Sunday, March 29, 2015


Stephens Media

Alternative building materials, such as structural bamboo, rammed earth and straw bales, have found a place in the international building code and the building codes of Hawaii and many other states.

But they won't be found in the version of the Hawaii County Building Code currently under consideration by the County Council, which could finalize the code as early as Friday. The council is scheduled then to consider Draft 6 of Bill 270, which has been under consideration in one form or another since September 2010.

The removal of the section on alternative materials and methods concerns Ken Long, a retired fire protection engineer from San Francisco, who says he has 40 years experience reading building codes as a fire official and before that, an insurance industry evaluator.

Long and other Puna residents held a 21/2-hour meeting last week with Council Chairman Dominic Yagong and Ka'u Councilwoman Brittany Smart, explaining the problems with the code and hoping the alternative materials and methods section could be added back before the code is finalized.

"I am encouraged they are thinking about it," said Long, who said he's also been in touch with Department of Public Works staff.

Long said the alternative materials not only provide energy-efficient solutions, but also make use of recycled and locally produced construction materials, cutting construction costs, reducing waste -- such as old tires -- and possibly creating new jobs.

Smart said Tuesday the section of the building code may have been removed because the council passed a sustainable habitat resolution late last year asking the DPW to set standards for nontraditional construction for rural buildings. An ordinance codifying those standards is also in the works.

It is possible DPW thought the issue would be addressed there instead of in the building code itself, she said. DPW Director Warren Lee didn't return a telephone message for clarification Tuesday.

But James Weatherford, a Puna resident and board member of the Hawaii Sustainable Community Alliance, said his group's work is very narrowly focused on owner-builders who own land in agricultural-zoned areas. The building code would address structures for everyone else, he said.

"That would be a perverted consequence that we would not want to see," Weatherford said of the removal of the alternative materials and method section from the building code. "What we're doing is an optional alternative to, not a replacement for, the building code for when you get way out in the jungle."

Long said recent conversations with DPW staff give him hope the section will be put back into the code before it's finalized.

But Smart said the current version of the code does provide for an appeals process that can be used for alternative materials and methods. By not spelling out specific alternative materials and methods, the code could open more options for builders, she said.

"Does this allow for little bit more creativity and flexibility?" she said. "We could be limiting their creativity. We could be doing more harm than good."

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But unfortunately, the county requires that all building materials be new. It would reduce the amount of "waste" that would go to the landfills, especially with such space so limited. It could reduce the cost of building. Of course, that's what they don't want. It's a shame since there's so much material that could re recycled. And there's even a way to give away/acquire such materials through Freecycle online. Again, it's about money. We are forced to spend it even when we shouldn't have to.

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1. A flexible code that allowed "alternative materials" could also result in fire-retardant housing. Example: recycled shipping containers.

2. If County wants higher permit fees and property taxes, maybe they should provide actual services. Under current law, County is outright prohibited from performing any maintenance on "private" subdivision roads, which is a reasonable tradeoff given the current tax structure.

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Since the Big Island is mostly rural, and they have many volunteer fire departments, the Council should consider requiring fire retardant  lumber  that is to be used in the construction of homes and additions.  This treated wood would slow the spread of the fire, so that when the fire departments do arrive on scene, there is a chance  of the home not being totally engulfed in flames, saving property, and possibly lives.

LeeO's picture
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The modern Welfare/Warfare state was born in the in late nineteenth-century Imperial Germany under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck – his intention was clear from the outset:

“My idea was to bribe the working classes, or shall I say, to win them over, to regard the state as a social institution existing for their sake and interested in their welfare”

Bet you never saw that quote in your government run schoolbooks. Frideric Howe, an admirer of the german systeml wrote that under that system, “The individual exists for the state, not the state for the individual.”

We are now witnessing the end result of the institutions of bribery and theft that swept the rest of the world in the first half of the 20th century.

The most extreme version of socialism implemented under the murderous Soviets collapsed under its own corrupt weight over 20 years ago. Now the “Social Democratic” states of the west that thought they could find a third way with their middle of the road policies are discovering that the corruption of socialism has eaten away at their foundations as well.

The social engineers wished to control life, tame the markets and create a predictable, ordered society, directed by enlightened bureaucrats. They wanted to put in place of what Marx called the "anarchy of production" the exclusive monopoly of the state.

LeeO's picture
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Let's go hat in hand and meekly beseech The State for permission to build on our own land, so the proposed residence can be properly inspected and assessed. We may then continue to pay said State in perpetuity for privilege of  dwelling therein.


Land of the Free; Home of the Brave. 

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Meanwhile, people will continue to live "illegally".

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If the past is any guide the council will screw up as usual.  Given more than one alternative to any problem the council will pick the dumbest one.

taxedtodeath's picture
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James Weatherford, a Puna resident and board member of the Hawaii Sustainable Community Alliance, said his group's work is very narrowly focused on owner-builders who own land in agricultural-zoned areas. The building code would address structures for everyone else, he said.

What did you expect James? To be treated fairly? I wondered why the Hawaii Sustainable Community Alliance backed off fighting bill 270.

"The building code would address structures for everyone else."

As long as you guys get what you want people not living in rural areas or otherwise meeting your ideas are stuck with the code since only certain areas were "you" live would have been eligible for the alternate code under the Hawaii Sustainable Community Alliance draft legislation.

It seems while being willing to throw everyone else under the bus to get what you want you got ran over. You should have known better than to trust the process or make a deal with the devil.


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Yes, dave, you've got it. Once again, it's all comes down to the dollar.

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As usual, "creative" and "flexible" solutions are available to those with the time and money to "appeal" -- if you don't have the money to both build your house and fight for inspections, well, too bad.

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