Ventura honored for volunteer design work

This week, as members of the Kaua’i Police Department, Civil Defense and Prosecutor’s Office continue to move into their new headquarters, they are enjoying top-quality design and functionality at “Ka Hale Maka’i ‘O Kaua’i” thanks to volunteer work done by Mel Ventura of Wailua Homesteads.

Ventura is a Kaua’i-born businessman perhaps best known for his development and design work on the Hyatt Regency Kaua’i at Po’ipu.

One of the goals of Mayor Maryanne Kusaka’s administration was to unify essential county agencies in a new home at the new building located just mauka of Kapule Highway across from the Lihu’e Airport.

When the project moved into its design phase in 1998 Kusaka asked Ventura to volunteer on a committee made up of community members and construction professionals.

At last Friday’s grand opening ceremony of the “House of the Kaua’i Protectors,” Kusaka honored Ventura as a “volunteer extraordinaire” for his work on the project and presented him with a handmade koa paddle to commend his hard work and dedication in completing the project.

The mission of the committee on which Ventura served was to assist in the design, development and construction of the building, and to estimate the needs of the police department, civil defense staff and prosecutor’s office staff, he said.

A $1 million grant helped to hire consultants and purchase the land on which the new headquarters was built.

The county hired a bridging consultant (an architect who helped with a conceptual design). Plans were refined and evolved into detailed specifications for the “design build” process.

Approximately eight construction companies responded to a request for qualifications and work history/portfolios. Each contractor partnered with an architect to form design teams, and drew up plans to meet county specifications.

Shioi Construction was the only Kaua’i-based firm, out of three contractors to submit a final design plan, Ventura said. Shioi also submitted the low bid.

The hiring of a Kaua’i-based contractor helped revitalize the local construction industry during an economic slump, said county Building Division superintendent Doug Haigh.

Shioi’s design proposal was over the County’s budget by about $2 million, which is where Ventura’s expertise came into play. Through a “value engineering” process, Ventura helped bring the project back under budget by redesigning certain aspects. As a result, all three agencies were able to move into Ka Hale Maka’i ‘O Kaua’i.

The main savings came from eliminating a second building planned to house the prosecutor’s office.

The final construction cost came to $17.7 million, and was funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency plus a state bond issue, according to the County Office of Information.

“What we were looking for was hurricane resistance, energy efficiency, high security, and (reasonable) maintenance costs,” Ventura said.

The building, which faces into the tradewinds, is placed in an area where it will be hit by salty air from the ocean, rain and wind, so building materials had to be strong and durable while keeping down maintenance and cleaning costs.

The Kaua’i Civil Defense section in the east wing, and the rest of the building, was “hardened” to make it more hurricane resistant, using FEMA funding.

Also, heightened security, especially for the Civil Defense’s Emergency Operating Center, were kept in mind.

Ventura said that energy efficiency was an important factor in this new building, and much of it is electrical and temperature control systems are computer-controlled. Sensors turn lights on and off when a room is entered or exited. All computer terminals are of a low-energy consumption design.

Double-plated windows were installed throughout for hurricane resistance and to keep out heat.

There are no skylights for natural lighting (there are some in the evidence storage building), but Ventura said using them on a large scale in the main building wouldn’t be feasible in case of a hurricane or other natural disaster.

Ventura’s uniquely modern, Hawaiian-style designs can also be seen in the Kauai Electric building in Lihu’e, on which his son architect Marc Ventura did design work.

Frances Frazier, a longtime scholar of Hawaiian culture and language, also devoted many hours to helping the mayor and planning committee choose just the right name for the new headquarters. Through Frazier’s researching and translation skills, “Ka Hale Maka’i ‘O Kaua’i” was chosen. The name means “The House of the Kaua’i Protectors.”

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