Scroll Top
Hands hold a certificate for UH Sea Grant honorable mention in envisioning sea level rise adaptation in Waikiki

Envisioning Sea Level Rise Adaptation in Waikīkī Receives Honorable Mention

“The University of Hawai‘i research titled, “Envisioning Sea Level Rise Adaptation in Waikiki, Hawaiʻi, received Honorable Mention in the Unbuilt Project Category at the 2022 Northwest and Pacific AIA Honors and Design Awards in September 2022 held in Seattle, Washington. Out of 100 projects entered by architects from Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Hawai‘i, Idaho, Montana and the Marianas, fourteen projects received recognition for design excellence that represents the finest standards in sustainability, innovation, building performance, and overall integration with client and surrounding community.

The interdisciplinary design research team includes graduate research assistants and faculty from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Environmental Research and Design Lab in the School of Architecture, Center for Smart Building and Community Design in the Sea Grant College Program, and Climate Resilience Collaborative in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.

Waikīkī is the economic hub of Hawai‘i’s tourism industry and is threatened by flooding from sea level rise, king tides, high wave events, rainfall and storm drain backflow, groundwater inundation, and overflow of the Ala Wai canal. This research merges science with design to create conceptual architectural design renderings to visualize sea level rise adaptation strategies over time for buildings, utilities, transportation, and open space. The goals for these renderings are to compel discussion, contribute to design guides, pilot projects, and new policies that will prepare the community for future flooding. Feedback on adaptation strategies was solicited from over 70 stakeholders and published as an online resource for future design teams and policy makers. The design proposals were shared through public presentation with over 120 attendees and discussion with guest experts.

The awards jury considered design quality, functional utility, economy, environmental harmony, sustainability, accessibility, aesthetic delight, creativity, craftsmanship, and innovation. One juror’s comments included, “I like the intellectual aspect of the project and looking at it from various typologies and income levels.”

Wendy Meguro, the project leader, is an associate professor of sustainable buildings and community design with a joint appointment in the School of Architecture and Sea Grant College Program. Through her educational, professional, and teaching experience she is motivated to help Hawai‘i’s coastal communities adapt to the effects of climate change.

“Internationally, the United Nations sustainable development goals include taking ‘urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts’ because it affects all countries and disrupts national economies and lives. Locally, the Hawai‘i Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report estimate a potential future $19 billion loss of land and structures. The flood adaptation methods and strategies we are exploring for Waikīkī may influence local design guides and policy and may be replicated elsewhere.” – Wendy Meguro

Josephine Briones contributed to this research project as a Sea Grant Fellow from 2020–2022. After earning a Doctor of Architecture, she continued the research as a Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Research Specialist for this project.

“I find this work to be very fulfilling, knowing that I am informing myself on issues like climate change impacts that will affect the future built environment and in extension, its occupants. From the beginning, this project has aligned with my career interests for designing with sustainability as a priority, and has inspired me to learn more about how these impacts can be measured and influence change.” – Josephine Briones

Principal investigator (PI): Wendy Meguro, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Co-Investigator: Charles “Chip” Fletcher, PhD
Graduate Research Assistants: Josephine “Jojo” Briones, DArch, Ireland Castillo, DArch
Outreach Coordinators: Eileen Peppard, Dolan Eversole, Melanie Lander
Rendering Tutors: Chris Lomboy, DArch and Andrew Tang, AIA, SBA
Junior Research Assistants: Aiko Tells, BEnvD, Desiree Malabed, BEnvD candidate
Funders: Hawai‘i Sea Grant’s Biennial Grant 2020–2022 and the Office of Naval Research, the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, and the H.K.L. Castle Foundation

A final thanks to the community participants, panelists, and support from UH School of Architecture, Sea Grant, SOEST, the AIA NW + P, and the awards jury.

The team continues to research and envision coastal resiliency, this time assessing adaptation options for a beach-front condominium site.

More project information: