September 18, 2023 | Source: Hawaii Public Radio

Healing and survival are the focus of this home design for rebuilding on Maui

A local architect, a neuroscientist and a firefighter have a new idea for rebuilding homes in Lāhainā. The hope is to help families heal and deal with the trauma of the wildfires and provide a safe space in the event of another fire.

“We have friends and family who lost their homes, and one of them said it best. She actually said, ‘Please don’t put us in boxes. Allow us to maintain our dignity and don’t tell us how to live,'” architect Ma Ry Kim told The Conversation. “We actually created a specific design based on a plantation house that allows you to shelter in place if you can’t run from the fire.”

Kim and B+HARI co-founder Dr. Kazuma Nakagawa partnered with firefighter Bradley Chang to get some expertise on fires and sheltering in place.

Kim said the design incorporates a safe room in the middle of the house with a water tank above it. Gravity would pull the water down over the walls of the room to collect in a pond underneath. Theoretically, the water touching the hot concrete surface would create a bubble of vapor and keep the heat off the room, she said.

Kim, originally from Kīhei, is a principal architect at G70 and the CEO of I-ON Group. Nakagawa is the chief ofThe Queen’s Neuroscience Institute.

Kim said the two met after Nakagawa saved her father’s life from a brain injury. She also became intrigued with using the built environment as part of the healing process when an aunt made cognitive progress after moving from an institutional setting to a Buddhist monastery.

“Even before everything that happened in Lāhainā, Kaz and I talked about compassionate housing. Is there a way to house some of the most vulnerable population in our community in a way where architects can use that same theory of compassionate care? We can create a housing environment specifically based on the neuroscience of recovery, whether it’s from trauma, whether it’s from a health situation,” she said.

Kim has applied for a trademark and plans to fire-test the concept.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Sept. 18, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Read the Article on Hawai‘i Public Radio