Laurel Swan - Monday, August 31, 2015

“Sustainability” has become the favorite catch phrase. Buildings consume 40% of all energy and are responsible for 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  ( source) Obviously, architecture and building design play a huge role in the success or failure of any sustainability initiative.


The current push to “green” architecture frequently focuses on intriguing, new, hi-tech energy efficiency gadgets and state-of-the-art materials. However, we must remember that simple, low-tech decisions made early in the design process will have the largest impact on energy efficiency and sustainability.


The design elements that cause a building to function without electrical or mechanical means are termed passive design strategies. These passive design decisions simply refer to basic issues that respond to the environmental realities of each location and include: the orientation of a building, the location and size of windows in relation to the path of the sun, or the organization of spaces to allow good air flow.


In our benevolent Hawaiʻi climate, passive design strategies are important for both sustainability and human comfort. A simple way to envision passive design for a warm and humid climate, like Hawaiʻi, is to think of a structure as a kind of umbrella. It shades you from the intensity of the sun, but still allows the breezes to flow and lets in natural light.


By designing a smart solar shading strategy that accommodates the trade winds and allows generous natural light, a building in Hawaiʻi can eliminate high-energy demands like air-conditioning and lighting. When done properly, this is better for the environment and more comfortable for people.


Over the next few months, we will be analyzing many ways to tackle this issue of solar shading. From the basic awning to the Brise Soleil to the hau covered trellis – Hawaiʻi has many great examples for how to design for a pleasant, airy, and sustainable space in the tropics. Stay tuned for the next installment of our solar shading series.



Laurel Swan - Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Philip White Architects has transformed a dilapidated ‘80s icon - the old Hard Rock Cafe on Kalakua - into Honolulu Coffee Company’s new flagship café and coffee experience, saving an old building in the heart of Ala Moana and creating a showcase of coffee from field to cup.


Honolulu Coffee Company wanted a bold break with tradition for their flagship center near the Hawaiian Convention Center. Tearing down the old Hard Rock Café building—a fondly remembered but tattered 80s icon—was never an option.


“There is no better way to practice sustainability than to re-use and re-purpose an old building,” says Philip (Pip) White, principal of Philip White Architects.

When doors open in August 2015, patrons will experience a bold fusion of local iconic architecture and re-purposed building materials, showcased in an airy interior with a high vaulted ceiling, onsite coffee roaster, interactive displays showing how coffee gets from bean-to-table, and a pleasant shaded outdoor seating area. Throughout the interior, building materials were re-used wherever possible including antique wooden doors, window frames, door knobs. “We wanted to create a farm-to-table, or field-to-cup experience, where visitors can learn about growers, roasters, and the families behind Hawaiian Coffee Company,” says White.


The new flagship center will incorporate natural lighting to flood the interior with sunshine, and energy-efficient air conditioning to ensure patrons’ comfort. Outdoor seating will make use of selecting plantings and sun umbrellas for shade.


“Honolulu Coffee Company came to us looking for a visually exciting interior that also underscored the company’s commitment to sustainability,” says White, a seventh-generation kama’aina. “We joined their wishes with our commitment to sustainability in a way that enhances their brand.


“The architecture of a company’s flagship store is one of the most influential touchpoints for their brand. It’s where corporate vision and customers interact at a fundamental level.”



Rendering by Jeff Brink  


Trisha Saunders - Tuesday, June 30, 2015

We were young, broke, and thrilled to be living in London in the late 80s. Our flat had low ceilings—rare for London—a floor that slanted dangerously, and walls the color of sour milk. But it was smack in the middle of fashionable Kensington. And we had permission to paint.


My friend Chris, an avant-garde photographer, wanted all gray-and-white rooms. I argued for color. In the end, we compromised, or Chris did—while she was away on a weekend job, I binge-painted the entire studio: Navy blue ceilings. Pale yellow walls. Moth-eaten red rugs.


Seeing it the first time, Chris backed out in horror, apologizing, Wrong flat! Wrong flat! But during the winter that followed, bleak as only London can be, we came to love our bright blue ceiling. Just the hue of the Pacific Ocean! we assured ourselves, shivering in front of electric-heater bars. That blue is the color of Kailua, a small surfer town on Oahu, we told visitors.


But I’m concerned now about a different color story: Yours.


If you’ve longed to paint your home with colors that ignite magic for you, ignore rules about trends, and think about how you can make that happen. One way is to consult an architectural designer who shares your aesthetic. Trust me: a good designer will not talk you out of your vision. She will find a way to make it happen for you, without breaking the bank. It will help you avoid costly mistakes.


As much as I adored our bright blue ceiling in London, it cost me—our horrified landlady made me pay 100 pounds, roughly 200 dollars, to repaint it white. My roommate wisely refused to contribute one farthing.


Trish Saunders


Laurel Swan - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

One of the great aspects of being an architect is the chance to work with people and create meaningful spaces for them to live in, work in and play in. In the project below, we had the pleasure to work with a charming family, settling into the Kaimuki neighborhood. The mix of traditional materials with a contemporary layout and furnishings shows the heart and soul of kamaʻaina living in Hawaiʻi today.







Cindy Vanover - Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A psychologist at the University of Toronto-Scarborough has pioneered two research studies about high ceilings and their effective on the brain.

Dr. Oshin Vartanian, says that earlier studies demonstrated that rooms with high ceilings create a psychological sense of freedom. Vartanian’s latest research, however, had test participants look at 200 images of rooms while in a brain scanner. 


 Half of the pictures showed rooms with high ceilings, half with low. Participants were to indicate whether they thought the room was “beautiful” or “not beautiful.” To no one’s surprise, participants were likely to judge a room beautiful if it had a high ceiling. The unexpected result was that there was heightened brain activity in the region that deals with visuospatial exploration.


What does that mean? High ceilings seem to capture our visual attention and engage our desire to observe our surroundings. The findings, reporting in a recent issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology are preliminary. But, Vartanian says the research does add to our understanding of why people find high ceilings worthy of a real estate premium. “The combination of psychological and neural data can help us formulate a more complete picture of what is driving our choices.” This helps explain why people prefer high ceilings in their homes despite the fact that they cost more to build, purchase and maintain.


Pip White, of Philip White Architects LLC, adds:

“As with any room, the proportion and composition of high ceiling spaces are critical to the psychological sensations of freedom generated by walking into the room. The use of the room will determine the appropriate size and proportion of the room - -larger and grander for more public uses and smaller more intimate for residential use.


The composition of the space (how the elements are arranged) determines whether the space will feel peaceful or dynamic.


Higher ceilings (higher windows) provide the added benefit of superior day lighting and much improved cross ventilation and natural cooling for tropical climates like ours in Hawaii.” 


Cindy Vanover - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

According to the recently released annual survey in the January/February 2015 issue of USGBC+ (the bi-monthly publication of the U.S. Green Building Council or USGBC), Hawai‘i ranked as one of the top 10 states for LEED building projects in 2014. In fact, Hawai‘i was # 6 on the list of states “making significant strides in sustainable building design, construction and transformation.”


Hawai‘i had 30 projects certified in 2014, or about 2.7 million square feet – which makes its per-capita square footage of LEED buildings at 1.95. Hawai‘i ranked behind Illinois (the leader at 3.31 per-capita square feet), Colorado, Maryland, Virginia and Massachusetts – but ahead of California, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, and New York.


Joanna Griffith, a key member of the design team at Philip White Architects and Vice President of the USGBC Hawaii Chapter, says: “In order to ensure that the beautiful Hawai‘i we love remains so for generations to come, it’s up to each of us to care for the ‘aina in whatever way we can. At PKWA, we believe that as architects, we have a special responsibility to ensure that we design all of our buildings in a way that respects our island climate, culture, and land.”


This Top 10 list began in 2009 and includes commercial and institutional green building projects. 2014 was a year of major growth for LEED in the South and Southwest demonstrated by newcomers on the list, Georgia and Arizona. Illinois and Colorado are the only two states to make the list every year since 2010.


Like many of the states on the list, Hawai‘i did increase the amount of square feet certified per resident when compared to the previous year. Last year was a historic year for the LEED green building rating system globally. 675.9 million square feet of space were LEED certified in 2014, the largest area ever to become certified in a single calendar year, and a 13.2% increase over 2013.   


Laurel Swan - Thursday, November 06, 2014

Construction recently finished on a complete interior renovation we designed for American Savings Bank's Kailua branch on Hamakua Drive. The unveiling of the renovation was a grand event including a blessing, the presentation of a sizeable donation to Castle Medical Center, a wheel-of-fortune style prize give away, and delicious pupus. Check out the photos of the event below and stay tuned for professional photos of the project to come.









Laurel Swan - Monday, November 03, 2014

The old Hard Rock Cafe on the corner of Kalakaua and Kapiolani has been purchased by Honolulu Coffee Company and is going to become a major tourist destination in Waikiki for all things coffee. We are working with Honolulu Coffee Company to create a dynamic and intriguing interior where you can experience and learn more about every stage that leads to a great cup of Hawaiian coffee.  

The old Hard Rock Cafe on the corner of Kalakaua and Kapiolani has been purchased by Honolulu Coffee Company and is going to become a major tourist destination in Waikiki for all things coffee. We are working with Honolulu Coffee Company to create a dynamic and intriguing interior where you can experience and learn more about every stage that leads to a great cup of Hawaiian coffee.  

Pacific Business News recently wrote a piece about the project.  Check out the article!: link


Laurel Swan - Thursday, July 31, 2014

There are few things as satisfying for an architect as to see our ideas and plans come into reality. After so much conceptual work, the construction of a project comes as a welcome moment of realization. We were fortunate enough this past week to attend a blessing event on Kauai, marking the breaking ground of a project we are doing in collaboration with developer DR Horton. We met with employees of the company, brokers, family and friends, to commemorate the beginning of construction, encourage a sense of safety and unity within the project team, and to honor the land that will soon become home to many families and a flourishing community.



The project is a neighborhood development along a golf course in the lovely Poipu community on the southern Kauai coast. Philip White Architects created three house plans with variations and optional add-on features to maximize the potential for each lot, while simultaneously creating a varied and elegant neighborhood streetscape.



The event started with introductions by DR Horton leaders, Mary Flood and Tracy Nagata, which led directly into a moving blessing led by Kumu Kelvin. We all united in gratitude and fellowship to recognize the beauty, history and power of the place and to call for a safe and successful completion of the construction. The event created a deep sense of togetherness and stood as a testament to the type of project this team is creating together – one where future generations of Hawaiʻi families may grow and prosper.



After the blessing, the group moved to tents where we heard presentations about the project, including the introduction of Emerald Homes, the luxury residence line offered by DR Horton of which this project will be showcased.


Our own Pip White gave a terrific presentation on the origin and design philosophy behind his residential architecture. Pip explained that, just like all of his designs, he worked to instill a true sense of Hawaiʻi in the architecture – both in the way they function and the kind of lifestyle that is lived as a kamaʻaina. The houses are meant to live and breathe well – allowing air and light to flow through the house, just as the spaces seamlessly blend from one into another. The overall presence of the houses are in line with the modest poise inherent to the culture here on the islands. The homes have a quiet refinement, designed with enough space and luxury to live a comfortable life, and without the needless maintenance and pageantry of an ostentatious home. 



After the presentations, we all sat and ate together, enjoying the wonderful rolls of The Dragon Wagon sushi truck. The event was a wonderful success and we owe much gratitude to the folks at DR Horton that brought everyone together and organized the afternoon’s activities. May this be the beginning to many happy homes and future Kauai families.




Renderings by Jeff Brink

Photography by Gregory Blore





Laurel Swan - Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer has arrived and Philip White Architects wants to send ALOHA to all of our friends and introduce a recently finished project – a complete renovation of a home with spectacular views on Maunalani Heights.


The house was a typical two-story home from the 50’s, with a compartmentalized floor plan, small rooms and a layout that didn’t take advantage of the spectacular scenery. The owners are also great entertainers, and the home provided no real space to accommodate guests.


The renovation included a complete rearrangement of the interior layout - creating an open plan with generous windows and doors seamlessly flowing from interior to exterior. The home was outfitted with luxurious finishes and updated equipment to enable the owners to host large parties with ease. The lanai was reworked, adding a pergola to help control sunlight and a dramatic fire pit overlooking the gorgeous view of Honolulu. The project also included a new addition for an elegant master bedroom and bathroom suite. The result is a graceful improvement to a classic kamaʻaina house – letting the home embrace the assets of its history and location while still accommodating a modern lifestyle.









Many well wishes for a happy summer from the PKWA team!