Category Archives: Drafting Service

Tips to Help You Develop Your Erosion and Sediment Control Plan

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Erosion & Sediment Control Plan (ESCP)

Recently the Department of Permitting and Planning developed new regulations requiring Erosion and Sediment Control Plan for people doing construction on their property. This includes people who want to:

  • Build a home
  • Create a home addition
  • Develop a [amazon_textlink asin=’0764318365′ text=’retaining wall’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’e1b689ee-a227-11e7-98fb-dfa05a704724′]
  • Grade their land
  • Install a driveway or sidewalk
  • Install an in ground pool

This is just a partial list of the jobs that must have an Erosion and Sediment Control Plan. If you plan to do any type of work that “disrupts” the land in any way, you must submit the appropriate paperwork. You may be aware of the regulations but be wondering how to go about tackling this task. We’ve developed tips to help you navigate the paperwork.

Determine what type of project you have

The Department of Permitting and Planning separates projects into either category 1A or category 1B. Each category has slightly different paperwork. Here are the main differences between 1A and 1B.

Category 1A:

  • Non-commercial construction job that disturbs less than 1,000 square feet of land.
  • The slope of construction cannot be more than 15 %.

Category 1B:

  • Residential construction more than 1,000 square feet but not more than an acre.
  • Residential construction that is less than 1,000 square feet but has a slope of more than 15%.
  • Construction is for a commercial building under one acre.

To determine what category your construction falls within, you will need to measure the land you will disrupt and determine the slope (more information about how to do that in upcoming posts).

Develop a schedule

As part of the Erosion and Sediment Control Plan, you will need to submit a schedule detailing how long each step will take. In other words, you need to break the entire project down into smaller steps and estimate the amount of time it will take you to complete that task. A simple table with a column for the task and another for the time to complete will suffice.

Secure your checklist template

Download a checklist template for category 1A here or for category 1B here. It gives suggestions for minimizing the negative effects of disrupting the land. The checklist contains several categories with a list of potential solutions you can use for each one. For example, one category is titled, “Dust Control.” One of the suggested options to reduce the dust include: “Mulching to a one inch or more depth.” Once you have the checklist, use it as a guide to what precautionary measures to take.

Diagram the site

You also need to submit a diagram or map of the construction site. Using grid paper, sketch the construction site. Make sure your map shows the boundary surrounding the property as well as any other buildings on location. Storm drains must be included too. Use a wavy line with an arrow at the end in order to show which way the water flows. Finally, include the best management practices you will use such as a silt fence, vegetation, gravel, and so on. Display the best management practices (BMPs) with appropriate symbols.

Prepare to submit your control plan

Once you have all your documents ready, you may send them in with a $250 payment. This amount will cover one plan review. If you need multiple permits all related to the same job, you may submit it all as one so you don’t have to pay additional fees.

This mandatory paperwork may seem overwhelming at first, but we are here to help guide you through the process. Keep an eye open for our future posts. We will be posting about how to measure the slope of your property and more. Contact Owner Built Design, LLC for more information today!


Do I Need an Erosion and Sediment Control Plan?

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Erosion & Sediment Control Plan (ESCP)

If you plan to do construction on your property such as building a home or other structure, it’s important to understand the new regulations set forth by the Department of Permitting and Planning. These regulations pertain to the erosion and sedimentation of your property and the property surrounding it. Here are the details of what is expected of you as the homeowner.

Who needs an Erosion and Sediment Control Plan

For any type of construction work that will disturb the land, you must submit an Erosion and Sedimentation Control Plan. The following are examples of the type of work that falls into that category:

  • [amazon_textlink asin=’1600857647′ text=’Pouring a foundation’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’e1824e8c-9efc-11e7-8540-ffe64dc8266c’]
  • [amazon_textlink asin=’0764318365′ text=’Constructing a retaining wall’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’7cd0dfce-9efc-11e7-94b9-81b74574ea85′]
  • Creating a driveway
  • Installing a sidewalk
  • Demolition work
  • Installing utilities
  • Trenching
  • Grading the land

This is only a partial list.

What is an Erosion and Sedimentation Control Plan (ESCP)

In simplest terms, the ESCP is a document that explains how you plan to prevent or reduce erosion during the construction process and “minimize the impacts of sediment, turbidity, and hydrologic changes off-site.” In other words, how will you ensure your construction project will not harm the environment, lands, or waters off-site? You may be wondering who is responsible for this documentation. The answer is the homeowner is.

Why is this necessary?

Any time the land is disturbed there is the risk that dirt, debris, and other waste will end up in the water sources. For example, when you dig a foundation for a home, it stirs and exposes soil. Then later when it rains or water is used during the project, the loose soil washes away from the site and ends up eventually in lakes, streams, and oceans. This wreaks havoc on our water. Protecting the oceans and streams from pollution is important for the community.

How long does my control plan have to be?

There is no set length for your ESCP but it must be thorough enough for the project you’re doing. If you are doing extensive construction and will be disturbing large quantities of soil, then your plan will be more extensive. If you are doing a relatively small amount of work, then the plan would likely more simple.

Category 1A and 1B control plans

Projects that involve disturbance of less than one acre of ground are put in a separate category as larger projects. The types of activities that fall within this category include:

Swimming pools

Retaining and CMU Walls

Foundation Repairs and Reconstruction

Sidewalk and Driveway Repairs and Reconstruction

House Demolition, Addition and New Residential Construction


The Department of Permitting and Planning categorized projects because different rules apply to projects that are not in 1A or 1B.

What do I need for my ESCP if I have a Category 1A or 1B project?

According to the rules set forth by the department, you will need the following components in your Erosion and Sedimentation Control Plan:

  • Checklist: The checklist must indicate that you have followed appropriate steps to ensure minimal erosion, sediment control, and best practices for managing the project. Templates are available to help you understand what is necessary.
  • Map of the site: This map will show some of the measures you’ll take to comply with the plan. For example, your map may include a silt fence that will be used to keep the soil contained.
  • Construction Schedule

The checklist is the more comprehensive piece you will complete. It outlines all of the necessary measures you will take to comply.

As you prepare to construct your next project, remember to begin with making your Erosion and Sediment Control Plan. We will be posting more information about this topic in the near future, so stay connected. For more immediate information, please contact us today!


What’s the 411 with Hawaii ADU’s: The FAQs Continued

This entry is part 7 of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit

If you live or even occasionally visit [amazon_textlink asin=’1628873140′ text=’Hawaii’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’b9643ab7-a226-11e7-ae93-0f338484ecd1′], you’re probably already aware of the intense housing crunch going on, especially when it comes to affordable rental properties for working families. While [amazon_textlink asin=’B015PA9VI6′ text=’homelessness’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’fb46d656-a226-11e7-9b2b-b347f01db0bd’] is usually something that happens to people who can’t or won’t work, it’s an unfortunate fact that many families are finding themselves without proper lodgings because there simply aren’t enough homes to go around. For this reason, Honolulu has recently authorized home-owner residents to build small secondary residential homes on their property in order to rent to families in need. These residences are known as Hawaii ADU’s or Accessory Dwelling Units and are a great way for home owners to both alleviate the housing crunch and make a little extra money for their own mortgages.

In a previous post, we covered a few of the FAQs about ADUs from defining our terms to how they compare to ohana units. Today, we’re picking up where we left off to answer more important questions about how you can contribute to the local effort against homelessness.

Frequently Asked Questions Pt 2:

Q: Are owners required to live on the property?

The short answer here is yes, but in truth, it’s a little more complicated. You cannot rent both the main house and the ADU at the same time, but the named owner doesn’t necessarily have to live on the property. In order to rent your ADU, the main house needs to be occupied by a relative by blood, marriage, or adoption to the property owner. However, a designated authorized representative is also allowed.

Alternately, you or a relative can choose to live in the ADU and rent out the main house, which also counts as using your ADU to alleviate the housing shortage. This is a great option for retirees who want to downsize for ease of lifestyle without leaving their family home behind.

Q: Is there a minimum occupancy period for each ADU tenant?

In order to ensure that Hawaii ADU’s are actually being used to help with the housing problem, tenants need to stay at least six months (180 days to be specific) with each lease. This prevents both landlords and tenants from misusing it’s intended purpose, but that also means that it’s inadvisable to Airbnb your ADU between tenants.

Q: Is there enough local sewer and water capacity?

It’s true, not every neighborhood has the infrastructure available to support doubling up on sewer and water needs. For this reason, you’ll need to get approval from all the usual sources including the Department of Planning and Permitting, Wastewater Branch, Traffic Review Branch, State Department of Health, Board of Water Supply, and the Honolulu Fire Department. If they all agree that a new residential structure is OK, you can proceed with building plans.

Q: How much parking is required for an ADU?

Hawaii ADU’s only require one off-street parking spot. This sets them aside from ohana units which require two and therefore permits home owners with smaller yards to contribute to the housing effort.

Q: How big can Hawaii ADU’s be?

It may be tempting to build yourself a near-duplex residential buddy, especially if you have the yard space to spare, but ADUs are, in fact, limited in size based on the size of your lot.

  • Lots 3500 – 4999 square feet can have an ADU of up to 400 square feet
  • Lots 5000 square feet and up are limited to an ADU of 800 square feet.

Q: How many ADUs can I build?

The answer here is only one, but it’s slightly more complex in practice. ADUs fill a secondary residential slot, but can only do so if you don’t already have a secondary residence on your lot. Therefore ohana dwellings, guest houses, and multifamily dwellings like duplexes disqualify a lot from having even a single ADU.

If you’re considering building an ADU on your lot, you’ll need an expert designer who can get your plans through approval the first time around. I have decades of experience and specialize in permit-ready drawings and would be delighted to ensure your ADU project hits the ground running. Please contact me today for more information or plans to build!


What Does It Take to Get a Building Permit on Oahu?


Need a building permit to build a single family residence, accessory dwelling unit (ADU) or Ohana unit on Oahu? An awareness of all relevant regulations and requirements is important. Precise [amazon_textlink asin=’1580117953′ text=’planning ‘ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ca88ab29-9f00-11e7-874e-a5a3ce668160′]increases the chances of a project that smoothly proceeds from conception to completion.

Although the permitting process may present a challenge on occasion, it important to realize the importance of building permits for project owners and neighbors alike. The process helps to ensure quality [amazon_textlink asin=’1402743165′ text=’construction’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’4b0dd246-9f01-11e7-973f-3597533c3bed’] while respecting the rights of neighbors.

Obtaining a building permit is sometimes more challenging on Oahu due to the sheer volume of projects compared to the number of those on the other islands. The use of experienced and qualified service providers is one key to success.

Building Permit Application

To expedite the process, Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) provides a “Checklist for Building Permit Application.” Use of this form helps ensure that all plans and blueprints are complete before they are submitted. It is helpful for those submitting plans either digitally or in writing. Digital submissions require completion of an Internet Building Permit Application. Each project is assigned a number. Internet submissions save time normally spent in line and at the counter at the DPP.

When plans are incomplete, delays are followed by a denial of approval, and this can further postpone a project for a significant period of time.

One Time Review Option

Commencing on January 4, 2016, the Honolulu DPP initiated a “One Time Review” (OTR) process for obtaining a building permit for single family residential projects. The OTR building permit is only reviewed one time by the DPP, which may save some property owners a considerable amount of time. Since the OTR process may raise liability questions when there is a loss during construction, it is important for owners to fully understand the implications of the OTR process.

Building permits are required for a wide range of remodeling and new construction projects, including:

  • Demolition of any existing structure
  • Construction of any temporary or permanent structure
  • Retaining walls and fences
  • Plumbing and/or electrical
  • Erecting antennas
  • Driveways and/or curbs
  • Interior cabinets, floor coverings, and painting

Section 18-3.1 of the revised ordinances of Honolulu provide more detailed information as to when a building permit is required and when it is not.

When a building permit is neededHawaii Business suggests that proper plans are a key to expediting approval, “The speed of the process largely depends on the quality of your plans. This is true whether a project is commercial or residential in nature.

Accessory Dwelling Units

A special case in residential construction is the accessory dwelling unit (ADU). The ADU became legal in Honolulu when Bill 20 was signed into law on September 14, 2015. It is possible to build an ADU on a lot occupied by a single-family residence, subject to certain restrictions. This unit may either be rented out or occupied by family members.

The first step in considering an ADU is to determine if your property is eligible. The DPP has a pre-check form which can be used to help determine eligibility. Zoning, lot size, a minimum lease term and available parking are a few of the factors. For example, ADUs are only allowed on lots at least 3,500 sqr-ft in size.

When you need help in dealing with the complexities of getting a building permit on Oahu, look to Owner Built Design LLC for expert design and drafting assistance. I am a specialist in residential design, engineering, and third-party permit assistance. I can provide you with permit-ready drawings for your single-family residence or ADU on Oahu. Take advantage of my professional architectural degree and my three decades serving clients in Hawaii.

Please contact me today!


How Hard Is It To Be An Owner Builder And To Act As Your Own General Contractor?


A typical property owner who wants to embark on an ADU project as an owner-builder finds the advantages very compelling – reduced project costs followed by a new revenue stream from rental income, potential tax benefits, and increased property value. However, there are pitfalls that can quickly erase or seriously postpone the hoped-for gains.

In many ways, an owner-builder is essentially his or her own general contractor, so one has to comply with the same laws that a licensed general contractor does. In Hawaii, owner-builder permits are exclusive to [amazon_textlink asin=’0470540834′ text=’residential construction’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’20fe40ea-a226-11e7-a8fa-65b7c06059ee’] – they are not available for commercial or industrial projects.

Once you are granted owner-builder status, you can proceed with your project without a licensed general contractor. However, you are responsible for ensuring that all work is “up to code,” and that all building inspections occur as required.

1 Year Wait for Sale or Lease

There is one key difference between the owner-builder and a licensed general contractor. Unless the value of permitted work is less than $10,000, an owner-builder cannot sell or lease, or attempt to sell or lease, the structure for one year. There are two exceptions when 1) a sale or lease during the first year is to the owner builder’s employee, or 2) a hardship exemption is granted by the Contractors License Board.

Risks and Responsibilities

Success as an owner-builder hinges on maintaining a laser-sharp focus on pertinent detail, along with full adherence to regulations. To that end, the Regulated Industries Complaints Office (RICO) has published a guide for owner-builders entitled “Risks and Responsibilities of Being an Owner-Builder.” RICO is a part of Hawaii’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

Here are some key risks and responsibilities for owner-builders:

Licensing – The subcontractors you hire must be properly licensed. For example, electrical and plumbing contractors must be licensed under Chapter 444 of the state statutes. Whether you intentionally or unwittingly hire an unlicensed subcontractor, you could find yourself paying the medical expenses of an injured worker affiliated with that unlicensed entity.

Finally, it is important to beware of unlicensed project managers. Sometimes, an unlicensed individual “assists” an owner-builder to the point that he/she is, in effect, managing the project. In such a scenario, the owner-builder assumes responsibility for the activities of this individual.

Worker status – Any person who is not either a subcontractor or working for one is your employee. Therefore, some owner-builders have to withhold federal (FICA) and state income taxes. They also have to maintain workers compensation insurance policies.

Timely payments – An owner-builder is responsible for making timely payments to all suppliers and contractors involved in a project. An owner-builder who fails to do this may find that a lien will be placed on the property by any unpaid vendors or contractors. A lien effectively prohibits the completion of a sale of the property until the supplier or contractor is paid. Interest and other costs may add significant sums to the amounts owed.

Recordkeeping – State law requires an owner-builder to maintain records related to the project for up to three years, including:

  • Copies of building permits
  • Copies of contracts with all persons involved in the project
  • Proof of payments to employees, subcontractors, and suppliers

Dire Consequences for Violations

RICO advises prospective owner-builders to carefully read the owner-builder permit application. They are also advised to read Chapter 444 of Hawaii’s revised statutes.

Non-compliant owner-builders may face severe sanctions:

  • A fine of either, 1) $5,000, or 2) 50 percent of the permit value of the work to be performed, whichever is greater
  • A prohibition against filing for new owner-builder permits for a period of three years

Repeat violators face even harsher penalties. They are subject to the greater of 1) a $10,000 fine or 2) 60 percent of the permit value of the work to be performed.

At Owner Built Design LLC, I help owner-builders avoid the expensive consequences of non-compliance with laws and regulations. For prompt, friendly and professional assistance, please contact me today!


Why Are ADUs So Important in Hawaii?

This entry is part 9 of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit

Housing affordability has long been an issue on Oahu. The challenge remains, according to the 2017 Housing Affordability Table compiled by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. According to the table, urban Honolulu is the 54th largest metro area in the country but has the most expensive single-family homes.

Honolulu Leads Top 100 Cities

In fact, only 19.6 percent of all households can afford the housing costs associated with the median selling price of $707,100. And, just 9.0 percent of renter households could afford to purchase a home at the median selling price. That is the lowest percentage of any of America’s top 100 metropolitan markets. Only greater Los Angeles and California’s Bay Area come close. Just 12.4 percent of Los Angeles renters would be able to afford the median selling price in that market. In the Bay Area, including San Francisco and Oakland, 13.6 percent of renters have the income to purchase a home at the median selling price.

Recession’s Impact

Following the recession of 2008, new construction dropped precipitously in Hawaii. One year later, only 6,000 housing units (including condos and single-family units) were sold in Honolulu County. Since then, sales have rebounded, but they are still nowhere near the boom years of 2003-2005.

Certainly, more work remains to be done. Today’s $700,000+ median selling price of a single-family residence is more than double the median selling price recorded for 2000.

Many people who cannot afford such prices will still need housing. In a report entitled “Measuring Housing Demand in Hawaii 2015-2025,” it is estimated that Hawaii will need another 64,700 to 66,000 housing units between 2015 and 2025. At the same time, the report states, “Wages and incomes have not been growing as fast as housing prices, making it harder to afford[amazon_textlink asin=’1544278330′ text=’ real estate’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’30a5316c-9f03-11e7-9f80-0db11417ca82′] in Hawaii, especially for younger and lower-income households.”

Ohana Units Help Somewhat

In the late 1980s, the ohana unit first addressed some of the state’s affordable housing needs. However, the impact was somewhat muted because only relatives of those residing in the primary residence can occupy these units. Nonetheless, they are great for multi-generational households. Ohana units are often occupied by adult children of homeowners or seniors in the family, and they must be physically attached to the primary residence. The location is fairly flexible because they are possible in agricultural, country and residential districts, although they are prohibited in areas zoned R-3.5.

ADUs to the Rescue

In 2015, Honolulu introduced accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to further address the shortage of [amazon_textlink asin=’0874209773′ text=’affordable housing’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’c503fae5-9f03-11e7-9946-a918f4e1af36′]. Given the statistics noted above, the future of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) appears bright. ADUs offer local governments some of the advantages of duplexes, but at a lower cost. Both types of dwellings increase housing density without putting an undue strain on infrastructures like sewer, water, and roads. In particular, these units tend to spread out across metro areas like Honolulu. And, governments can refuse an ADUpermit if the construction will unduly strain existing infrastructure.

ADUs are not just a Hawaiian phenomenon. According to Hawaii Appleseed, they have been used to address shortages of affordable housing in across the continental U.S. as well, from Lexington, Massachusetts on the East Coast to Portland, Oregon, and Santa Cruz, California, on the West Coast.

Qualifying homeowners renting out ADUs find they can generate a new and valuable revenue stream. ADUs can increase the overall value of the property, aiding asset accumulation in the process. If there is eventually a decision to sell the property, the seller may find that some prospective buyers value the ADU for the same reasons.

Owner Built Design LLC is your source for residential design, engineering and permit processing on the island of Oahu. I bring three decades of local experience to my work on behalf of homeowners and owner-builders. To better determine if the construction of an ADUis right for you, please contact me today.


Why ADUs Make Financial Sense

This entry is part 10 of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit

The accessory dwelling units (ADU) is an increasingly popular idea which benefits homeowners, tenants and local governments alike. On [amazon_textlink asin=’0983888787′ text=’Oahu’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’1bd876fd-a225-11e7-aad9-e9a3701405d8′], ADUs provide much-needed affordable housing.

Hawaii Life reported on September 14, 2015, signing of Bill 20 by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. By mid-January of 2016, there were already 29 ADU applications pending. Since then, interest in ADUs continues to surge, in part because of the financial benefits.

Benefits for All Parties

There are key financial reasons why homeowners, tenants and local governments find ADUs attractive:

Homeowners – Whether it is detached from or attached to a primary residence, an ADU makes financial sense for homeowners in a number of ways. First, the rent paid generates a new revenue stream. Second, many expenses related to an ADU rental unit are tax-deductible. Third, it is an ideal way for a homeowner to build the asset value of their existing property. Since an ADU must be sold together with the primary residence, the homeowner benefits if and when the property is sold. A wide variety of prospective buyers may be attracted to a property with an ADU, including those that like the potential rental revenue and those that need space for another family member like a senior or retiree.

Renters – ADUs are popular, first and foremost, as a source of affordable housing in an expensive market. Also, for some prospective renters, ADUs make financial sense because they mesh with modern lifestyle choices. More and more Millennials, for example, are comfortable living in less than 800 sqr-ft of space at a modest cost, because they would rather spend more available cash on travel and other outdoor leisure activities.

As long as they have the basics like a kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom, a fair percentage of prospective renters on Oahu are comfortable with a smaller living space. Widespread interest in so-called “tiny houses” across the country demonstrates that many people are willing to embrace the idea of living in a home with several hundred square feet of living space. Vaulted ceilings, bay windows, and uncovered lanais help create a feeling of spaciousness.

Local government – ADUs also offer local governments a way to address overall housing needs at modest cost. Since ADUs are dispersed across greater Honolulu, they require only incremental improvements to infrastructure. This compares favorably to the significant investment in infrastructure often required when major housing developments are constructed.

Bill 20 Stipulations

Bill 20 carries stipulations that exclude some properties from ADU development. For example, ADUs are not allowed in planned communities, or in those subject to governance by an association. Also, lots must be at least 3,500 sqr-ft in size. ADUs up to 400 sqr-ft are possible on lots of 3,500-4,999 sqr-ft. ADUs up to 800 sqr-ft are allowed on lots measuring at least 5,000 sqr-ft.

Bill 20 also requires that there be at least one off-road parking space, although there is no such requirement for ADUs within 0.5-mi of a rail station. Finally, ADUs are only possible when there is sufficient infrastructure in place for sewer and water. Since leases must be at least six months long, ADUs are not intended as seasonal vacation rentals.

An article in Hawaii Home Remodeling quoted Harrison Rue, an official with the City and County of Honolulu, suggesting that ADUs are “really trying to address the dire need for more affordable and workforce housing.” He also said it is “one of the first pieces of the housing strategy.” This strategy offers clear financial benefits to all parties involved, including property owners, renters, and local governments.

Owner Build Design LLC is your source for the knowledge and expertise needed when developing an ADU. I bring over three decades of experience to my residential design and drafting services in Hawaii. I offer everything from permit processing services to permit-ready drawings. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss how an ADU could work for you. Please contact me at your earliest convenience.


What’s the 411 with Hawaii ADUs?

This entry is part 6 of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit

[amazon_textlink asin=’0983888787′ text=’Honolulu’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’8531a375-a222-11e7-a928-195794382acb’]’s mayor signed a provision for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in September 2015. Now, qualifying owners of freestanding, single-family homes have a new way to generate revenue – by renting a secondary residence situated on their property. [amazon_textlink asin=’1288916396′ text=’ADU’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’24a27b6c-a224-11e7-aa93-bf0d1cd8204e’]s are a response to the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Strategy, developed in response to the shortage of inexpensive rental housing on the island.

It is important to understand that ADU approvals, design and permitting requires adherence to very specific standards. Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) discusses frequently asked questions about permitting related to ADUs at this link.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here we discuss some of the most common questions about ADUs:

Q: What is an ADU?

The DPP specifically defines an ADU as “an accessory or second dwelling unit, including its own kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom facilities, attached or detached from the primary dwelling unit on the zoning lot.”

Importantly, an ADU is subordinate to the primary residence. However, it does not have to be detached from the existing home. While many ADUs feature new construction, it is possible to remodel some existing single-family homes to create them. However, every ADUdesign must include a kitchen, a bathroom, and at least one bedroom. Current building codes apply to such renovations/additions.

ADUs are usually found to the rear or side of the existing dwelling, and they are subject to strict size limitations. For example, an ADU on a lot from 3,500 to 4,999 square feet (SF) in size must be 400 SF or smaller. On a 5,000+ SF lot, ADUs can be up to 800 SF in size.

Q: In what ways are ADUs important?

ADUs help address Honolulu’s chronic housing shortage, and they provide aging residents a convenient way to downsize.

Relieve Housing Shortage – It is no surprise to those living in Honolulu that the cost of living is substantial. In fact, one site ranks Hawaii’s capital 4th out of 66 U.S. cities, although it is still 14 percent less expensive to live in Honolulu than New York City. However, with rent for a 900 sqr-ft furnished apartment averaging more than $2,000 per month, and utilities averaging more than $250/mo, many workers struggle to find affordable housing. ADUs address this need.

Aging in Place – ADUs also offer aging homeowners a unique opportunity to downsize while remaining on the very same property that likely hosted endless parties and other memorable family events over the years. A senior can “age in place” by eventually moving out of the larger primary residence and into the smaller ADU. The homeowner can then rent out the larger home to generate potentially substantial rental income.

Q: Where can an ADU be built?

Zoning is crucial to ADU development. Although there is an important caveat, an ADU may be built on lots zoned R-3.5, R-5, R-7.5, R-10 or R-20. Construction of an ADU is also possible in a Country District with a lot measuring 3,500 SF. The caveat? Even when a lot is appropriately zoned, there must be adequate utility infrastructure in place, and the ADU cannot conflict with existing restrictive covenants. This effectively eliminates ADUs from consideration in master planned communities or those with homeowners associations. The ADUmust also comply with any land use provisions that come with the specific zoning.

When eligible, only a single ADU is possible on a lot with one single-family home on it. This excludes lots with duplex homes as well as those with an existing ohana unit or guest house.

Q: How do ohana units and ADUs compare?

These two kinds of living spaces differ as to maximum size, occupancy, and parking. ADUs are subject to size restrictions, while ohana units are not. Only family members may live in an ohana unit, while there is no such restriction with an ADU. Finally, ohana units must have two off-street parking spaces, while ADUs only need one (those less than a half-mile from a rail station have no parking requirement).

It is also important to note that the property owner (or appropriate relative) must live in the primary residence or the ADU. Exceptions exist for serious illness or active military deployment. Leases for ADUS must be at least six months long. When a property is sold, the primary residence and the ADU must be sold together.

Owner Built Design, LLC is a key resource when you are looking into an ADU. Let me put my decades of experience to work for you. Please contact me today.


Foundation Erosion and How to Deal with It

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Trouble in Paradise

Foundation erosion is a common problem in Hawaii.

For a number of reasons, not the least of which are rising sea levels and frequent flash floods. Whether your [amazon_textlink asin=’B006C96KHU’ text=’property’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’770811c8-a220-11e7-afb5-8be01c875a58′] is beachfront or inland, and no matter which [amazon_textlink asin=’156647499X’ text=’island’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’87127929-a21f-11e7-8dad-73525ea07758′] you live on, foundation erosion is one of the most devastating things that can happen to your home — and many homeowners don’t even know it.

Fortunately, there are a number of preventative actions that you can take to protect your home. The following are some proven methods to prevent foundation erosion; take note of them today to avoid tragedy tomorrow.

Maintain Your Drainage System

Keep an eye on your gutters and downspouts and remove any blockages that might prevent proper water drainage. Rainwater should always drain away from your house so that the soil under your foundation remains firmly in place. If you suspect that your gutters are undersized for the home, have an expert look at them. You may need to replace them.

Fix Cracks Immediately

Repair any cracks in your home’s foundation immediately. Cracks will allow water to seep into the inside of your home’s foundation, eroding it more quickly; additionally, internal deterioration will be harder to detect until it’s too late.

Plant Wisely

Certain types of grasses and bushes can more effectively hold soil in place. You may also need to use a special type of compost if your soil is sandy. Even so, using plants to protect your foundation from erosion is often cost-effective and cost-efficient.  It can also be aesthetically pleasing.

What If I’ve Already Noticed Erosion?

Illustration of micropile repair due to foundation erosion.Many foundation erosion problems can be repaired using micropiles. Micropiles are created by drilling a hole into the soil, inserting a strong bar or pipe, and filling the hole with grout. These holes can be anywhere from two to eight inches wide depending on the size of the property and the damage incurred. A good foundation repair contractor will use micropile technology in conjunction with other foundation repair techniques (such as slab leveling, slope stabilization and tieback anchors).

However, if your home has serious foundation erosion problems, you may need to consider “amputating” a portion of your house and replacing the foundation to protect the rest from further damage. Of course, this is a last resort that should only be done in consultation with an expert, as it’s expensive and time-consuming to remove and rebuild a portion of your home.

Foundation erosion can cause significant damage. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to do everything possible to prevent erosion on your property. Planting the right vegetation, maintaining your gutters and drainage system, and regularly inspecting your foundation for cracks can prevent headaches and hardship.

At the same time, discovering signs of potential foundation erosion doesn’t mean you’ve lost your house. Seal the cracks and establish sturdy erosion control barriers (such as concrete pavers or liners). Then talk to an expert to see what type of foundation repair is in order to prevent more home damage.


How to Keep These 5 House Pests Out of Your Home

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Trouble in Paradise

Hawaii’s rich biodiversity and unique [amazon_textlink asin=’1939487307′ text=’wildlife’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’dfd822f6-a21b-11e7-b0ad-7de43c918238′] are among its most attractive qualities. The tropical climate on the [amazon_textlink asin=’0912180676′ text=’islands’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’18dae750-a21d-11e7-9188-574ce7ba5141′] is heaven for over 3,000 native species of plants and animals. As a homeowner, however, you probably want to keep nature where it belongs: outside.

Here are five house pests you’ll likely encounter in Hawaii, and a few tips on how to keep them out of your home.

  1. Centipedes

​Hawaii is home to three species of centipedes: the stone centipede, the tiny Mecistocephalus, and the Chinese Red Head. While all three are common household pests, homeowners need to be particularly wary of the last one. Also known as the Vietnamese Centipede, the Chinese Red Head is one of the largest centipedes in the world. They often growing up to 8 inches long. This species preys on nearly everything and can even attack when provoked. Although not poisonous, the bite from a Chinese Red Head centipede is extremely painful.

Because centipedes prefer dark, damp places, you may find them in closets, hiding in yard clippings, and even creeping in crevices in your lanai. In order to reduce the number of potential hiding places, keep clutter and debris away from your home and caulk any cracks or open spots.

  1. Cockroaches

Another extremely common house pest in Hawaii is the cockroach. The three species you’ll most likely encounter are American, German, and Surinam (or “burrowing”) cockroaches.

Dead Cockroach House Pest
Photo by Steve Snodgrass

Cockroaches breed in warm environments and can enter your home through even the smallest openings. You can encounter them everywhere from kitchen floors to boxes of clothing. Since cockroaches can adapt to almost any surrounding, they are notoriously difficult to eradicate. However, proper sanitation and simple Borax traps have proven very effective in keeping these crunchy crawlies out of your home.

  1. Spiders

Spiders feed on a number of insects and can help lower the number of pests in your home. However, be on the lookout for two poisonous species in Hawaii: the black widow spider and the brown violin (or brown recluse) spider.

Although a few people die every year from the bites of these spiders nationwide, these house pests are usually not aggressive unless attacked or threatened.

If you see an unusually high number of spiders in your house, you should seal any holes or cracks you can find around your doors, windows, and crawlspaces. It’s also a good idea to keep any shrubs or bushes well-trimmed and away from the siding of your property.

  1. Rats

If you see a rat in your home or scurrying across your lanai, it’s most likely a common house rat. Averaging from 5.5 to 7 inches in length, these rodents are usually gray or brown with light tan bellies.

The common house rat is a “commensal creature”. This means they like to be near humans, entering homes through cracks to seek shelter and have a steady supply of food. They also have extremely sharp and strong teeth that can gnaw through electrical wires, wooden doors, walls, and more. While rodent control services are your best bet when it comes to ridding your property of rats, home renovations can be employed as a preventative measure.

  1. Ants

Ant infestations are among the most commonly reported pest problems in Hawaii. Since ants are social insects that live in enormous colonies, if you see an ant in your home, you can assume that there are hundreds more. On the islands, be on the lookout for carpenter ants and tropical fire ants.

Carpenter ants are reddish black in color and feed on wood, which means they can cause widespread structural damage. Tropical fire ants are tiny and bright red; they attack in swarms and have an extremely painful sting that can cause severe allergic reactions. Since ants enter your home through cracks around doors or windows, it’s important to seal all openings and renovate any old or decrepit structures.

Many of the household pests above can enter your property through cracks or unsealed openings. While poison traps and caulking may work in the short-term, renovations and remodeling can help you replace old features that leave your home vulnerable to annoying (or even dangerous) house pests.

Photo by Boston Public Library