I currently reside on the big island but am relocating to Kaua'i to stay the remainder of my one year (possibly 2-4 more years?) here-
I know they have some fairly strict laws and codes here so I sent a general email to the state's building permit office. Done lots of research and it seems that, because of the warm and wet climate here, a bamboo thatched hut would work nicely provided I could find and purchase or grow my own bamboo for a 700 sq. foot structure w/ sleeping loft. Bamboo has too many benefits to list and is used in much of the tropics and Asia - it grows very fast too!
The other option would be to repurpose one of those large 'shed' cottages that Home Depot has, the one I like is 24' X 18' $7,000 and has a loft space but bare walls need to be covered and the actual loft needs to be built. I'd keep it real simple and do the majority of my cooking outside over a fire pit on a grill but would also have a small convection oven, a generator to run appliances, grey water system to water plants, outdoor utility sink by cooking area, fridge outside too. Passive solar is great but not sure how much it costs. I'd use candles and lanterns after dark but go to bed no later than 10pm so the need for artificial light is scarce. Would love to have sky lights if possible.
I tried awhile back asking folks in Hawaii (before moving from Oregon), if it would be possible to rent land on their property and build a small dwelling or else a used RV until a structure could be afforded or built from free and cheap local materials. I assured them that all you really need to do is state to authorities (if they ask) that the structure is mostly an artist studio but sometimes used for guests too. Combine that 'definition' w/ the fact that no extra electrical, sewer or plumbing is necessary because you'd be using composting toilet, grey water system, rain water catchment, generator and/or passive solar of course! Many people replied that my idea was crazy and they'd never get 'permission' to do this...so I gave up. But I noticed that nearly every house here has a detached or semi-attached guest house or studio and they always always rent it out for extra income so what's the big deal with me renting the land and house that I build on their property? I'm also trying to see if there are grants and free money to build a school/retreat center as a 501-K non-profit - any info on that would also be greatly appreciated! Anyways, sorry for the long spiel Thanks & Mahalo nui loa ~
Amy, I don't know what area of Big a Island you're on, but in my district, well over 50% of the houses are not permitted. Yes, most are small and basic, but some have morphed over the years into substantial homes. Going the legal route as an owner builder can be quite difficult and expensive. You will be required to do things that don't make sense, and denied things that seem fine to you. And it will take months to get the permits and a year to get the house built and finalized.
Growing your own bamboo for a permitted structure won't happen. Neither will a grey water system for watering plants. A legal off grid solar electric system will cost a bundle and almost all that do exist are unpermitted, Passive solar? For what? Heat? Not needed in most areas. And a small woodstove does fine and is a lot cheaper. Oh by the way, people don't bother getting permits to install those either.
I know of many people living in modified Home Depot/Lowes sheds. They actually are great here. But none are legal. People don't bother with permits unless they live in built up areas....Kona, Waimea, Hilo, etc.....or they need a mortgage, or if they plan to build a fancy home, or are in a visible location, they plan to resell at a decent price. Lots of houses in my area sell as unpermitted homes, but the prices are cheap.
It's never too late to start! I retired to homestead on the slopes of Mauna Loa, an active volcano. I relate snippets of my endeavor on my blog : www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com
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