The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center underwent a full renovation to accommodate growing visitor traffic and to replace an aging and worn building that did not adequately pay homage to those lost in the deadly World War II attack on the U.S by the forces of Japan on December 7, 1941. The 54,900-sq ft Visitor Center serves as an orientation facility for visitors taking a boat to the USS Arizona memorial located above the sunken ship. The seven buildings comprising the center contain welcome pavilions, theaters, a book shop, interpretive exhibits, administrative offices, and a memorial to those who lost their lives in the attack. It doubles the previous center’s visitor capacity to 1.5 million annually and opened on Pearl Harbor Day, 2010.


The owner’s stated sustainability goal was to create a ‘flagship of sustainable architecture’ that would maximize the constrained site footprint and honor those lost. A limited project budget of $32m USD implied a need to demonstrate wise use of technologies and resources to minimize construction and operating costs for the joint owners the National Park Service and the U.S. Navy. Paladino was engaged as a sustainability expert to advise the design and construction team on behalf of the Owners and study proposed sustainability alternatives.

Paladino Approach

Paladino’s initial task was to take the owner and team through the sustainability planning process to translate the owner’s goals into clearly achievable strategies with quantitative sustainability metrics that could be designed and constructed by the team, and then validated for performance. The concept of abundance – harvesting site resources such as wind, light and heat to optimize building performance – was used as a driving framework to inform the design. Biophillic inspiration was taken from the monkey pod tree, a native species that captures prevailing winds for cooling and provides shade and dappled sunlight through its broad, low and leafy canopy. This approach resulted in a recommended design strategy that would replace a single conditioned ‘black box’ exhibit building with a series of smaller, passively cooled environments that minimized light and temperature shock (lower range of temperature variability from indoor to outdoor), captured daylight and breezes and provided shade for visitors waiting to enter exhibits.

Technical analysis was performed to validate that the proposed design strategy delivered better visitor experience, and environmental and financial performance than the single, enclosed building approach. Analysis included energy efficiency measurements, climate and daylighting monitoring as well as a study into wind ventilation strategy.


Analysis revealed that the proposed scheme of smaller multiple buildings utilizing energy efficient, passive cooling was feasible, but sensitive exhibits needed some mechanical air conditioning. Instead of cooling the entire exhibit gallery, individual display cases were cooled and dehumidified to preserve valuable artifacts. The project achieved a LEED Gold rating with 30% improvement in energy efficiency compared to the baseline.