The University of Hawaiʻi Community Design Center (UHCDC) is a teaching practice and outreach initiative led by the School of Architecture that provides a new platform for students, staff, faculty, and partnered professionals to collaborate on interdisciplinary applied research, planning, and design projects that serve the public interest. These projects offer service learning opportunities for students through academic instruction, internship, and post-graduate employment.



What we do
We provide proof of concept applied research, planning placemaking, design and outreach services in support of Hawaiʻi and its diverse communities.

Who we are
We are a collective of University of Hawai‘i faculty, staff, and allied professionals across university departments and disciplines assisted by students, interns, and recent graduates.

Why us
Working with us provides service learning and professional development opportunities for students, supported by the research methods and design expertise of our University faculty and partnered professionals.

How we work
We are a mission-driven, University of Hawai‘i School of Architecture initiative partially supported by contracts and grants that cover staffing and overhead costs.

What we care about
Improving lives.
Good design that makes a difference.
Our center’s work addresses housing, transportation, infrastructure, ecological resilience, resource management, and education.

Who we work for
Government agencies, the University of Hawai‘i System, non-profit and community organizations, and on behalf of the general public.

What is proof of concept
We provide applied research and design services that support the capital improvement project justification process. This government-to-government collaboration on built environment projects offers a new model for public public partnerships.


UH School of Architecture students hands on learning

Service learning
UHCHC faculty have engaged over 100 students in graduate and undergraduate courses across disciplines on real public interest projects.graduate and undergraduate courses across disciplines on real public interest projects.

architecture design tools

Professional development
In two years, UHCDC has employed approximately 35 students, providing over 10,000 internship hours applicable toward NCARB licensure, and over $170,000 in student earnings.


architecture design studio facilities

Collaborative platform
UHCDC provides a platform for university-wide collaboration. Current efforts include faculty and staff from 6 UH departments, supported by professional partners and subcontractors from throughout the built environments disciplines. These efforts include engagement and coordination between city, state, private, and non-profit entities.
UHCDC community outreach at the capitol building

UHCDC provides outreach through stakeholder and community outreach on projects, symposiums, competitions, exhibitions, lectures, school visits, and other educational programming.


Our proof of concept studies include:
Architectural design
Community and neighborhood planning
Community workshops/engagement
Development studies
Engineering studies
Furniture/Product design
Graphic design
Interior design

Landscape and Ecological design
Master planning
Service design/User research
Space planning
Strategy/Framework design
Urban design


Hawaiʻi Public Housing Authority
Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Hawaiʻi Technology Development Corporation
Kōkua Kalihi Valley/Hoʻoulu Āina
State Foundation for Culture and the Arts
State of Hawaiʻi Department of Education
State of Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources

State of Hawaiʻi Department of Public Safety
State of Hawaiʻi Office of Planning
University of Hawaiʻi Office of Administration
University of Hawaiʻi Community Colleges
University of Hawaiʻi Outreach Colleges
University of Hawaiʻi Applied Research Laboratory
University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy


In 2016, the School of Architecture established the University of Hawaiʻi Community Design Center, building on four decades of education and public service to Hawaiʻi and the Asia-Pacific region. Since its inception, the center has experienced rapid growth, generating opportunities for nearly 50 multi-disciplinary faculty, staff, and students working on UHCDC project teams, and engaging over 100 students in service-learning opportunities through UHCDC project-related academic courses.

These projects introduce new learning, teaching, research, and service opportunities that support the university’s strategic priorities and orientation to the public interest. Our partnerships with seven state agencies have allowed us to apply our faculty expertise, design methodologies, and student efforts to the critical issues facing our island community: ecological resilience, sea-level rise, cultural identity, resource management, public health and safety, education, economic innovation, transportation, infrastructure, and affordable housing, among others. These unique opportunities would not be possible without the guidance and support of our founding and advisory boards, and the efforts of our faculty, staff, professional partners, and our heroically generous students. It is an honor and privilege to be working in this way, with these people, in this place.

We look forward to exploring the full potential of this public-interest practice, and expanding our role as an effective design resource for Hawaiʻi. We welcome your support and participation and invite you to learn more.


Cathi Ho Schar, AIA, LEED-AP
Director and Adjunct Assistant Professor