Aloha! My name is Irina. I am Realtor on the Big Island of Hawaii. If you are thinking of buying vacant land then find common questions and answers in my Buying Big Island Vacant land guide. I made this guide out of questions my clients asked me.
For those of you who are thinking of building a house on Hawaii Island it might be more complicated and expensive because the county missed a deadline in 2019 to implement changes to the International Energy Conservation Code.
Builders are most displeased with a one-size-fits-all building design that was created for mainland structures in harsher climates. The new code requires double-paned windows, fully insulated walls, floors and ceilings and completely sealed house. As you know in tropical climate closing up houses and installing drywall will raise energy costs and encourage mold, fungus and insects.
Architects advocate for a code that’s meant for tropical climates which allows using single-wall construction and taking advantage of mauka-makai cross ventilation. The updated code will reduce energy use and save over $1 billion in energy costs during the next 20 years.
In January 2020 the Hawaii County Council approved Bill 126 with amendments to the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code. The bill next goes to the Mayor for approval. This bill is expected to reach the Public Works and Mass Transit Committee in the first half of 2020. Once that bill is in place, additional bills coming later in 2020 will fill in or update those codes, with additional County amendments. New sub-chapters will be created to hold administrative provisions, commercial building codes, residential building codes, existing building codes, electrical codes, energy conservation codes, plumbing codes, and possibly also outdoor lighting codes. The series of bills will completely change the building review process and move it toward a one permit system.
However getting a permit for construction of a new house or renovation of existing structure is a huge problem on Hawaii Island. The problems include “excessive delays in obtaining permits, lack of outreach and user confusion about how to navigate the system, excessive rounds of reviews requiring permit applicants to re-engineer what they just re-engineered, etc.”
The $2.3 million countywide planning and permitting program is supposed to integrate data from property records, zoning, infrastructure like sewer, contractor licenses, building and parcel designs and details and much more into a single system that will allow inspectors from multiple departments to work on a permit application simultaneously, rather than shuffling paper from one desk to another.
The chamber’s Permitting Task Force is all about trying to reform the county permitting process. The task force has recently been working with the county to user-test EnerGov, the new cloud-based computing platform the county intends as a replacement for the current platform and which promises transparency, electronic submission of plans and all sorts of new efficiencies.
The Energov program is coming together and being tested but implementation date is uncertain.