Hawaii study offers design changes to fight climate change

April 5, 2021 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — A new study from the University of Hawaii’s School of Architecture has offered detailed short- and long-term design alterations that could help the state combat the effects of climate change.

Scientists have warned that Hawaii could face a rise of up to 3 feet (0.91 meters) in sea level over the next few decades, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

The effects of climate change in Honolulu in particular could force as many as 13,300 people from their homes and cause an estimated $13 billion in economic losses, the outlet reported.


“When you read sea-level rise reports, it’s scary,” said Judith Stilgenbauer, the principal investigator of the project and professor of landscape architecture at the university’s School of Architecture. “But there’s a real opportunity here to get an early start on planning for the inevitable.”

The study proposes, for instance, that the state make room for wetlands in order to increase its capacity to withstand flooding and improve overall water quality.

Some specific suggestions include converting the Ala Wai Golf Course into wetlands and areas for wetland farming; creating a “South Shore Promenade” which would connect a network of existing and proposed shoreline green spaces; and creating an elevated Ala Wai Boulevard that prioritizes pedestrians.

The boulevard and the makai bank of the Ala Wai Canal could then be converted into “a multi-purpose Waikiki super dike,” the outlet said.

The report added that an elevated promenade would allow for unhindered water flow and protect wetland habitats from being disturbed.

Stilgenbauer said the various proposals in the report are “speculative, nature-based living shoreline design solutions” that embrace coastal flooding rather than try to prevent it from happening.

Chip Fletcher, associate dean and professor at the University of Hawaii Manoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, praised the the report for proposing changes that could fight back against sea level rises.

“It’s really good stuff,” Fletcher said. “The fact-based land-use analysis, combined with the creative design depicting flooded landscapes, frees the viewer’s imagination to consider a future for Hawaii in which our communities live with water rather than fighting it.”