By Maria Kanai
As we approach the new year, many families make the resolution to complete home improvements in 2018. Whether it’s a small kitchen renovation or a grand expansion, locals choose Atlas Construction, a family-run homebuilding company that has been voted first place five years in a row as “Hawaii’s Best” contractor by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s People’s Choice awards for quality work and dedicated customer service.
Many of Atlas Construction’s clients are multigenerational families who want to restructure their home to accommodate a growing ohana. Keeping your family together and seeing your grandchildren grow up with their grandparents has great advantages — it’s a reasonable way to afford Hawaii’s high costs of living, but the logistics of a small living space can make it necessary to expand your home. (It’s a fact that 11.3 percent of family households in Hawaii consist of three or more generations. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, that’s the highest statistic in the United States — almost double the national average of 5.8 percent.)
“As a family-run business made up of four generations, we know firsthand the importance of family, and we want to make sure that our company supports our clients through our work,” says Rodney Kim, vice president of Atlas Construction.
For these extended families who live under one roof, Kim advises that they first figure out a realistic and clear budget. After a design consultation of visiting the site and making sure that the construction would be feasible, he and his staff will sit down with clients to set up a firm budget and a monthly payment plan.
There are many options when it comes to expanding your home. “Older homes are bigger than before, and have large areas such as dedicated dining rooms. We can convert them into bedrooms to accommodate your family members,” says Kim. “We’ve also had clients who have older kupuna who might need walkers or handrails. What we do is we widen three-foot hallways for a couple inches on either side to make room.”
He also says the house can be built and structured a certain way to maintain privacy between generations. Small things like soundproof walls or room dividers can make it possible for parents and children to share a space without feeling crammed. “You can also add a separate entrance to cut down on household traffic and let people come and go easily,” says Kim.
After the design consultation and budgeting, Kim and his staff will assist with drafting and design — where designs will be put on paper. During this process, he will also call in other contractors. For example, in Hawaii, termites are a common setback. If this is an issue, Kim will refer the client to a trusted and reliable termite inspector — one of many local businesses on Atlas’ referral list. Since Atlas Construction has 40 to 45 projects a year, and after being in business for four generations, the company knows that relationships are key. “Whether it’s a soil engineer, a realtor or a special management area contact, we pride ourselves with our list of reliable specialists,” says Kim.
Throughout this process, Atlas recommends attending its open houses, which take place once a month. Clients will be able to see an actual project that has been completed by Atlas Construction. You can learn more about future open houses by checking out the ads in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper or the company’s online website and social media.
Another good resource would be attending Atlas’ informational building seminars, which are held monthly. The seminars are free and open to the public, and potential clients can learn about the different steps of putting together a budget, having site visits, getting permits and more.
Finally, the fourth step would be the actual completion of the project’s construction documents, which include gathering appropriate documents such as building permits from the County’s Building Division. “This step can sometimes take a long time, as much as six months, so we plan that into our schedule,” says Kim. If you choose to get an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), which are secondary, separate homes that come with a kitchen and bathroom, Kim can also help you acquire a permit from the city Department of Planning and Permitting.
His final tip? Open communication. It’s important for his customers to feel comfortable enough to ask anything during the whole process, whether it’s about the actual construction or the budget. Kim and his staff are happy to answer any questions during the process.