The NOAA Inouye Regional Center: Building a Sustainable Research Future on Hallowed Ground

Tom Fortier, HOK
Paul Woolford, HOK

Main Idea:

The NOAA Inouye Regional Center (IRC) encompasses the adaptive reuse of two historic, World War II-era hangars originally designed by Albert Kahn and linked by a new addition on a national historic landmark site on Pearl Harbor's Ford Island. The facility consolidates hundreds of employees from around the island in this state-of-the-art sustainable research and administrative campus.

In this session Tom Fortier and Paul Woolford will review the NOAA IRC project's history and design process. They will present the overarching goals, vision, program, sustainability strategies and resulting design, all of which were developed to create a high performance, sustainable design rooted in the Mission of NOAA and the cultural traditions of the Pacific Region. Innovative design strategies inspired by the island's ecology and nature informed many design principles - such as the morphology of native Hawaiian trees - which provided lessons for passive lighting and cooling systems.

Viewed through a lens of history and biomimicry, presenters will outline the building's diverse range of functions which includes wet and dry research laboratories, marine mammal holding facility, a dive operations center, research library, administrative offices, conference and meeting areas, dining hall, and an abundance of informal collaboration space.

Learning Objectives

  • Sustainability: Learn how local ecology and nature can be a model of inspiration and efficiency for design. Participants will gain lessons on how biomimetric design principals, such as the morphology of native Hawaiian trees providing lessons for passive cooling and day lighting.
  • Adaptive reuse: Attendees will see how the original aircraft hangars served as inspiration for beautifully simple solutions to how the new Center could be organized into a high-performance scientific workplace. The design addresses the challenge of the existing long and wide floor plates through a grid of natural day lighting solutions.
  • Design for historic site: The site design for the new Center provides a delicate balance between preserving the historical framework of the location and site itself, while providing modern and appropriate presence required for this national facility. Exhibits highlighting the history of the island, as well as NOAA's diverse mission are showcased.
  • High performance scientific workplace: The IRC consolidates functionally diverse operations and staff from more than a dozen groups which were previously dispersed across the Hawaiian Islands. The integration of field, laboratory, veterinary, and computational groups into a single location presented enormous potential for scientific collaboration.


Tom Fortier is the Regional Leader of Science + Technology at HOK San Francisco. He has led significant large-scale laboratory projects for academic institutions and private corporations primarily in the Bay Area, including Stanford University and BioMed Realty. His proven leadership in management, planning and design has allowed him to deliver award-winning innovative and high-performing built environments. Mr. Fortier's 30+ years of experience is built upon his commitment to strengthening a client's v

Paul Woolford is Design Principal for HOK's San Francisco studio and is responsible for some of the firm's most innovative and creative buildings. As Design Principal, he is responsible for all aspects of the design process, leading interdisciplinary teams comprised of architects, engineers, planners, interior designers and landscape architects. His diverse portfolio includes civic and institutional buildings; corporate and commercial buildings; educational facilities; researc


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