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Happy Homes: What to do While Waiting to Start Construction

Deciding to build a new home is exciting, and it’s normal to want to go from signing the purchase papers to breaking ground as soon as possible. However, there’s a lot that needs to happen before construction actually begins— including making or finalizing the architectural plans, finding the right contractors and builders, and getting approval for all the necessary building permits. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do while waiting for  building to begin. Here’s three tips to get started… 

Plan to Plan Ahead

Remembering that construction might not begin immediately is a key part of staying sane while waiting for construction to start. And since the permitting process in Honolulu can take months under certain circumstances, it’s a good idea to evaluate your budget to determine if hiring a third-party reviewer is the right choice for you. A licensed third-party reviewer ensures that your building plans comply with state code, and is also responsible for acquiring all the necessary permits in a timely manner, meaning you just  might be able to start building earlier than expected.

Avoid End-of-Project Decision Fatigue 

What to do while waiting for construction to begin? This is the perfect time to start making key design decisions. While the construction industry often refers to things like lighting fixtures, bathroom faucets, ceiling molding, and flooring as “finishes,” you can start making these designs early-on in the construction process. 

This helps prevent decision-fatigue, a common issue for many homeowners, especially when they start to see the light at the end of the construction tunnel. And since building a home involves making hundreds of decisions, making as many as possible in advance is a smart idea. This way, you’ll be able to make decisions based on what you truly want, not what a builder finds most convenient.  You’re also less likely to be talked into expensive and unnecessary upgrades. So while you’re waiting for a permit approval or for the builder to finish the foundation, start considering as many seemingly small decisions as possible—from the grout color for the tiles in the bathroom to the style of baseboards in the master bedroom. 

Shop Smart

Most builders and contractors offer “standard” or “builder-grade” finishes for every project— and even if you’re working with an architect to build a “custom” home, your builder might offer these finishes as part of their contract.  However, just because they are available doesn’t mean they are the best quality or  most affordable option. Spend time during the initial construction process comparison shopping to make sure you get the highest quality for your budget. From appliances to countertops and flooring, a careful shopper can often find higher quality alternatives for a better price. 

If you’re planning on bringing in your own materials or finishes, make sure your contractor is aware and that these options are written into your building contract. Some design firms or building companies only allow homeowners to pick from their own catalog of finishes, so make sure you always retain the right to make the most cost and quality effective decisions for your home. 

The initial home construction process involves a lot of patient waiting. Make the most of this time by planning ahead in order to avoid last-minute decisions. Whether you need a third-party reviewer for managing permitting or an interior designer that always knows where to find the best high-quality finishes, let Home Planning Hawaii help you find the right experts for your project. Contact us today for more info, or use our free online-estimator to get started on your budget. 

Latest Updates for Faster Permitting

Honolulu officials continue to implement new legislation and processes for residential construction, all with the goal of expediting permitting for new builds and renovations. From allowing permit applicants to send their plans to outside agencies for approval to expanding the range of home repairs that don’t require a permit, Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting hopes  that the recent changes will make the permit process more efficient.

Here’s how the most recent updates impact residential construction:

Bill 48, CD1: This ordinance increases the cost threshold for home repairs. As a result, most home repair projects no longer require a building permit. Previously, homeowners were required to obtain a permit for any repair with a projected cost over $1,000. Now that cost is $5,000. According to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, “simple renovation work, such as making bathrooms ADA-compliant by adding grab bars, better lighting and wider doorways, can be done quickly…

and frees DPP staff to concentrate on more complex projects.” 

In addition to the projects mentioned by Mayor Caldwell, these common repairs and renovation projects no longer require a permit:

  • Reroofing work that does not “adversely affect” the structural integrity of the home.
  • Installation of siding to exterior walls that does not change the structural integrity of the home or create a fire hazard.
  • Disconnecting and reconnecting gas piping for repair, service, or replacement. 
  • The construction of retaining walls and planter boxes no larger than 30 inches high.
  • Painting, flooring, cabinet, or countertop installation.
  • Building a shed, storage structure, or playhouse or structure with similar uses. (Note, the structure cannot be more than 120 square feet  and is not allowed to have plumbing work, meaning no bathrooms or stand- alone sinks.)
  • Plumbing work that does not require the replacement or rearrangement of valves, pipes, or fixtures.

New Approval Process: The Department of Planning and Permitting allows contractors, homeowners, and agents to send  permit applications to other city and state agencies for approval. It is now the applicant’s responsibility, not the DPP’s, to gather approvals from other construction-related agencies, including the Fire Department, Board of Water Supply, Department of Health, and Department of Environmental Services.

While this change does place added responsibility on individual applicants, said applicants no longer need to wait for their application to be moved internally through each department— a process that often took over four months. Now, the Department of Planning and Permitting will complete the building code and zoning code review upon receiving the plans similar to the outside agencies. The assigned plan reviewer will issue the permit after the applicant has returned the plans with approvals from the outside departments/agencies. 

Although these changes will hopefully allow for a faster permit approval process, homeowners can still benefit from third-party reviewers to ensure that their building plans meet the remaining requirements. And for larger projects that do require a permit, an experienced contractor or architect is a must. Let us make the process simple by connecting you with the right professionals for the job. Contact us today with your permitting questions, or use our free online estimator to get started on the budget for your next project.

Tips for Sustainable Storm Water Management

The City and County of Honolulu recently implemented new storm water management requirements for homeowners hoping to build a new home or remodel an existing structure.  As part of the permitting process, property owners will be required to show their plans for managing storm water runoff, and limit the amount of impervious surfaces found on the property. To help future permit applicants develop sustainable and affordable stormwater management plans, we’ve compiled the following list of suggestions. Happy planning, landscaping, and building!

Landscape for both Form and Function

Intentional landscaping can go a long way in preventing storm water damage, and Hawaii’s tropical climate means utilizing low-maintenance  native plants is both easy and affordable. Create a rain garden by planting high density plants in the areas rainwater typically gathers and consider adding additional trees as well. Not only will the leaves of both trees and shrubbery help divert rain water, but the root systems will help absorb excess water as well. 

Got exposed soil on your property and aren’t ready to landscape? Prevent erosion by adding  mulch or gravel to any uncovered ground as well as in your garden beds. Avoid using plastic or other man-made materials as ground cover, as this can increase your chances of rainwater buildup. A home renovation or new build is also a great time to consider swapping out a traditional lawn or turf for a xeriscaped yard consisting of gravel, pavers, and indigenous plants, since the weak root systems in most grass plants does little to absorb or divert excess water. 

Design Water Smart

Whether you’re remodeling or building a new home, consider installing additional rainwater gutters and drainage systems to your home, including rain barrels or cisterns to catch and collect rain water. This water can then be recycled and used for watering your gardens and yard. Remember to also direct all your water drainage systems toward porous ground away from the home’s foundation and away from any concrete or asphalt surfaces, as this will simply allow the water to pool and could eventually cause structural damage. 

If you’re adding a patio, porch, or lanai space to your property, consider using a porous material that can allow for water absorption. Brick and stone pavers are excellent alternatives to traditional concrete slabs, since the water can drain between each stone. 

Prevent Storm Water Pollution 

Excess storm water can pollute natural waterways if not managed effectively, since standing water can amass chemical deposits in high concentrations. Those pollutants can then enter  natural waterways and cause significant harm. In addition to the steps outlined above, you can help keep our water supply and oceans clean by installing drains or irrigation systems on your property, leveling your property before building a new home, reducing the overall slope of your property with tiered or raised gardens, and by  building a gravel-lined trench at the bottom of any large hills. 

The new storm water requirements adopted by the City and County of Honolulu help keep our homes and waterways safe while adding an additional step to the permitting process for property owners hoping to build or renovate their homes. Let us help take the stress out of the process by connecting you with architects, contractors, and designers experienced in erosion prevention and storm water management. We’ll help keep your home and future construction projects beautiful and functional every day of the year—no matter what surprises the weather brings. 

New Requirements for Storm Water Management

Building or renovating a home in Honolulu? You’ll need to add a Residential Storm Water Management Plan to your building permit application. As of August 18, 2020, the City and County of Honolulu officially enacted the 2012 International Building & Residential Codes, which require property owners to provide plans detailing how they intend to manage future influxes of storm water. 

The new requirements are intended to protect Honolulu’s water quality and the general health of the public. In the past, poor storm water management has polluted the general water supply and caused extensive damage to homes and other structures on the islands. Officially adopting these best management procedures is Honolulu’s attempt to proactively address water management issues for all future building projects.

Here’s the main things to consider as you and your construction team create your storm water plan:

  • The primary goal of all storm water management is to prevent runoff water from congregating and potentially flooding a home or adjacent properties. Reducing the amount of impervious surface on a property helps prevent this water build-up.
  • According to Section R107.5 and  R107.5.1 of the 2012 International Building Code, the amount of impervious surface found on a given property “shall not exceed 75 percent of the total zoning lot area for construction of a one-family or two-family detached dwelling or duplex.” These requirements apply to both new builds and renovations of existing structures
  • Impervious surfaces include concrete, asphalt, and any other continuous watertight pavement or covering. Rooftops, walkways, patios, driveways, parking lots, and storage structures also constitute an impervious surface. 
  • Additionally, any additions or alterations to an existing property that increases the overall floor area of a structure are no longer considered  “Minor Developments.” An Erosion and Sediment Control Plan (ESCP) and accompanying $250 fee is now required. Multiple or two family detached homes on lots exceeding 10,000 square feet will each require their own ESCP and individual fee.
  • While the checklist provided by the City and County of Honolulu addresses all the individual requirements for storm water management, general best practices include the use of landscaping, irrigation, and draining systems designed to divert water away from the home quickly and efficiently. 
  • Property owners are also expected to address how they will manage the use of pesticides and other chemicals on their property in order to prevent excess contamination of the soil. Plans for reducing the overall percentage of  impervious surfaces and replacing them with porous ground cover are also required.

Building a home that’s both beautiful and environmentally responsible is a big undertaking. Make sure you have the best team possible when it comes to design, permitting, and construction. Contact us today and let us help you find the right  professionals for your new build or remodel. We’ll help you build a home that’s ready for anything— from taking the world of home design by storm to keeping the storm water at bay.

Small Space Inspiration

Whether you’re building new or renovating a hidden gem, construction costs in Hawaii continue to rise, making every square foot a valuable, if costly, investment. Which means it’s no surprise that Hawaiian homeowners are mastering the art of small-space living. From small scale ADU and Ohana units that pack a punch in just 400 square feet to single family homes that combine both form and function, smaller scale homes are quickly becoming the standard for residential construction.

And after years of building and renovation for smaller spaces, here’s what experts consider best practice when designing a small home with big potential:

Prioritize the kitchen and communal living spaces: A spacious kitchen is great, but not always realistic. While it’s important to dedicate as much square footage as possible to the kitchen and living areas since they get the most daily use, you don’t need either to be palatial in order to be functional.

Make the most of all the available cabinet space: while designing a new kitchen or remodeling an old one, consider investing in cabinets that extend all the way to the ceiling, and custom angled cabinets for the corners. You can use the higher cabinets to store seasonal or low-use items, and install lazy-susan style turntables in corner shelving for easy access. Built-ins designed specifically to house smaller appliances are also helpful and can keep your limited counter space clear of clutter.

Install a functional kitchen island: island counter spaces aren’t just for food prep anymore. Adding a few extra inches to your island makes it a perfect homework station, informal dining area, and cooking space. If you’re working with an open concept space, consider positioning your island between the kitchen and living room to create a distinction between the two spaces. Need to save even more space? Consider a rolling island with built in storage that can be moved throughout the day for maximum convenience.

Take advantage of furniture and appliances designed for smaller spaces: An oversized refrigerator can overwhelm a smaller kitchen, as can standard sized dishwashers, microwaves, and ovens. Fortunately, appliances now come in a variety of size options, and many can even be stacked on top of one another to preserve space. Likewise, invest in furniture that is either smaller in scale or serves a variety of purposes, like sleeper sofas and storage benches.

Use every inch of space: Add storage under the stairs, in the attic, and open up wall space to create additional built-in storage. Because in Hawaii, there’s no such thing as a too-small house if you’ve got a big imagination.

Ready to make this small space inspiration a reality? Contact us today to get started. We’re here to help you find the skilled architects, contractors, and designers, each one with the experience required for your next island dream home.

Hawaiian Home Traditions that are now “Mainstream”

Hawaiian homes are often a blend of several architectural traditions, drawing inspiration from the pre-mission homes designed for multigenerational living to more contemporary styles made to protect and sustain Hawaii’s unique environment.

Whatever the style, Hawaiian homes are certainly unique. However, mainstream residential architecture is beginning to incorporate several elements of traditional island living into their designs. So next time you check out the latest new builds in your neighborhood or even start working with an architect to design a home of your own, see if you can spot these newly mainstream Hawaiian home traditions…

A Kitchen-centric Indoor/Outdoor Living Space: We talked about the importance of outdoor living spaces in our post about Lanai porches, but many Hawaiian homes take this trend a step further by connecting their kitchen directly to their outdoor living space. And in some homes, a secondary outdoor kitchen is included as well, making the transition from indoor to outdoor cooking and dining practically seamless.

Rainy weather? No problem. In homes that extend the living space off the kitchen, the outdoor space is often covered, and sliding or bi-fold glass doors allow the home to be closed-off when absolutely necessary.

Double Kitchens and Prep Spaces: Multigenerational living is still very common in Hawaii, with grandparents, adult children, and grandchildren all living together and sharing common living spaces. That also means many homes come equipped with both a kitchen and a kitchenette, or a larger kitchen with double stove tops, ovens, and sinks to facilitate multiple families.

Second Entrances and Master Suites: Multigenerational living doesn’t just happen in the kitchen. Homes designed for multiple families often include separate entrances and secondary master suites, allowing each generation a degree of privacy and convenience. And though multigenerational living is slowly on the rise outside of Hawaii, this design is ideal for single family homes as well since the secondary entrance and master bedroom create a perfect opportunity for rental income.

Tiny (Affordable) Homes for All: Hawaii’s policies for ADUs and Ohana Units allow residents to build additional living spaces on their existing property, providing a perfect template for followers of the Tiny House movement when it comes to creating a functional space with limited square footage. The ADU and Ohana movement prove that tiny homes are not just for those hoping to live “off the grid” but a sustainable way to increase affordable housing opportunities within the community.

Gone Green: Hawaiian residential design often leads the sustainable building movement, finding new ways to conserve energy and natural resources so that Hawaii stays beautiful for everyone. Fortunately, these green practices are now becoming standard, and more and more homes are incorporating energy-efficient appliances, solar energy, and rainwater conservation techniques in their design plans.

We love seeing elements of traditional Hawaiian home design incorporated into mainstream residential architecture. And if you’re ready to build your dream space, we’re here to help. Contact us today to get started on finding every member of your team, from architects and designers to contractors and builders. And don’t forget to check out our free online estimator so you can start your project with your end budget in mind.

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.