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Building to Beat the Heat

Whether you’re building new or remodeling a current home, summer temperatures have everyone concerned about keeping cool. And while traditional air conditioning methods are effective, they’re also costly and often environmentally unsustainable. Fortunately, good design and updated technology gives homeowners plenty of ways to beat the heat. 

Here’s our tips for staying cool this summer…

Create a cross-breeze: Good air ventilation is key for maintaining indoor air quality as well as maintaining the temperature in your home. While some new homes include a whole-house ventilation system to exhaust stale air and bring in a steady supply of fresh air, existing homeowners can create natural ventilation by opening the windows or doors directly across from each other to allow for a steady cross-breeze. And if you’re working with a designer or architect for your new home, make sure to review the plans to ensure that each room has the window or entry access necessary to promote consistent air flow throughout the home. 

Keep the air moving: Ceiling fans are an effective and cost-efficient way to keep homes cool and keep air moving. In Hawaii, it’s common to install fans throughout the home, as well as in any indoor/outdoor living spaces, just make sure the blades are moving counterclockwise for best results. For additional temperature control, installing an attic fan can help pull in cooler air from the outside while pushing out the hotr air rising from the main floor. 

Make windows and doors multifunctional: During the summer months, much of a home’s heat comes from outdoor sunlight, as well as indoor lighting systems and electrical appliances. Mitigate both these heat sources by installing tinted windows, switching out traditional light bulbs for low-heat LED bulbs, and upgrading your appliances to energy-efficient alternatives whenever possible.

Be smart with air conditioning: For both new or existing homes, opt for a smart air-conditioning system than only runs when the house reaches a certain temperature, or one that can be programmed to automatically turn on during peak hours and off during the evening and when you’re away from home. Looking to cool down, fast? Avoid lowering the temperature on the AC as a quick fix. Turning on a fan or opening a window is a faster and less costly way to reduce the temperature in the room. 

As we find ourselves spending more time at home, discovering new ways to stay cool and comfortable are more important than ever. For both remodels and new home construction, Home Planning Hawaii is the perfect resource for connecting you with the construction experts you need to make your home an oasis from the heat. Contact us to start making connections or plans, or use our free online estimator to start calculating the budget for your next project. 

Modern Design Elements Perfect for Hawaiian Homes

Not all housing and design trends work for Hawaiian homes. Unlike the residential construction on the mainland, our unique circumstances— including limited space, higher construction costs, and concern for environmental impact— all make building a home in Hawaii a truly distinct experience.

But there are a few current design elements that give homeowners the best of both worlds: the latest in contemporary design and a Hawaiian dream home that’s both functional and beautiful.

Ready to learn more? Here’s a few of our favorite modern/contemporary design elements perfect for Hawaiian living…

Modern Minimalist design: Seen as a natural response to years of “over the top” home trends that now feel stuffy and outdated, minimalism is making a comeback. And architects are embracing a “less is more” approach, focusing on making the most of each room and building homes that prioritize simplicity and function.

Why it works for Hawaiian homes: Most homeowners are working with limited square footage, so a minimalist design that relies on multipurpose and “flex” space is the perfect way to build a smaller space with intention.

Innovative windows and doors: Modern design is all about larger than life windows and doors, but that means devising smart solutions for privacy and climate control. From ceiling screens to retractable door and window panels, non-traditional window and door designs allow for lots of natural light without sacrificing style or security.

Why it works for Hawaiian homes: Older homes on the islands cost a small fortune to cool during the summer, especially if they don’t have an open layout and plenty of ventilation. Large-scale windows and doors can create a natural breezeway, while built-in screens and panels can provide much-needed shade during the warmest parts of the day.

Sustainable landscaping: Don’t forget the curb appeal. Minimalist and environmentally-friendly landscaping uses indigenous plants and building materials to create beautiful gardens and outdoor living spaces.

Why it works for Hawaiian homes: Smart landscaping design can help preserve water through efficient irrigation, rainwater storage, and native plant growth—which means your space can be beautiful without being high maintenance.

Modern design trends breathe new life into residential architecture, and we’re here to help you find the architects, designers, and contractors that can incorporate the best contemporary designs into your Hawaiian home. Contact us today for more information, or get started on your budget with our free online estimator.

Embracing Lanai Living

Temperatures are on the rise, which means it’s time to find the shade, sit back, and enjoy Hawaii from the comfort of your favorite outdoor living spaces. Welcome to Lanai living season.

While many traditional Hawaiian home designs incorporate the Lanai—a partially enclosed porch directly connected to the indoor living space—anyone can embrace the spirit Lanai living with a few simple modifications to your deck, patio, or balcony.

What makes a Lanai different from other outdoor living spaces? Lanai’s are specifically designed to allow residents to enjoy outdoor living spaces regardless of the time of year. This means they include a roof with an extended overhang to deflect rain, are often fully or partially screened, and may incorporate shade panels that can opened, closed, or otherwise moved depending on the time of day.

To facilitate indoor/outdoor living as much as possible, a traditional Lanai is often attached to a communal indoor living space, such as the kitchen, dining room, or living room. Sliding doors or bifold panels allow residents to close off access to the Lanai when needed, but for the most part, the Lanai space is fully incorporated as part of the home.

In addition to providing more useable square footage, the Lanai is a reflection of key Hawaiian social values, including spending time with family, (especially in multigenerational households) and appreciating the beauty of the outdoors.

Looking to embrace Lanai living in your own home? Whether you’re improving an existing Lanai, modifying a deck or patio, or simply trying to make a balcony more inviting, here’s how to make the most of this uniquely Hawaiian tradition.

For homes with an existing Lanai:

*Make sure access between indoor and outdoor spaces is as seamless as possible by installing high-quality glass sliding doors or easily collapsible folding doors.

*Provide full accessibility to all family members. If possible, avoid a step-down or step-up entrance and make the Lanai level with the floor of the home. In some cases, this is a larger project requiring you to build-up the original flooring. If that is not immediately feasible, consider installing a temporary ramp and handrail so everyone can freely enjoy the space.

*Provide plenty of seating and storage options, and arrange your furniture as an extension of the indoor seating and dining area so that family and friends are encouraged to move between both spaces.

For homes with a deck, patio, or other outdoor space.

*Create overhead covering that can provide both shade and rain cover. Depending on your budget, this can include creating an extension to your roofline, building a pergola or other covered structure, or installing a retractable awning.

*For partially covered porches, invest in high-quality screening that can protect against both insects and dust.

*Maintain consistent temperatures between the interior and outdoor spaces by installing ceiling fans or electric air curtains.

Creating a dedicated space to enjoy family and nature is the perfect way to celebrate an integral part of Hawaiian architecture. Need help building or replacing a Lanai? Contact us today for a free estimate and help finding the right professional for your project. And remember to stay cool, safe, and happy this summer!

How to Reduce the Cost of Building a New Home

Think you could never afford to build a new home in Hawaii? While residential construction costs are higher than on the mainland, there are ways of reducing costs without sacrificing style, function, and quality. From building small but smart to utilizing the best sustainable technology, here’s our got-to tips for reducing your residential construction costs…

*Reduce unnecessary square footage: Hawaii’s high construction costs make smaller homes a financial necessity for most people, so look for ways to consolidate your design plans to save money. Remember, most traditional floorplans include unnecessary rooms like formal dining spaces, large entryways, or delegated “office” or recreation space.

*Pick a builder-generated design: Yes, it’s tempting to build a truly custom-built home using one-of-a-kind plans, but consider resisting the temptation in the name of affordability. Many builders offer a variety of stock building plans with upgrade or customization options based on your budget, and you can always personalize your home with through interior design and landscaping.

*Build now, upgrade later: Wonder where you’ll spend most of your construction budget? It shouldn’t surprise you that kitchens and bathrooms cost significantly more than a standard bedroom or living room. Fortunately, you can save money by choosing appliances and fixtures that can be upgraded later, just make sure your standard appliances are near enough in size to your desired future upgrades to avoid added remodeling costs.

*Go Green: Save money now and long-term with energy efficient appliances, HVAC systems, and solar-power. Expanded options in green technology mean you can often find high-quality energy efficient options at a similar price point to traditional systems, so you can maintain your budget now and save on energy costs later.

*Keep it Simple: If you do decide to build with custom plans, remember that simple designs are often easier and less expensive to build—so avoid excessive exterior decoration, arches and curved walls, custom window or doorway sizes, and multi-level rooflines.

*Avoid last-minute changes: Your best money-saving strategy is avoiding the desire to make last-minute changes to your plans. Offers for upgrades or higher-end materials may seem insignificant at first, but they all add up quickly, so stick as closely as you can to your original design.

While there are multiple options for saving money on a new home, there are some aspects of home construction where your budget should accommodate for quality. One of those areas is hiring an experiencing contractor, architect, and designer who can create well-organized designed plans that don’t sacrifice quality for budget. High-quality plans not only provide functional designs, they prevent costly mistakes and help you stay on budget.

Need help starting the financial planning process? Check out our free online estimator to get an idea of how much you’ll need to save in order to make your dream home a reality. And when it comes to finding the best professionals to work within your budget, we’re here to help. We’re Hawaii’s premiere resource for both residential design and construction needs, and we’re just a phone call or click away.

Common Mistakes to Avoid when Applying for a Building Permit

Note: In response to COVID-19, the Department of Planning and Permitting is currently not conducting any in-person meetings or appointments. Meetings via video conferencing are available as needed. Fortunately, the building permit application and review process is all completed online through ePlans.

Navigating Honolulu’s permitting process for new construction is a complicated endeavor. While the application process is designed to ensure that all new homes are built safely and help preserve Hawaii’s natural resources and beauty, it can be intimidating to navigate the process for the first time. Fortunately, you can avoid delays and expedite the permitting process by avoiding these common mistakes:

Skipping the first step! Before you apply for a building permit, you must first complete an IBP (Internet Building Permit) application. This form provides you with the application number needed to submit your plans through the ePlans program.

Once you’ve submitted your IBP, a project will automatically be generated in the ePlans program, and you can begin preparing your electronic plans for review.

Mistakes to avoid when preparing electronic plans…

Disregarding the Residential Building Permit Plan Format Checklist provided by the Department of Planning and Permitting: As part of the If you submit plans that are not in accordance with this checklist, your permit application will be returned without review.

Using an alternate naming and filing system than the one provided by the DPP: The Department of Planning and Permitting uses a standardized naming and numbering system and provides guidelines for all ePlans submissions. Your plans will not be reviewed and a permit will not be issued if you or your architect/contractor use an alternate system.

After submitting your permit application online, receiving a permit application number, and preparing your electronic plans, you can log on to ePlans and upload your documents for review. Make sure to click the Upload Complete-Notify DPP button at the end of this process.

At this point, your plans will enter the pre-screening process. If your plans meet all the requirements, they will enter the plan review stage. If corrections are needed, your plans will be returned and you will need to upload corrected plans for an additional pre-screening.

Preventing delays when submitting pre-screening corrections…

Do not rename your revised or corrected files when re-submitting them again for pre-screening. Renaming files will disrupt the version review process in the ePlans program and cause unnecessary delays.

Once you have re-submitted your corrected plans, make sure to check the box stating “I have uploaded the corrected documents and/or drawings as indicated above” AND click the “Return to DPP” box at the bottom of the page. The DPP will not be notified of your resubmission until both these steps are completed.

Want to make sure your building permit is approved as quickly as possible? We can help. Check out our online Permit Process Resource Guide, and contact us for help finding a third-party review agency to provide a stress-free application and review process. Happy planning!

Tips for Working Remotely with an Interior Designer

Ready to design (or redesign!) your home but concerned about working remotely with an interior designer? While current safety measures advise against in-person consultations, advances in technology, online resources, and a little ingenuity mean that working remotely doesn’t mean sacrificing quality results. Here’s our tips for navigating the process…

Seek out experience: Many interior designers are accustomed to remote work, especially if they offer their services outside Hawaii. This means they are already prepared with the technology, resources, and professional network to make your design dreams a reality —all from a safe distance. When seeking out referrals and recommendations, ask for professionals with a reputation for successful remote work, and who are willing to share their portfolio and expertise with potential clients.

Utilize technology: Traditionally, interior designers might take clients to various showrooms, retail locations, and past work sites in order to establish an effective design plan. Since many of those resources are currently unavailable, it’s up to you and your designer to incorporate technology to share images, products, and plans. Whether it’s a shared Pinterest board, Google Doc, or video app, find a way for you and your designer to share and collaborate visually.

Communication is key: Clear communication is a vital part of any home design project, and that’s especially true with a remote project. During your initial consultation, make sure to discuss expectations, scheduling, and preferred means of communication with your interior designer. Do you expect weekly updates or something every few days? Want a call or text to double-check and finalize big purchases? Whatever your communication style might be, make sure it’s compatible with your interior designer, and that both parties agree on the expectations.

Plan ahead: Once you’ve chosen a designer, discuss how any construction, repair, or other in-person work can be accomplished while still observing social-distancing and public health regulations. In some cases, some aspects of your project may be postponed until normal industry practices are re-instated, so develop contingency plans when necessary. For example, you may intend to hire professionals to install a statement wall made from unique materials, but in the interim, a new DIY paint job can still transform your space and pull the overall design together. Be patient and remember that for now, the overall safety of our community is the best design choice you can make.

Some assembly required: Many interior designers offer their remote services at a lower cost than on-site work. That’s because part of a traditional contract includes sourcing, buying, delivering, and installing each design element from start to finish— things that cannot be done remotely, but can be done by homeowners engaged in the design process. So while the thought of working remotely might seem intimidating at first, you might be able to save money if you’re willing to be an active participant in creating your new space.

Whether it’s planning for a future design project or making the finishing touches on an in-progress renovation, we’re here to help you find the right professionals capable of working both remotely and creatively. Contact us today for help getting started on your next project!

5 Quick Home Improvement Projects you Can do Safely at Home

Whether you’re looking to sell your home in the future or just want to spruce-up your current space, now is a great time to tackle basic home improvement projects while staying safe at home. By getting a little creative and using supplies already on hand, you can easily transform your home and garden into a space you’ll love.

1. Start by deep cleaning your vent covers and your baseboards. Heating and cooling vent covers gather lots of dust and grime over time, especially if you haven’t turned on your air conditioner during the cooler months. Before you blast the AC, make sure you aren’t blowing dust and allergens throughout your home by vacuuming vents with a small brush attachment or wiping each vent with a dry microfiber cloth.

Added bonus: this will make your heating and cooling systems more efficient, which saves you money long-term. While you’re in the deep cleaning zone, wipe down or vacuum your baseboards and crown molding as well—we promise you’ll notice a big difference once you’re done.

2. Got artwork and shelving lined up against the wall or in a back closet? There’s never been a better time to create a gallery wall or install that extra shelving in your kitchen. Need a practice-run before committing to hanging up a larger piece or grouped display? Cut craft paper (or old newspapers, wrapping paper, or other packaging) into the same dimensions as your art and use painter’s tape to try out various groupings and heights before you install the real stuff—it’s the perfect method for hanging art while saving your walls and your sanity.

3. Now that you’re spending lots of time at home, all the scratches, dings, and signs of wear on your walls might be much more noticeable. Dig out the spare paint you’ve been storing for years and repair and repaint the damaged spots throughout your home. You’ll be surprised how much better (and newer!) your home looks after just a few quick fixes. And if you’re looking for an even bigger transformation, use the leftover paint from one room to create a coordinating accent wall in another space. There’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint to liven things up without spending a lot of money or time.

4. Enjoy Hawaii’s amazing weather at home by spending time in the garden. Weed and clean out garden beds, prune stray branches from your trees, and repair any garden walls or fences if possible. Even if you can’t plant anything new, you’re doing the necessary work to prepare your yard for future landscaping and increasing your curb appeal. It’s a win-win.

5. Upcycle or repair old furniture. Weather it’s a simple project like sewing new covers for the throw pillows on your couch, fixing the curtains you’ve been meaning to alter for months, or refinishing the kitchen table, you can give your space a mini make-over just by repairing or repurposing the things you already own. New to furniture repair or without a sewing machine? Consider rearranging the future, swapping in pieces from other spaces, or simply swapping out the photos in your frames for updated versions.

We hope you enjoy these easy tips for updating your home without leaving the house. While we look forward to helping you build or remodel your home in the future, we appreciate everyone working hard to keep everyone healthy and safe— from the essential workers and healthcare professionals on the frontlines to our clients, neighbors, and friends spending time at home to maintain the well-being of our community. We’ll see you in the brighter days ahead!

The Best Online Home Design Resources

Dreaming of building a new home, rebuilding your current place, or just remodeling your master bathroom? With Honolulu’s current shelter-in place-order still in effect, many new construction projects are on hold in order to keep Hawaiians healthy and safe. Fortunately, you can still make progress on planning your next construction project from the comfort of your own home. There’s never been more online resources available to help homeowners make design decisions, so now is the perfect time to get comfortable and bring your dreams a little closer to reality. From finding the perfect paint color to calculating your budget, here’s our favorite (free!) online resources for home planning and design.

Floorplanner: Developed by a team of architects and engineers, Floorplanner makes creating your own floorplans easy—with no expensive software or plugins required, since it works through any browser on your home computer. Draw your own original plans or modify existing ones, and then decorate your virtual space to see how your new sofa will fit in your future remodeled living room. While it doesn’t replace professionally rendered plans from an architect or designer, it’s a great way to help your building professionals understand your vision, plus it’s incredibly fun.

ColorSmart by Behr Paints: We’ve all had the unfortunate experience of repainting a room only to realize the color in the can looks nothing like the color on your walls, especially during certain times of the day or when the lighting changes. Prevent future color mishaps with Behr’s color-testing program that allows you to upload photos of your home and digitally test out paint colors and adjust the light based on time of day.

Got a preferred paint brand? Most major paint suppliers like Sherwin Williams, Glidden, and Benjamin Moore offer similar color visualizers, so spend the afternoon finding your perfect shade— all without leaving the house.

Floorvana by Shaw Floors: This online tool helps you find the perfect flooring for every room in the house, whether you’re planning to build a new home in the future or hope to update an existing space. Just like the paint color visualizers, you can upload photos of a room in order to “test” out different flooring styles, and you can create custom design palettes to help coordinate different flooring options throughout the entire house. From hardwood to laminate to carpeting, Floorvana has it all.

Reece 3D Bathroom Planner: A dream home requires a dream master bath, preferably one that looks straight out of a high-end spa. Whether you want to design an entirely new en suite from scratch, browse pre-designed bathrooms for inspiration, or check out the latest products in bath and shower, it’s all possible through Reece’s site. There’s even a help page with pointers to help you get started.

Instant Online Estimator: Trying to calculate your budget for an upcoming remodel or new home can be difficult. We help you get started with our free online estimator. Simply choose your project type and follow our guided questionnaire regarding project size, level of overall finish (anything from economy to high-end,) and architectural style. Whether it’s a kitchen remodel or a brand-new custom-designed home, we’ll provide an idea of how much you’ll need to spend to make your dream home a reality.

We hope you continue to stay safe while spending time at home. We’re here to answer any questions you may have about Hawaii’s ever-changing construction industry, connect you to building professionals capable of offering their services remotely or via teleconference, and helping you start budgeting for your future home. Contact us via our website or by phone to get started.

Navigating Residential Construction During COVID-19

Like the rest of the United States, Honolulu recently adopted new policies and regulations designed to stop the spread of COVID-19. On March 26, Governor David Ige and Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced stay-at-home and work-from-home restrictions through April 30, allowing only “essential” services to continue working on-site.

For the time being, construction work is still considered an essential service, and remains one of the few industries experiencing growth as businesses and homeowners try and finish projects as quickly and safely as possible, and local governments boost public works projects to offset economic losses in other sectors.

If you’re currently in the process of building or renovating your home, work on your project is most likely still feasible and safe to continue, especially for smaller projects requiring a limited number of people and on sites where workers are able to work at a safe distance apart. However, adaptations are sometimes necessary— especially when it comes to the permitting process or meetings with contractors or designers.

To help you navigate these unique scenarios, here’s what to be aware of as you begin or continue your construction projects in the immediate future:

  • The Department of Planning and Permitting will still allow residents to pick-up, drop-off, and pay for permits, but documents must be paid for via check or credit card only. Since interaction with the staff will be limited, it’s important to remember that many of the necessary documents for obtaining a building permit are available online, and can be submitted online as well.
  • Meetings and appointments through the DPP will be conducted via email, teleconference, and telephone. However, site inspections will continue and building permits will still be issued during this time.
  • If you are hoping to expedite the permitting process, consider hiring a third-party reviewer to make sure your building plans adhere to state codes. Third-party reviewers also oversee the acquisition and processing of all necessary permits for your project, and can negotiate on your behalf regarding any proposed changes or corrections to your plans. While it’s always a good idea to have an expert on your side when applying for a building permit, it’s especially wise during this time of limited communication and longer waiting periods.
  • For homeowners caught in the middle of your construction project, it’s still important to communicate regularly with your contractor and architect. Ask for video-tours of your site regularly and request routine photo updates to document progress.
  • Now is a great time to start working with an architect or designer on future projects. Architects and designers can often work remotely so you can start the design process from home while securing any necessary financial loans while interest rates are low.
  • If the current recommendations to stay at home and limit interactions with others has you considering multigenerational living, an ADU might be the perfect addition to your existing home. Start the application process now since ADU permitting fees will be re-instated as of July 1, 2020.

We hope you and your loved ones stay healthy and safe during this difficult time. We know that many companies and small businesses are struggling and we want to support local industries as much as possible. That’s why we’re proud to offer the most comprehensive resource available for finding Honolulu’s best contractors, designers, architects, or third-party review agencies.  Contact us today and let us know how we can keep your current and future construction projects on schedule and stress-free.

Is an Ohana Unit Right for You?

If you’re preparing for a transition to a multigenerational living arrangement this year, you might need to adapt your home to accommodate the needs of multiple families living under one roof. Whether it’s aging parents, adult children, or grandchildren moving into your home, you’ll need to create a space that’s both welcoming and functional.

Fortunately, Hawaiian families and governing bodies are well-acquainted with the concept of multigenerational living—as evidenced by the increasing number of home construction ordinances designed to help families reduce housing costs by combining resources and space. From ADUs to Ohana Units, Hawaii is rapidly becoming increasingly multigenerational family-friendly.

Recent changes to the regulations regarding Ohana Units make remodeling your home easier than ever. Unlike an ADU, an Ohana unit does not require separate kitchen and bathroom facilities. Instead, Ohana Units only require the installation of a wet bar or kitchenette, but must be attached to the existing home on the property. And as of 2019, 500 square foot Ohana Units can now be built on lots under 7,500, and properties over 7,500 square feet are allowed two additional units, making more homes eligible for multigenerational remodeling projects.

In order to get the required building permit for an Ohana Unit addition or remodel, homeowners will need to submit their construction plans for approval, as well as file a restrictive covenant indicating that the new space will only be occupied by family members, and that future owners will adhere to the covenant as well. Once you’ve secured your permit, it’s time to consider the essential requirements of your multigenerational family, and how your home can adapt to those needs. Here’s a few things to consider:

* Many families prefer to create a separate entrance for each family unit, which provides a sense of privacy and autonomy to all members. For aging parents or individuals with special needs, make sure at least one entrance remains curbless for easy access.

*Save on construction costs by expanding on existing space—convert a second family room into an en suite bedroom, add a wet bar or kitchenette to an existing laundry room, or transform outdoor living spaces into an indoor common area.

*Keep bedrooms and bathrooms on the main floor, and make at least one bathroom ADA compliant—it’s easier for both grandparents and grandchildren to avoid the stairs, and it improves the resale value of your home.

Multigenerational households save money, enjoy better health, and maintain stronger relationships than traditional households. And with the help of a carefully planned remodeling project, it is possible for each family member to maintain their own space while enjoying the benefits of communal living. If you’re ready to transform your home into an Ohana homestead, contact us today for help finding a draftsman, contractor, architect, or third-party permitting coordinator. Wondering how much your addition might cost? Check out our free online project estimator to get started on your budget.