Building Permit Approval Owner built design drafting service Oahu Hawaii. Residential design drafting permitting.

4 Steps to Building Permit Approval

Is Your Home Design or Addition Prepared for A Building Permit?

When talking about home design, I’ve heard them a lot over the years, the horror stories about building permit processing in Honolulu and other Hawaii counties, but I believe the process does not have to make you uneasy. In my nearly 30 years of providing home design and building permit services in Hawaii, I want to offer these hints on the best way to create a better outcome, and perhaps improve your outlook. I hope these tips help make our owner builder process easier on you as a homeowner.


The Honolulu City and County Department of Permitting and Planning website offers a system to submit permit applications online. In fact, it is a requirement for you to enter in your project information online so that you can get an internet application number before you go to the building department. In most cases, this is the first number you will be asked for when you approach the building permit intake counter.

This process does speed things up at the counter because it saves much of the data entry by the intake clerk. The information you provide from your home through this system shows up in real-time in the city’s building permit database and will then be available to anyone that you call or visit in person in the Honolulu and Kapolei building permit offices.

In addition, while on the building permit website, you can find a great deal of useful information there including a tool to help you estimate the permit fee online as well, this is helpful when planning your budget.


This sounds obvious but make sure your building permit plans are complete. As straightforward as it seems, many of the basic conditions aren’t met by a surprising amount of older builders submitting their home design plans. Frequently, the building permit drawings are drawn poorly or the details that are needed are not shown. Making sure your drawings are complete enables the reviewer to make remarks that are clear and methodical in the beginning of the review process, thereby minimizing delays and unforeseen difficulties later on. Otherwise you might find yourself asking why they didn’t just ask for that the first time around or at the desk. But when your project is not presented clearly and missing lots of views or information, you can be sure your review will take a long while.


Let’s suppose that you are doing something which is a large-scale job, like a large addition, or a tall retaining wall then you are likely to need a licensed engineer or an architect anyway, so why not be sure to have one involved with your project from the beginning? Incompleteness is the number one cause that can get your plans rejected at the intake desk. This is a very defeating experience that you don’t want to know, believe me…it is painful. It most often is something which does not seem to be needed, or maybe not even considered that turns out to be an essential element of your design. Something like a retaining wall you had not notice a need for but it needs a stamp from a structural engineer, now instead of having one on board initially, you may have to start all over again to make it work.


Owner builders frequently believe they do not have the money or the time so they want to do the drawings themselves. But a hastily prepared, or amateur design will probably create lots of comments from the building permit reviewer, often flat-out rejection, and the meaning that to the home owners is more time, and often more money. In today’s economy, with the escalating costs of time and materials, if you suffer a setback like pages of comments or rejection of the drawings, you are most likely losing time and money as a result.

Many times, Oahu homeowners will hire an Hawaii drafting service to create their project drawings for them, as opposed to an architect with the idea that it will soften their budget a little. This can be a problem at times because occasionally the drawings are not enough and it may be hard to get the corrections you need. In most cases, architects will be the most knowledgeable, particularly about the building codes that differ by county. Although I have a degree in architecture from the University of Hawaii School of Architecture and almost 40 year’s experience in the construction industry, I have always worked with licensed engineers and architects to be sure all the design criteria I give is enough for the project.


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4 thoughts on “4 Steps to Building Permit Approval

  1. Thank you for explaining that as a homeowner, you should involve a professional in the design process if you know that you will need them to complete the project. My sister is starting the process of building her own home, but she wasn’t sure if the contractor she hires was supposed to create the design or not. I will be sure to forward this article to her, and hopefully that will help her be able to get started in building as soon as possible.

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