Sustainable Living

While many cultural communities around the globe are being divided by developers and swallowed up by the tides of globalization, one community right here in Hawaii is offering hope – and a real life vision – of what sustainable cultural communities can look like.

Just last month the Kaupuni Village dream became a reality, as the first net-zero energy and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum-certified housing subdivision in the country was officially dedicated in Waianae Valley.

The Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL), in support of its mission to “partner with others towards developing self-sufficient and healthy communities” designed and created this self-sustaining community with the help of many individuals and organizations – including the Consuelo Foundation, Group 70, Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Kai Hawai’i (structural engineers), Albert Chong Associates, Inc. (electrical engineers), and Randolph H. Murayama & Associates, Inc. (mechanical engineers) – and funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, University of Hawai‘i, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Hawai‘i Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, Kamehameha Schools, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Ka‘ala Farms.

Now 19 families will work together to build community connections and become stewards of their land and culture.

High efficiency appliances, photovoltaic and hot water solar panels are just a few of the environmentally friendly features found in Kaupuni hale. In order to be considered “net-zero”, a building or home must generate as much energy as it uses, making zero impact on the energy grid. And to qualify for LEED certification, a building or home must utilize green design with consideration of materials and resources, energy and water efficiency, and sustainability.

The 18 homes and adjacent community center, Hale Kumuwaiwai, are all of this and more. The Kaupuni Village community will be home to a community garden – to be planted and maintained by members of the village – and the site of continued cultural learning. Through participation in village agriculture, aquaculture, and education, Kaupuni community members will have the chance to personally engage with one another, strengthen community bonds, and preserve cultural traditions. In addition, pedestrian-friendly walkways, proximity to public transportation, and availability of electric vehicle (EV) charge stations will lead to low or no fuel consumption.

Kaupuni Village is already on its way to helping Hawaii meet its Clean Energy Initiative goal. If the community can maintain its net-zero status while preserving Hawaiian culture and practicing a sustainable lifestyle, it may very well serve as an example for future sustainable cultural communities. And if more environmentally and culturally conscious communities like Kaupuni crop up, the future of our islands, nation and world may begin to look a bit brighter.