Hawaii’s community development agency has a decision to make next week regarding its “glass rule.” That decision, however, won’t be the end of discussion surrounding the regulation.

Highrise projects in the Kakaako district of Honolulu are required to utilize glass with a visible light transmission (VLT) of 50 percent or greater. Developer Oliver McMillan Pacific Rim (OMPR) has petitioned that the rule be waived for its under-construction Symphony Honolulu building due to its supposed conflict with green building requirements in the area.

Photo via 801southst.com
Photo via 801southst.com

The HCDA will now be dealing with another similar situation in the neighborhood. Developer Downtown Capital LLC is also asking for the authority to waive or permanently suspend the glass rule for its already completed “Tower A” project and that the waiver or permanent suspension be retroactive to December 5, 2012, when the building permit was approved. In the petition, the developer notes that during the approval process, HCDA never asked about the VLT of the glazing, and after the discrepancy was discovered, HDCA approved the project’s certificate of occupancy with the understanding that the developer would submit the petition. The project utilizes glass with a 35-percent VLT.

Tower A is a 46-story condominium and is on the site where another tower, “Tower B,” is being worked on. The HCDA will hold public hearings in October and December to review a petition filed by the developer and is scheduled to make a decision on December 2.

The glass rule was created to regulate reflectivity, but Downtown Capital asserts in its petition that “a higher VLT does not necessarily mean lower reflectance.” It continues, “[a] higher VLT also creates privacy concerns for residents who generally do not want people to look into their units. Moreover, windows with a higher VLT pass more heat into a building. As the heat carried into a building increases, more energy is needed to cool the air.”

Downtown Capital cites OMPR’s previous assertion that the industry standard of VLT is 20-40 percent. And unlike Symphony Honolulu, the Tower A building doesn’t have a glass façade, as less than one-third of it is glass. Downtown Capital asserts that replacing the windows wouldn’t serve any public interest, and that not only does all of the glass have a low reflectance, but that most of the windows are recessed.

In July and August, the agency held hearings to help it decide whether or not to waive the glass rule for the 45-story multi-use Symphony Honolulu. The glass being installed on the project has a VLT of 28 percent, though the developer insists that the glazing was selected in accordance with the area’s green building rule and can’t meet both.

OMPR notes in the filing that “the more visible light that passes through the glass, the higher the SHGC, which in turn results in more heat gain or buildup on the interior of the building. … There is a direct correlation between VLT, SHGC, and the overall performance of various glazing systems.”

The developer claims it has found no glazing product that can achieve the authority’s 50-percent VLT rule while still meeting the 10-percent energy performance increase required by code. A decision on the Symphony Honolulu project could be made September 2.

Stay tuned to USGNN.com™ for updates as they are made available in the coming weeks.