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Honolulu Architecture Conference Bringing Designers and Innovators Together Virtually

Anthony Quintano

The restrictions for large indoor events in Honolulu are being taken to heart by the American Institute of Architects Honolulu Chapter. A couple of its planned in-person events have been put off indefinitely until it's safer for people to gather.

The Conversation talked to Honolulu AIA Vice President Jim Nicolow about the plans for a virtual inaugural conference, "DnA: Design + Architecture." It brings together designers from New Zealand to New York to share innovative ideas with those in the construction, engineering and architecture fields.

"We've got nine different sessions kind of ranging in scale, from design of cities to design of light fixtures. So it's a pretty interesting range of different scales of design," Nicolow said. "In terms of topics, it ranges from equity in architectural practice, climate resiliency, embodied carbon — lots of different interesting hot topics in the architectural design world right now."

Nicolow said design strategies with a direct impact on human health, like increased ventilation, have grown in importance during the pandemic.

"We’re also now really starting to look at the products we use in buildings," he said. "I’ve seen stats that suggest that if concrete were a country, it would be the eighth largest emitter on the planet."

"One of the topics at DnA this year will look specifically at embodied carbon in concrete and ways to reduce the emissions associated with what’s really the largest contributor of building materials," Nicolow added.

The inaugural conference is set for Sept. 30 to Oct. 1. Organizers have also suspended a planned gathering at the Tantalus Liljestrand House until it is safe to gather again.

"We've seen a really interesting aspect with the chapter where we're actually getting more attendance in our events than when they were in person. So I think on one hand, we're missing the in-person camaraderie that happens as a professional organization when you can get together person to person," Nicolow told Hawaiʻi Public Radio. "But the flip side of it has been we're getting more participation from neighbor islands, more participation from people who may practice outside of downtown. So it's a mixed blessing in some respects."

This interview aired on The Conversation on Sept. 21, 2021

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at
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