A group of people sitting at a table looking at construction blue prints and building permit

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 planning 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 construction 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!

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

  1. I am going to rent a commercial space and want to do some minor tenant improvements. Can you help with plans, specs and a permit. Can someone contact me to assist?

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