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The Benefits of Building Small

Building the perfect home doesn’t always mean building a big home.

With the rising cost of construction materials and ever increasing Hawaiian property values, building a home in Hawaii can feel financially impossible. But choosing to build a smaller home provides homeowners a unique opportunity to enjoy all the benefits of tropical living without the financial burden of constructing, furnishing, and maintaining a larger home.

While living in a smaller space may seem intimidating to homeowners accustomed to a higher square footage, the benefits of living small can easily outweigh the initial stressors of downsizing from a larger space. Concerned that a smaller home means sacrificing on good design and high-end amenities? Don’t worry, the recent small-home trend means every skilled architect is already experienced in the art of creating designs that make the most of limited space.

In fact, smaller homes often inspire better design that utilizes every square foot creatively and efficiently. You’ll be surprised how versatile a well-designed home can be, even without a formal dining room or supersized walk-in closet.  More importantly, money saved on building costs means you can focus your budget on innovative appliances or luxury aesthetic features to personalize your home.

As we’ve discussed before, smaller homes are more energy efficient, reducing the cost of utilities and helping protect the environment with smaller carbon footprints. Well-designed new construction takes advantage of the latest green technology while saving money and ensuring that the islands remain beautiful and protected for generations to come.

Living in Hawaii means daily access to some of the world’s best beaches and untouched natural scenery. Building a smaller home means funding your lifestyle, not just your home. After all, there’s less need for large living spaces when the beach is just a short distance away. Building a smaller home allows you to enjoy the innate luxury of living in a tropical paradise, regardless of the size of your master bath. If you’re ready to embrace the small home trend and build a home specifically customized to your needs, contact us today and we’ll get you started on finding the best professionals for your project.

Buy or Build: How to Save Money Building a New Home

Is building a new home cheaper than buying and renovating an older residence?

Yes and no. In all honesty, there’s no definitive answer regarding the cost of building a new home versus updated an existing residence. Factors such as location, house size, local real-estate markets, and architectural design all complicate the economics of choosing to buy or build. But when done correctly, building a home can save you money, and innovations in residential construction offer Hawaiians specific cost-saving advantages when it comes to new home construction. Wondering if you can save money and create the perfect home? Here’s a few things to consider:


  • Builders and architects are increasingly aware that bigger homes are not always better. Recent trends in home design focus on utilizing space efficiently and creating spaces that are both beautiful and functional despite their smaller size. In places like Hawaii, where real estate comes at a premium cost, it might be less expensive to build a smaller home rather than trying to update and remodel a larger, older residence.
  • Freedom to use the best materials with the lowest cost. Some of the latest building materials are higher quality and less expensive, and when sourced locally, might be available at a builder’s discount. Whether you incorporate reclaimed lumber or opt for high-quality synthetic flooring, building a new home gives you the freedom to use the best products with the best value, a great alternative to trying to match or replace the potentially expensive materials used in an existing home.
  • New homes are more energy efficient than ever before. From design plans that facilitate airflow to keep homes cooler to solar technology and eco-friendly water systems, building a home means incorporating “green” home features directly into your design plans instead of attempting to incorporate them retroactively. While this may increase the upfront cost of construction, the long-term financial savings are considerable.
  • Everything works. Building a new home means never being forced to replace an old roof or faulty plumbing three months after signing the closing papers. All the “surprises” of home ownership are eliminated, and many builders now offer long-term warranties to replace or repair your new home at no additional cost.

If you’re ready to start the process of building a new home (and potentially save money doing so,) contact us today to connect with the best architects, draftsmen, and contractors in your area.

Building a New Home? Three Things Homeowners Wish They’d Done Differently

Building a new home involves careful planning and the ability to make several long-term choices in a relatively short amount of time. But with so many decisions regarding design, construction, and budget, it’s easy to get overwhelmed!

So before you build, take time to talk with people who’ve experienced the home-building process and ask them what they love about their new home and what they’d do differently next time. Until then, let us help! After years of experience working with new homeowners, contractors, interior designers, and architects, here’s what most homeowners wish they’d done differently while building their new home.

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  • Add the extra closet: If you are building a home that’s larger than your current residence, it’s easy to think that increasing square footage alone will give you enough space for all your stuff. But don’t forget to thing long-term and consider the needs of each individual living in the home. Do you need a designated space to store recreational gear? Do you have enough room to store extra bedding and bulk items? Most homeowners wish they had added the extra closet in the guest room or sacrificed a little more space in the master for a double walk-in closet.
  • Let there be (natural) light: Beware of design plans that include windowless rooms. You might think windows in a play or storage room are unnecessary, but years after finishing their home, many homeowners wish they’d spent more time ensuring the utilitarian spaces in their home were enjoyable and aesthetically pleasing. After all, you don’t think you need a window in the laundry room until you’ve spent hours washing newborn clothing or your son’s soccer gear. Make sure each room in your home is somewhere you’ll enjoy spending time.
  • Save on bathrooms, spend on the kitchen: Do you really need (or want to clean) four full-sized bathrooms? Downsizing to a half-bath when convenient can save money and resources that are better spent on spaces that get used more often. Skip adding a jetting tub to the guest bathroom and use the money to design a high-end kitchen that will increase home value and add functionality to your home.

Ready to work with talented professionals in designing and building a new home? Contact us today for information on project estimates and finding the best experts in your area.

Building an ADU? Three Things You Need to Know

It’s been almost a year since our first post on the difference between Ohana and Accessory Dwelling Units.  Given that ADU construction remains one of the most common residential construction projects in Hawaii, we thought it was time to follow-up with more information for homeowners considering the ADU process.  Here are three things you should know about building an ADU:

  • There are very specific regulations regarding ADU construction in Hawaii. You can read the entire Bill legalizing ADU’s online, but the knowing the basics is a great start. In order to build an ADU, your lot must be zoned in a residential or country district, and be at least 3,500 square feet.  ADU’s can only be built on properties with a pre-existing single-family residence, and the owner must provide an additional parking space and road access for ADU residents. Furthermore, the property owner or family member must continue to live on the property, and must lease or rent the ADU for increments of at least six months. Lastly, ADU’s are intended to be small-scale residential builds. For a 3,500 square foot property, the ADU cannot exceed 400 square feet- or 800 for lots with a square footage of 5,000 or more.


  • ADU’s can serve multiple purposes, so it is important to design the residence in a way that fits your needs. An ADU designed for a series of long-term renters (remember, the minimum lease period is six months,) will have different requirements than a home designed for multigenerational family use. While some renters might love sleeping in a loft-style master bedroom, you may need a different floor plan to accommodate grandparents or families with small children.


  • You still benefit from working with professionals. Despite its small size, an ADU is still a major home construction project. Working with an architect and contractor may seem like an unusual investment for a 400-square-foot home, but working with an expert can save you money: the right architect will help you create an energy efficient home built with materials that are both durable and cost-efficient. And since smaller home designs come with unique challenges in terms of electrical, plumbing, and utilities maintenance, finding a good contractor will ensure that your ADU maintains its value as a residence and potential secondary income.

Ready to find the architects and professionals you need to design and build your Accessory Dwelling Unit? Want more information on how much an ADU will cost? Contact us today for assistance in locating the right professionals in your area. You can also use our free online project estimator to help you begin the budgeting process. Happy building!

Tips for Building a Perfect Beach House

Getting ready to build the perfect beach house? Whether you intend to use your seaside property as a vacation getaway or a permanent residence, you’ll love these tips for making your new space both functional and beautiful. From best materials to ideal floorplans, here are three go-to tips for beach home building!

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  • Prioritize open space: Coming inside after a day at the beach doesn’t mean you should sacrifice gorgeous views and ocean breezes. Consider making central living spaces compatible for both indoor and outdoor living with sliding doors, big windows, and adjustable awnings that protect your home on rainy days. If you love hosting dinner parties and entertaining, talk to your designer or architect about incorporating an outdoor kitchen and dining area. Regardless of your lifestyle, remember that the layout of a beach front home might be different than traditional floor plans, especially if you intend to rent your space to vacationers who won’t need as much storage space but will certainly appreciate a great view.
  • Use the right materials: Coastal homes often endure high winds, intense rainy seasons, and are at a higher risk for salt and water damage. Make sure your home lasts for generations by making sure it is built using the best materials for the climate. Corrosion-resistant materials like concrete and steel will help keep your new house durable. Metal roofing is less likely to suffer from water damage or mildew, and can help keep your home cooler during the summer. Though these materials may add to your initial budget, you’ll be able to enjoy a stress-free environment without costly repairs in the future.
  • Choose the right professionals with experience in building beach-front properties. An experienced architect, contractor, and builder will know the best ways to protect your home from the elements, already understand the unique laws and building codes prevalent in coastal construction, and can help you design a home that is both utilitarian and aesthetically pleasing. Wondering how to find the best architect or builder? At Home Planning Hawaii, we offer free services in matching you with the best team for your project. Contact us today to get started!

Why Build Green?

Everyone knows that “green” or sustainable building is good for the environment. But there are long-term benefits for new homeowners as well! As you work with architects and contractors to create your new home, remember that environmentally friendly construction not only protects the planet, it can help protect your budget, your health, and the longevity of your home. Ready to build a dream green home? Here are three advantages you should know about!


• Green homes are healthier. Environmentally friendly construction focuses on using natural materials that release fewer toxins into the air. Furthermore, conventional home designs often limit ventilation within the home, creating enclosed spaces that are highly susceptible to developing toxic mold and mildew. Architects skilled in green design use the layout of the home to create natural airways that keep air moving and prevent these dangerous issues. In Hawaii’s humid tropical climate, going green doesn’t just help us keep our island beautiful, it helps you and your family stay healthy as well.

• Going green reduces your long-term living costs. So often, new home builders see the cost of green materials and environmentally friendly technology and wonder how they can afford to build sustainably. But protecting the environment doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing your budget or aesthetic design. Especially with a new build, it is relatively easy to incorporate environmentally friendly elements into your home from the very beginning. From solar technology that eliminates your electrical bill, innovative water conservation methods, and utilizing your home’s natural lighting and layout to reduce the need for high-energy heating and cooling systems, building green can significantly lower your cost of living. Additionally, a well-designed home should require fewer materials and resources since green materials are often of a higher-quality and more durable.

• Sustainable homes are economically valuable. With energy costs always rising, the easy maintenance, durability, and low operating cost of a green home results in increased property values. Higher value homes attract lucrative businesses, high-quality schools, and improve general infrastructure throughout the community. By building environmentally friendly homes, you create a higher standard of living for both you and your neighbors.

Looking for the best architects and contractors to discuss sustainable architecture? Contact us today to find the professionals best suited to helping you build your dream home.

From Wish-List to Reality: Design/Build vs. Design-Bid-Build

Building a home involves learning a new language, and interpreting all the terminology used by designers and contractors can feel daunting. Two phrases you should know right away? The difference between the most common construction methods used in residential building, Design/Build and Design-Bid-Build. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of both options will help you go from hypothetical wish-list to stepping into a new home with minimal delay or additional costs.


Design/Build (DB)

The future homeowner hires a single entity, the design/builder, to design and build the home under a single contract.

Why this works for you…

  • Construction cost is predetermined, and since the designer and builder are working in tandem, the owner is guaranteed a finished product within their anticipated budget.
  • Preliminary construction begins as the designs are finalized, allowing projects to be completed quickly and efficiently.
  • The DB entity maintains financial responsibility for all design and construction risks, and requires less resources from the owner.
  • Research indicates that projects completed under a DB contract are typically less expensive, are completed on schedule, and experience fewer design-related complications.

Sounds ideal, right? The Design/Build method is an effective and streamlined procedure that poses little risk for the homeowner. A potential disadvantage to the Design/Build model is the lack of owner control and design input, with little room for modification once the plans are finalized. These are downsides that may be resolved with a Design-Bid-Build contract.

Design-Bid-Build (DBB)

If you want to play a key role in creating your home, the Design-Bid-Build route may be a better choice. In this scenario, the owner signs separate contracts with a designer and contractor.

Why this works for you…

  • After the home design is completed, the owner solicits bids from independent contractors. Competition for a new-build contract can potentially lower the price of your project.
  • Owner maintains control over design and construction quality, ensuring the use of high-quality materials in a home customized to individual preferences.
  • Implementation of design plans is usually quick and simplified without the need for excess collaboration between designer and builder.

One critical element of the DBB method: the owner maintains sole financial responsibility for the project, and bears all risk associated with the construction process. If a potentially high-risk design plan cannot be built, the owner must pay for design and construction modifications. However, if you can comfortably maintain the resources necessary to oversee a DBB construction cycle, the autonomy granted in this process far outweighs that of a DB project.

Regardless of which method you choose, good contractors and designers will happily work with you to make sure you understand unfamiliar terms or concepts. At Home Planning Hawaii, we are dedicated to not only helping you become fluent in the language of home building, but assisting you in finding the best team to make your new home wish-list a reality. Contact us today for a free project estimate, or more information on the best home construction method for you.

It Starts with a Wish: Making your Dream Home a Reality

When it comes to building a  home, careful planning is crucial in ensuring your new home meets your needs. That means approaching potential designers and/or builders with a wish-list communicating all the features you want in your new space. While dreaming up your perfect breakfast nook or loft bedroom is a fun part of this process, it’s also important to consider the less glamorous aspects of home-building: is your new home environmentally sustainable? Are you planning to stay long-term? Should you compromise on your loft to make room for a mother-in-law suite?

wish list

With all the decisions facing new home buyers, making a wish-list can feel intimidating. Here’s some suggestions on organizing your thoughts in a way that works for you and your designer.

  • Write down everything you love about your current home. What works right now? Do you love the open layout and want to recreate something similar? Now make a list of everything you’d like to change. Maybe you need more pantry space in your kitchen, or want electrical outlets hidden in the bathroom. Figuring out what makes your current home “almost perfect” but “not-quite-dream-home” will help your designer create a space customized to you.
  • Talk to friends and neighbors who built their home at least one year ago, and ask them what they love about their new space. Was the extra bathroom worth it? What features do they wish they could add now and what “extras” turned out to be unnecessary? From layout to fixtures, it’s great to talk to people currently living in their former “wish-lists.”
  • Be realistic about your budget. You don’t have to know the exact price of every feature or exactly how much it will cost to fully finish the attic. But you should develop a general idea for what is reasonable based on your income, down payment, and the value of nearby properties. If you don’t know this information already, do your homework before meeting with a designer and builder. This is a great time to really reflect and prioritize which parts of your home deserve the “wish- list effect.” If you spend all your time in the kitchen, prioritize those wants over an in-home theater or luxury bath.

Once you’ve made your list, finding the right combination of designer and builder will help you feel confident in building a home that functions well and epitomizes the very best of your wish-list. Contact us today for help in starting the design process!


Three Steps to Understanding Shoreline Building

Building or renovating beachfront properties in Hawaii comes with a unique set of challenges and opportunities. Creating your dream home while protecting the natural beauty of the islands can be difficult, but it is also a chance to build creatively and leave a positive impact on the community. Considering building near the coastline? Here’s our go-to checklist for making the process easier and more convenient.


Step One: Know your land

  • The state of Hawaii classifies all land into four categories: urban, rural, agricultural, and conservation. In most cases, oceanside land is considered conservation property and is subject to additional regulations. Building on conservation land will almost always require a special permit, and often an additional environmental impact assessment through the state. Make sure you, your architect, and your builder are familiar with these regulations and budget both your time and finances accordingly.
  • All Hawaiian beaches are considered public property, which means your building plans will need to accommodate for beach access. Whether preserving a shoreline trail for pedestrians or maintaining a road for vehicular access, be prepared to share your ocean views with the community.

Step Two: Know the basics

Ready to design your dream home? Understanding the ground rules for building a shoreline residence will help you and your architect make the best use of your property. A few things to consider:

  • All new structures must be set back at least 40 feet from the vegetation line or cliff top.
  • Your beachside property most likely falls under dual zoning regulations: urban/residential and conservation. This means you can build a new home on the property, but cannot alter and land deemed a conservation zone, including removing view-blocking trees.
  • Renovating an older home? Older homes may be considered “legal nonconforming” structures, meaning they were built before existing regulations. But any major remodeling will require you to meet today’s standards, rendering some of your plans impossible, or outside the original scope of your budget.

Step Three: Know the exceptions

  • Shoreline erosion and conservation is an increasing priority on the islands, and Hawaii is currently creating an Integrated Shoreline Policy to establish common standards in beach conservation. Some of these regulations make building exceptions for new home construction. For instance, while most regulations prohibit seawalls or other shoreline hardening structures, homeowners can construct a seawall once the shoreline reaches within 20 feet of the home.
  • Private erosion-protection structures can also be built if they improve the aesthetics or efficiency of existing structures and do not interfere with public access or existing recreational activities along the shoreline.

Modern Retro: A guide to modern island architecture with roots in Hawaiian history

We’ve talked about the history of Hawaiian architecture before — focusing on traditional designs that offer a sense of timeless elegance to new builds. But if you’re looking more a more adventurous aesthetic, the latest trends in residential architecture incorporate modern styles while paying homage to mid-century modern design. Featuring different materials, clean lines, and lots of light, it might be time to find an architect who specializes in making your home a contemporary work of art.

This trend might work for you if you like…

  • Non-traditional building materials. Expansive glass walls and windows reinforced by steel and concrete are quickly replacing plantation-style homes with exposed wood and craftsman-style detailing. Used correctly, these materials are often more affordable and practical. More importantly, the emphasis on natural light and open space allows home-owners to truly appreciate the Hawaiian landscape. Led by famed Hawaiian architect Vladimir Ossipoff, modern architecture is quickly becoming the standard in residential construction.


  • Modern aesthetics with a connection to Hawaii’s past. This isn’t the first time Hawaiians embraced modern/minimalist building trends. Reimagining the midcentury modern architecture of the 1950’s and 60’s reminds us of key landmarks on the islands, from the Hawaii State Capitol building with its clean lines to the Hilton Resort’s Rainbow Tower at Waikiki Beach. With modern architecture expanding beyond commercial buildings and into residential design, you don’t need to be building a skyscraper or government building to appreciate midcentury modern’s clean-lines and functionality.

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  • Modern aesthetics with a connection to Hawaii’s past. This isn’t the first time Hawaiians embraced modern/minimalist building trends. Reimagining the midcentury modern architecture of the 1950’s and 60’s reminds us of key landmarks on the islands, from the Hawaii State Capitol building with its clean lines to the Hilton Resort’s Rainbow Tower at Waikiki Beach. With modern architecture expanding beyond commercial buildings and into residential design, you don’t need to be building a skyscraper or government building to appreciate midcentury modern’s clean-lines and functionality.

Ready to find the best architect for you? Contact us today to get started!

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