HONOLULU - University of Hawaii officials signed a deal Friday to build a new community college in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii's Big Island, which they say will be the most energy-efficient campus in the nation.
Hawaii Community College Palamanui will enroll about 700 students starting in fall 2012 and feature windmills, photovoltaic cells, waterless toilets and sewage treatment for its 78-acre campus.
"I see this as an educational opportunity, not just a construction project," said University of Hawaii System President M.R.C. Greenwood, who signed the agreement with builder Palamanui Partners. "We may be able to use what we learn from this to improve other facilities."
The first phase of the college's infrastructure and construction will cost nearly $14 million, including more than $9 million in private investment from Palamanui Partners, which also is to add housing units, a business park and a town center nearby.
Most of the campus' students will come from the University of Hawaii Center-West Hawaii, which currently enrolls about 525 students in rented space at Kealakekua Shopping Center.
After the first phase of the college is complete, plans call for the campus to be expanded until its enrollment grows to 1,500 students. The university system is raising money for the second phase.
Energy-conservation efforts should make the campus a "net zero" project because it will produce as much power as it consumes, said architect John Ida of Urban Works, Inc.
Buildings, built within the contours of lava flows, will face the sun to collect the most amount of sun power through its solar panels as possible, he said. Sewage treatment will separate water from solids, allowing water to be reused for landscaping.
The campus will meet the highest standards of the U.S. Green Building Council - the Leadership in Energy Efficiency Design platinum designation, he said.
"This is an enlightened approach that permits us to bring the best quality educational opportunity to a part of our state - that is the West Hawaii area - where we know that we have a great number of underserved population," Greenwood said.
Groundbreaking on an access road to the future campus will take place before the end of the year.
Construction on Hawaii Community College Palamanui is expected to begin by fall of next year.