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2020 Year in Review

2020: an unprecedented year that changed everything—including Hawaii’s construction industry! As we look forward to 2021, we’re looking back on everything we learned the past few months about building a new home: from starting with an empty lot to remodeling a beloved older space with lots of charm.

Whatever your construction plans, here’s a few highlights from 2020 that are perfect for starting the new year (and new construction!) off right. 

Make your Current Home Your Forever Home: All new doesn’t always mean all better. With limited space available for new builds, your existing home might just be your dream home in disguise. Here’s how to transform your space into a forever dream home. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for a Building Permit: Whether it’s a remodel or a new build, you’re going to need a building permit. But the permit application process can be a challenge. Avoid these common mistakes to keep your project on track and on budget. 

How to Reduce the Cost of Building a New Home: Building a home in Hawaii can be expensive, but a carefully planned budget and good project management can make a dream home on the islands possible. 

Tips for Sustainable Storm Water Management :The City of Honolulu introduced new guidelines for storm water management this year. Not only will these guidelines help protect our natural resources, they’ll help keep your home safe as well. Here’s tips for making these guidelines work for you. 

Latest Updates for Faster Permitting: Expedited permit review, and increased cost thresholds for home repairs requiring a building permit make starting your next process a little easier. Check out this post to learn more about when you need a permit, and how to get one faster than ever. 

How Bill 57 Impacts New Construction: Continued efforts to prevent the construction of “Monster Homes” can unintentionally impact homeowners hoping to remodel their homes. This post details how home construction and renovation regulations changed throughout the year. 

Need more information on designing, building, or renovating your home? We’re your go-to source for the latest construction updates on Honolulu as well as  matching homeowners with the best professionals in the industry. Start with our free online-estimator to get started on your budget, and contact us today to get started on anything from getting a building permitting to putting the final touches on your dream home. 

How Bill 57 Impacts New Construction

In May of 2019 the Honolulu City Council passed Bill 79 (Ordinance 19-006), which limited the number of bathrooms allowed in a residence. This ordinance was designed to prevent the construction of illegal rental or vacation units built under the guise of being a single family home.  However, because these limitations were based on property size instead of the size of the home, the ordinance caused unforeseen issues regarding legitimate property development.

For example, properties greater than 10,000 square feet and with a zoning designation permitting  the construction of multiple homes could not be developed— because the ordinance did not allow for sufficient bathrooms in each individual  residence. Additionally, existing property owners on already developed properties were prevented from adding a new bathroom to their home. 

Bill 57 was drafted in order to modify the language of Ordinance 19-006, changing the number of allowable bathrooms to be based on living area instead of on property size. However, in response to concerns raised during  public hearings, the committee made additional revisions to Bill 57 for final approval. 

These additional revisions reduced the number of allowable wet bars from 2 to 1, created a chart to determine the number of bathrooms permitted, and increased property setback requirements from 8 feet to 11 feet if the living space equals 60-70% of the property size. 

Unfortunately, while the additional revisions may limit the construction of oversized “monster homes” it also negatively impacts homeowners hoping to make an addition to their home or rebuild on their property. And since most existing homes in Hawaii are already just 8 feet away from their property line, the increase to 11 feet means many remodel or rebuilding projects won’t qualify for a building permit. 

Lastly, changes were made regarding the temporary certificate of occupancy issued to homeowners after building a new home. These certificates were issued to homeowners to verify that  they had not made any additional changes and that their new home was not being used as a rental or vacation unit. Previously, these were issued one year after the home was completed. Increasing the time to two years acts as a further safeguard against illegal modifications or rentals. 

For most existing homeowners or property-owners intending to start construction on a new home, the requirements in Bill 57 are manageable. However, if you are planning on remodeling or rebuilding your home, building an ADU/Ohana unit, or otherwise executing a  large-scale remodeling project, it’s important to work with your architect and contractor to ensure your home complies with the regulations established in this ordinance. Contact us today for help navigating the permitting process, finding the right contractor for your project, or just to learn more about Honolulu’s current residential zoning and construction regulations.

Happy Homes: Planning for the Future while Building a New Home

Congratulations! You’re starting to meet with architects and home designers to map out your future dream house.  It’s an exciting time, but also involves a number of critical decisions that could greatly impact your lifestyle as well as the overall value of your home. Many of those decisions involve picking which upgrades to budget for now and what changes can be made later. Here’s our tips for avoiding decision fatigue while saving your budget (and your sanity!) 

Save for Later 

If you’re hoping to stay within your current  budget and make upgrades at a later time, the following  changes are relatively simple and inexpensive:

  • Wall color and other decorative elements. A few cans of paint can transform a room without changing the inherent design structure. Furthermore, decorative elements like wainscoting, crown molding, chair rails, and baseboards are usually very easy to install at any time.
  • Lighting, kitchen, and bathroom fixtures. Whether it’s the pendant lamps in the kitchen or the faucets in the master bathroom, most fixtures and finishes in a new home can be upgraded once the home improvement budget has recovered. The exception? Interior plumbing or electrical work that would require a contractor to cut into the ceiling or walls for installation— such as adding recessed lighting or rerouting the plumbing. 
  • Most appliances. Need time to save up for a new gourmet stove or state-of-the-art refrigerator? No problem, most of the time. Many standard appliances are approximately the same size, so swapping in a high-end model later shouldn’t be an issue. Just be aware of any built-in cabinetry measurements that may not fit a newer model appliance. If you know you’ll be upgrading to a larger stove, dishwasher, or refrigerator, make sure you design accordingly. 

Don’t Wait Updates 

These costly updates are less expensive when made during construction. 

  • Accessibility and modifications for aging-in-place. Multigenerational living continues to be important for many Hawaiian families, but modifying a home to meet the needs of every family member can be costly when done to an existing structure. It’s much easier and less expensive to make these upgrades while building a new home instead of after.

 These types of modifications include widening doorways and hallways, removing step-down entryways, and installing ADA compliant bathtubs and showers. Work with your designer and contractor to accommodate multigenerational living from day one to avoid a costly renovation later. 

  • Changes to support structures and stairways. Eliminating a load-bearing wall is a costly renovation, as is moving or changing the location of a stairway, so make sure your home design plans work for both the lifestyle you have now as well as in the future. Keep in mind that it is always easier to add a wall or partition than it is to remove. 
  • Installation of green and smart-home technology. While some smart-home tech is relatively simple to install, others require extensive wiring that’s easier to include during the overall framing and electrical process, so make sure you do your research before you build.  And when it comes to sustainability and environmentally friendly additions, it’s usually best to make these upgrades during construction as well. For example, high-quality insulation and energy-efficient HVAC systems are worth the upfront cost since any future installation will be much more expensive. 
  • Changing the size or number of windows. Natural light is a beautiful and sustainable part of any new home, so make it a priority during construction instead of after. Upgrading to larger or additional windows will be expensive initially, but it’s often nearly impossible and often quite expensive to do once your home is completed. 

Want more tips on what to do while waiting to start construction? Check out this Happy Homes post on making the most of the pre-construction period.

Need more expert advice on making your dream home a reality? Let us help. We can match you with experienced architects, designers, and contractors to ensure that your next home lasts for generations. And if your budget needs a revamp, make sure to use our free online estimator to get your project back on track!

Renovating a Home? Keep the Charm

You’ve found what could be your dream home, it just needs a second bathroom. Or maybe it’s almost perfect, if only there were a little more room in the kitchen. Of course, if it’s an older house, you most likely fell in love with the charm and little details, just not the tiny closets. 

It might be time to renovate your space, but that doesn’t mean giving up on the unique elements often found in an older home. Here’s a guide for updating your space while keeping the character…

Keep what you Love

There’s a reason you bought this house. Whether it’s the big windows with the fantastic view, the original hardwood flooring, or the large patio off the back door, take the time to reacquaint yourself with your home before starting a renovation. Once you’ve identified the distinguishing characteristics you love, use them as a basis for your future design plans. That might mean adding more windows to a potential addition or salvaging the flooring to use in another room of the house. Whatever you decide, make sure your remodel includes the things you loved when you first moved in. 

Coordinate the Additions

Your kitchen or bathroom might be brand-new, but it shouldn’t look out of place. If you’re adding more square footage to your home, make sure the new design coordinates with the style of the original structure. While your design doesn’t need to be 100% accurate to the time period the home was built in, it can be difficult to make an ultra-modern design work with a 1920’s era bungalow. Maintain consistency throughout the home by matching trim, moldings, and flooring in every space, and consider maintaining a similar color palette to make the transition between old and new as seamless as possible. 

Reuse Materials

A home renovation might rearrange your living space, but you can still maintain some of the original charm and character by reusing and repurposing the original building materials and fixtures. If they are in good shape, doors, molding, and trim can be salvaged and carefully repurposed. Original wood flooring can often be refinished, and the process is usually less expensive than all new flooring. If an original item can’t be reused, or you need multiples of an original fixture, try sourcing duplicates from estate sales or antique markets. A good interior designer or even contractor can usually help you find the items that will help preserve the original character of your home. 

Blend old and New

The best renovations are the ones where it is nearly impossible to identify where the old ends and the new begins. Avoid the temptation to build an all-new addition without making improvements to the overall structure. Once your remodel is finished, consider painting the entire exterior in a new color or replacing all the original windows to match new ones. 

Lastly, make sure to decorate with both old and new elements in every space so that each room looks intentional—and as if it’s been there all along.

Ready to start remodeling? Before you go on the hunt for antique light fixtures, make sure you’ve got the right professionals for the job. We’ll help you build a team of architects and contractors with the expertise needed for a successful and stress-free renovation. Contact us today to begin! 

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.