Pharmacy college building expected to be complete by end of the year

  • MICHAEL BRESTOVANSKY/Tribune-Herald Workers converse within the incomplete administration area on the second floor of the building. The neighboring ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center can be seen in the background.
  • MICHAEL BRESTOVANSKY/Tribune-Herald Work proceeds on what eventually will be the building's laboratory areas.
  • MICHAEL BRESTOVANSKY/Tribune-Herald The exterior of the long-delayed permanent building for the University of Hawaii at Hilo College of Pharmacy.

A new permanent building for pharmacy students at the University of Hawaii at Hilo hopefully will be up and running by this time next year.

Construction on the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy’s long-awaited facility is well underway and is expected to be completed in November or December, said construction manager Jerry Watanabe.


The two-story, 45,000-square-foot building will consolidate student laboratories — currently housed in modular structures on UH-Hilo’s campus — faculty offices and Student Affairs under a single roof, located next door to ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.

Pharmacy College Dean Carolyn Ma said the building also will house the college’s compounding lab, where up to 45 students can synthesize medications in a professional-grade laboratory.

Also present in the building will be a simulated mannequin lab, Ma said. That lab will feature two highly realistic mannequins that, with the aid of computers, can physically respond to stimuli and upon which students can learn and practice medical procedures before treating real-life patients.

Other laboratory additions will include simulated pharmacy spaces, where students can adapt to various drug distribution setups, and a medication therapy management suite, where students can create simulated drug regimens tailored for specific individuals.

Plans for the building in 2014 included a vivarium that would house animal subjects, but the room eventually was removed from the final plan because it would bring the project over budget, Watanabe said.

“It may be constructed at a later date when funds are available,” Watanabe said of the vivarium.

Besides the laboratories, the building also will include faculty and student lounges, private study rooms, a lecture hall that can be partitioned into two, and an open-air loggia on the second floor, Watanabe said.

Meanwhile, the plaza fronting the building will feature a garden area showcasing native flora, Ma said. Much of the building was designed to be a blend between modern design sensibilities and traditional Hawaiian perspectives, according to a project design document.

Such design elements are not noticeable in the building at present, as much work remains to done. Watanabe said roofing work will begin this week, with plumbing and electrical work soon after. Work on exterior and interior walls has not begun, while flooring and ceiling work is incomplete. An elevator system also has yet to be installed.

Since its founding more than a decade ago, the College of Pharmacy largely has operated out of portable buildings, as the university lacked sufficient funding for a permanent home. However, a $31.3 million contract was awarded to Isemoto Contracting Co. in April 2016, with construction on the building beginning in fall of that year.

While Watanabe said he hoped the building would be usable by spring 2019, previous predictions of the project’s completion date have failed to pan out.

Groundbreaking on the site took place in 2014, with a projected completion date in 2017, but no construction occurred for years thereafter.

One year ago, the building was expected to be completed by spring of this year.

Watanabe said the construction delays were caused by corrections and requested changes made to the project plans.

Despite the delays, progress on the building was gratifying to former UH-Hilo Chancellor Rose Tseng, who was instrumental in founding the College of Pharmacy in 2007.


“It’s like a dream come true,” Tseng said last week during a tour of the building.

Email Michael Brestovansky at

  1. kalopaboy March 19, 2018 10:08 am

    Probably on the Hilo HS gym schedule.

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