UH Mānoa breaks ground on first net zero energy buildings

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Jim Maskrey, (808) 956-3645
Hawaii Natural Energy Institute
Carol Ogata, (808) 956-3393
Project Manager, Facilities
Posted: Jul 9, 2015

An artist's rendition of an example net zero energy classroom. Credit: Project Frog
An artist's rendition of an example net zero energy classroom. Credit: Project Frog

On June 15, 2015, contractors broke ground for the installation of two 1,500 square foot, net zero energy classrooms, for the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) College of Education. Funded by the University’s Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) through a grant from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) these net zero structures are part of a multi-year effort to characterize the effect of usage and building design on energy demand. These classrooms, designed and installed by Project Frog, a California architecture company, will be energy neutral, meaning they will generate at least as much energy as they will use. Site work, hardscape, and landscaping are funded by the UHM Office of Planning and Facilities.

“This project is part of a larger research program, funded by ONR, intended to evaluate the performance and integration of a range of energy technologies that includes energy efficiency, storage, and renewable generation systems,” said Dr. Richard Rocheleau, HNEI Director. HNEI is collaborating with the UH Mānoa School of Architecture’s Environmental Research and Design Laboratory (ERDL) to validate energy simulation models used to predict energy consumption and thermal comfort.

These classrooms, intended to be research platforms, are factory fabricated then assembled on site, reducing overall construction costs and time. Energy for the classrooms will be provided by 5 kW photovoltaic (PV) arrays mounted on each of the two rooftops.

The stand-alone classroom buildings are being constructed on plot adjacent Castle Memorial Building and behind Wist Hall, home of the College of Education.

The classrooms will also incorporate a real-time dashboard that will display current and past operating conditions, including comfort indicators such as temperature and humidity, as well as energy use by the different components such as lighting, ceiling fans, air conditioning, and plug loads. The dashboard, intended as an educational tool, will also help users visualize the energy usage and generation with hopes to fostering more efficient behavior.

“This is a real stake-in-the-ground milestone for the University, as we embark on a new journey toward aggressive sustainability and energy goals,” said Dr. Stephen Meder, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Office of Planning and Facilities, a key advocate for this project.

The classrooms feature high efficiency LED lighting with sensors that respond to the amount of natural daylight in the room to control lighting usage. A number of lighting modes can be programmed into the switch that will accommodate various visual requirements.

Operable windows and ceiling fans will be relied on to maximize natural ventilation for most of the year. Comfort during peak cooling seasons can be maintained using a state-of-the-art split air conditioning system with variable capacity scroll compressors to reduce cycling and excessive temperature fluctuations.  The walls and ceiling are highly insulated and the windows feature high-performance glazing that allows visible light through, while rejecting the infrared spectrum responsible for solar heat gain in a building.

The two UH classrooms are the last of five platforms installed in Hawai‘i. The first classroom was built in 2011 at Ilima Intermediate School in Ewa Beach, O‘ahu. Two classrooms were also installed at Kawaikini New Century Charter School in Lihue, Kauaʻi in 2013. Building design and construction has been modified as the project progressed, incorporating lessons learned from previous Project Frog models.  The buildings are expected to be complete by the spring of 2016. 

This project supports the Department of Navy's energy programs to demonstrate technologies that enable increased implementation of alternative energy sources and promote energy security. 




Project Frog is on a mission to revolutionize the way buildings are created by applying technology to overcome the inefficiencies of traditional construction. The company provides component buildings that assemble easily onsite, giving architects and builders a fast and cost-effective way to create beautiful and energy-efficient buildings. The resulting structures are measurably greener and significantly smarter, resulting in brighter, healthier spaces that inspire better performance by the people who occupy them. Project Frog offers a versatile ecosystem of products that adapt to all kinds of uses including: early childhood, K-12, higher education, healthcare, public, retail, retreat, workplace and more. The company’s innovative systems are frequent recipients of industry awards for their design and performance. For more information, visit http://www.projectfrog.com.


The University of Hawai‘i (UH) was established in 1907 and its campuses are all fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The UH System comprises all public higher education in the State and provides a rich array of associate, baccalaureate, graduate, and professional degrees and certificates to about 60,000 students through seven community colleges, two baccalaureate campuses and a major research university that holds land-, space- and sea-grant designations. For more information, visit www.hawaii.edu.


The Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute is an organized research unit of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM). The Institute performs research, conducts testing and evaluation, and manages public-private partnerships across a broad range of renewable and enabling technologies to reduce the State of Hawai‘i's dependence on fossil fuel.


“The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and do not represent the opinions or policies of the U.S. Government or of any other government entity or party. Any mention of trade names or commercial products used in the Project does not constitute the endorsement by the U.S. Government of the products bearing the trade names or of the commercial products used.”