October 2, 2014

Nānākuli Youth Education Town

Location:  Nānākuli, Oahu

Client:  Boys & Girls Club of Hawai‘i

ASLA Hawaii –  Award of Merit 2012

LEED Gold Certification


National Football League Youth Education Town Hawaii (NFL YET) is built on 1.6 acres of Department of Hawaiian Home Lands located in Nānākuli. It is the first LEED Gold Certified afterschool program in the NFL YET network. Managed by the Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii, Youth Education Towns are designed to help youngsters succeed by providing educational assistance, job training, technical instruction, life skills development and fitness and recreational outlets.

The Nānākuli Youth Education Town sits on an ancient coral terrace, so preserving the existing features and minimal impact to the site were an important aspect of the design. The landscape elements were selected based on their functional compatibility with the existing land forms and with minimal grading, existing coral rock was reused for walls, terraces, features, channels, swales and borders.

This site was designed to be a microcosm of an ahupua’a, an ancient Hawaiian land division system, where water plays a vital role. The region is very dry so a dryland garden was designed with coastal and dryland native and Polynesian introduced plants. Rainwater is collected from 75% of the roof and stored in a 5000 gallon steel tank which was then used to nourish an edible garden. The water is delivered to the crops through a gravity fed auwai, an open irrigation channel, constructed of coral rock that creates an attractive border between the pathway and the dryland garden. The other 25% of the rainwater is collected in a downspout that spills into a rock basin that then overflows into a rock swale. This runoff slowly flows down the swale and percolates back into the soil. An Ahu, stone marker, stands over the drywell memorializing the return of the water to the ground at the site entrance.

All gardens are connected by a meandering garden path which flows toward existing lawn terraces. These terraces spill down a bowl-shaped slope and provide a seating area for an amphitheater before it flattens at the bottom to create a natural stage.

Each individual garden area helps to educate the youth and provides usable spaces for life skills development, fitness and recreation.