Symphony Honolulu’s glass facade not transparent enough

HONOLULU —The Symphony Honolulu highrise at the corner of Kapiolani and Ward is on track to open next spring.

90 percent of the units already sold. Crews have installed glass up on the 35th floor with just a few stories remaining.

But as it turns out, the glass doesn’t meet the proper transparency standard set by the Hawaii Community Authority.

It’s what engineers and architects refer to as VLT (Visual Light Transmission).

The developer, Oliver McMillan, is hoping to get a waiver because it chose a darker, more reflective glass to keep the units cooler.

“More privacy, better energy efficiency. Unfortunately, we can’t achieve that with glass that is 50 percent VLT or greater, so that’s why we chose the glass that we did,” said Oliver McMillan’s Dan Nishikawa.

Some Kakaako residents don’t think HCDA should grant the waiver. They say all you have to do is look around.

“We are building more buildings with glass surfaces, and the concentration of light will be much greater in certain areas of downtown. I think the heat index will rise to a point it will be uncomfortable for area residents and visitors,” said Kakaako resident John Kobelansky.

HCDA said the whole idea behind the rule change was to avoid building more buildings with a ‘Darth Vader’ look.

Staff maintains there isn’t a conflict in the new mauka area rules, but board members questioned whether there’s a standard for reflectivity since they were told less light streaming into an apartment unit doesn’t mean less light reflected out.

In the case of the glass in the Symphony highrise, the mistake wasn’t caught until a competitor flagged it and HCDA checked.

“It’s really important to understand how you are going to enforce it,especially when it’s something that is not being applied to other buildings outside of Kakaako, and this is something brand new,” said Board Chairman John Whalen.

“If sustainability, energy efficiency is really important, we may want to take a look at reviewing the VLT and come up with a parameter that balances energy savings with other elements we are trying to achieve,” said HCDA’s Deepak Neupane.

So, it could be back to the drawing board on the new glass rule.

The HCDA is scheduled to make a decision on the Symphony high rise waiver on August 5th.



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