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group photo with award

Creating architectural design renderings to visualize sea-level rise adaptation strategies over time for buildings, utilities, transportation and open space in Waikīkī earned a team at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa the Mayor’s Choice Award from American Institute of Architects (AIA) Honolulu on July 28. AIA Honolulu held its 65th Annual Design Awards Gala to honor local members and affiliates.

The research team, led by Wendy Meguro, was presented the award by Mayor Rick Blangiardi for “Beachfront Sea Level Rise Adaptation.”

“Congratulations to the team from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa: School of Architecture, Sea Grant and School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology for their submission, Beachfront Sea Level Rise Adaptation,” said Mayor Rick Blangiardi. “Climate change is real, especially sea-level rise and this exceptional study focused on building design strategies to enhance survivability while maintaining operational functionality during flooding events. Bravo, to the outstanding work done by this team.”

“The Mayor’s Choice Award spotlights a desire to utilize sea-level rise science now to create future vibrant, resilient coastal communities,” said Meguro.

The project was completed by the interdisciplinary team from UH Mānoa’s School of Architecture, Environmental Research and Design Laboratory; Hawaiʻi Sea Grant Center for Smart Building and Community Design; and School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology’s (SOEST) Climate Resilience Collaborative.

waikiki rendering

“Although sea-level rise is a huge challenge, if all stakeholders move forward with one vision, we can view this as an opportunity rather than a threat,” said Chip Fletcher, the co-principal investigator and interim dean at SOEST.

Merging science, design

The project merges science with design using renderings to foster discussion and contribute to design guides, pilot projects and new policies that prepare for future flooding.

Josephine Briones, a climate change adaptation specialist, who worked on the team for more than two years, contributed to this research project as a Hawaiʻi Sea Grant fellow 2020–22.

“Confronting the reality of sea-level rise, these architectural designs embody innovation, a testament to collaboration, and a space where challenges evolve into possibilities,” said Briones.

Georgina Casey, a climate resilience specialist focusing on sea-level rise and climate change research, with a background in environmental and ocean sciences, joined the project in spring 2022.

“I am very grateful to have received this award, and it was an honor to represent our collaborative team at the AIA Honolulu Design Awards Gala,” said Casey. “This recognition means a lot to the team and we are proud to be the recipients of this award.”

Gerry Failano, one of the graduate research assistants on the project, joined in spring 2022. Failano’s research focuses on productive landscapes within the urban environment of Hawaiʻi, aiming to contribute towards addressing food security.

“This is an amazing achievement for our team,” said Failano. “I am grateful to see all of our hard work recognized and shared with our design and academic communities.”

Project collaborators also include: Eric Teeples, Desiree Malabed, Chris Lomboy, Andrew Tang, Eileen Peppard, Melanie Lander, Dolan Eversole and Aiko Tells. Funding was provided by the Office of Naval Research.

See more on the project.

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