Building for Life: New healthcare projects benefit all
New healthcare projects are designed to deliver longer, healthier lives for all

Two new healthcare projects at Hilo Medical Center by Isemoto Contracting and Nan Inc. will expand access to medical treatment on the Big Island.     PHOTO COURTESY TRACEY NIIMI

The National Cancer Institute recently compared U.S. populations aged 20 to 49 and found that among them, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have the highest death rates from cancer in the country.

The University of Hawai‘i’s new Early Phase Clinical Research Center (EPCRC), currently underway in Kaka‘ako by national general contractor Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., aims to turn these and other Hawai‘i cancer rates around.

Dr. Naoto T. Ueno

“The EPCRC provides high-quality cancer care and early access to advanced and innovative treatments in Hawai‘i,” says Dr. Naoto T. Ueno, University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center director. “In the long term, the EPCRC will contribute to robust patient-centered cancer care in Hawai‘i … This means those who cannot afford travels to the mainland can receive potentially beneficial treatment even before FDA approval. And those who can travel to the mainland will not need to leave family and friends. Thus, both non-privileged and privileged will benefit from our new effort to conduct innovative clinical trials.

“Our innovation will come from providing novel cancer treatments needed for our diverse race/ethnic groups,” Ueno explains. “Our ultimate long-term goal is to be able to tailor the treatment based on the needs of each individual.”

Certified LEED Silver, the EPCRC is designed for physicians seeing patients enrolled in early phase clinical trials. Advanced medical technology is used in the center’s clinical blood lab, clinical trial infusion suite(s), nursing station, a research pharmacy and specialized mechanical, electrical and plumbing support.


Like the EPCRC, Hawai‘i’s new healthcare projects are focused on increasing underserved communities’ access to medical care and improving patient outcomes through advanced technology.

The Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center (WCCHC) Dental Clinic, recently renovated by Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company Inc., welcomed its first patients in late February. The $3.4 million renovation expanded the clinic’s capacity by 4,023 square feet, allowing it to treat many more patients in the community.

The renovated clinic is a single-story wood, timber and steel post structure with 10 treatment rooms, four provider offices, a business office, a dental lab, an X-ray room, sterilization rooms and a waiting room. “The treatment rooms were designed to allow for a more relaxed approach to dental treatment,” says Ron Barton, Hawaiian Dredging project superintendent.

Ron Barton

The clinic, which broke ground in 2022, is Hawaiian Dredging’s most recent WCCHC renovation project.

“WCCHC has been steadily growing its healthcare outreach across the Waianae Coast,” Barton explains. Hawaiian Dredging’s first project for the center was construction of the WCCHC Adult Medical Pharmacy Building that included three new buildings and road alterations. The project was completed in 2013.

“The second WCCHC project was the new construction of the James & Abigail Campbell Clinic (Nanakuli),” Barton says. “Hawaiian Dredging delivered that project in 2019.”

O‘ahu’s 88,000 military veterans, who often need greater access to healthcare like veterans nationwide, can now receive state-of-the-art treatment at the new Daniel K. Akaka Veterans Affairs Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in Kalaeloa. The approximately 90,000-square-foot facility features advanced technology and will provide primary and mental healthcare, X-ray, laboratory and diagnostic services, a pharmacy and specialty care. The approximately $130 million project was recently completed by Nan Inc. and will welcome its first patients on April 8.

Also on O‘ahu, Hawai‘i Pacific Health’s Straub Medical Center Redevelopment Project is currently in its initial stages. According to HPH’s website, redevelopment is planned to expand Straub facilities by approximately 760,000 square feet over the next 15 years.


Elsewhere in Hawai‘i, healthcare demand can also be acute. In Hawai‘i island’s far-flung communities, for example, immediate access to medical care isn’t always available. To meet this need, Hilo Medical Center (HMC) began expanding access to its staff and services with the construction of the HMC Rural Health and Telehealth Center in 2020-2023.

Built by Isemoto Contracting Co. Ltd., HMC’s new facility provides oncology care, primary care and other services to meet growing Hawai‘i island demand. Isemoto’s scope of work on the two-story, 17,000-square-foot building included “sitework, structural excavation/backfill, carpentry, retaining walls and sewer/water lines,” says Leslie Isemoto, company president. Soon, Isemoto Contracting and Nan Inc. will further enlarge HMC’s facilities — Isemoto with the two-story, 19,000-square-foot Clinical Outpatient Medical Office Building, valued at more than $20 million, and Nan Inc. with the Acute Hospital Expansion Phase 1 project, valued at $78.5 million.

HISHE Healthcare Expo Arrives in Waikīkī

The Hawaii Society for Healthcare Engineereing 2023 Expo featured 
leadership from Amazon Web Services.     PHOTO COURTESY HISHE/STUDIO FX 3

The 2024 Hawaii Healthcare Technology & Facilities Engineering Expo, presented by the Hawaii Society for Healthcare Engineering (HISHE), will be held May 16 at the Prince Waikiki hotel. Local and national healthcare leaders will address current trends in facility construction and will be joined by top AEC and technology specialists offering the sector’s latest products and services.

Keynote speaker Dr. Adam M. Robinson Jr., VA Pacific Islands Health Care System director, and Chad Beebe from the American Society for Health Care Engineering will highlight emerging issues in healthcare facility design, construction and operations.

Jessica Onaga, 2024 Expo chair, says nearly 250 attendees are expected at HISHE’s fifth annual expo, which offers valuable networking opportunities to Hawai‘i contractors and other AEC professionals. Sponsorships available. Contact Jessica Onaga, (808) 783-6594, [email protected].

WhiteSpace Architects’ new Hāmākua-Kohala Health Clinic and Training Center project may break ground in 2025.     RENDERING COURTESY WHITESPACE ARCHITECTS

Jason Ko

Nan Inc.’s Phase 1 project is slated to start April 1, says Jason Ko, Nan Inc. Big Island Operations vice president. “The project entails 50,000 square feet of interior space and renovations to the existing structure,” Ko says. “The ground floor will see the addition of a storage room and utility closet, alongside renovations to the parking lot to accommodate structural changes. The second floor will house 18 [intensive care] units, while the third floor will accommodate 24 [progressive care] units.”

On the northern tip of Hawai‘i island, WhiteSpace Architects is working on the new Hāmākua-Kohala Health Clinic and Training Center, which will provide expanded treatment options and medical training facilities to residents in the remote Kohala community. “The project received unanimous approval for both the conditional use and special use permits from the Big Island’s Leeward Planning Committee,” says Laurel Swan, WhiteSpace project lead. Pending further review by the Hawai‘i State Historic Preservation Division, she says, “the team is looking towards groundbreaking as early as sometime in 2025.”


“The healthcare industry is crucial for everyone,” says Hawaiian Dredging’s Barton. “This industry will always need construction services for new facilities, expansions, repairs and renovations.” And as Hawai‘i’s population grows and medical technology accelerates, it will need them even more.

The UH’s new EPCRC project is expected to wrap in early spring next year and its construction value is approximately $13.2 million. But the project’s long-term value, Ueno says, is exponential. “The EPCRC is a necessary stepping-stone to creating a world-class innovative cancer care and treatment facility,” he says. The center “simultaneously grows and diversifies the healthcare workforce, cultivates clinical research in Hawai’i that benefits our people, reduces the tremendous burden of cancer to the families of cancer patients and helps drive economic growth.”

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