Skip to comments.Maui draft outlines rules for building Hawaiian huts
Posted on 08/22/2002 9:09:06 PM PDT by Vidalia
WAILUKU >> Getting back to that little grass shack in Hawaii may become a bit easier for Maui residents.
A Maui County advisory committee has finished drafting proposed rules that allow the construction of four different kinds of Hawaiian grass huts using materials mainly grown on the islands -- the first proposal of its kind in the state.
"It's a long time in coming," said master builder Francis Sinenci.
The draft, if adopted, would allow qualified builders to go through the same process to construct Hawaiian huts as they would for a Western dwelling.
Sinenci said he has been frustrated that getting a permit to build a Western dwelling was easier than getting one to build an indigenous structure.
He said he had to obtain building variances in the past to build Hawaiian huts, including four structures at the Hana Cultural Center.
Under the proposals, the dwellings would have a maximum dimension of 30 by 60 feet and be used for limited purposes, such as eating, meeting, sleeping and storing canoes.
"These buildings will be expensive to build. They're very labor-intensive," said Hans Riecke, retired architect and a member of the county's Indigenous Architecture Task Force.
Rather than using nails and milled lumber, the builder would rely on natural posts and lashing techniques to hold the structure together.
"It's intricate. It's a work of art," Riecke said.
The draft was scheduled to be discussed today at a Maui County Cultural Resources Commission meeting. The meeting starts at 9 a.m. in the county planning conference room.
The rules are expected to be sent by tomorrow to the Maui County Council for its review. The Council passed a bill about two years ago requiring the county administration to develop the draft rules.
Riecke said an indigenous building code would not only allow the development of traditional huts, but also perpetuate the knowledge of how to build them.
Sinenci is expected to teach a course at Maui Community College on how to build a Hawaiian hut.
Supporters of the draft say it also bucks a trend of using Western materials.
PHOTO COURTESY OF RIECKE SUNNLAND KONO ARCHITECT LTD. Supporters of a Maui draft say it will encourage the use of island materials in building huts like the one above in Hana, Maui.
Uniform building codes here and nationally are based on using materials from the mainland, such as milled Douglas fir and oak, that have been tested by engineers for their strength. Part of the goal of developing an indigenous architecture code of rules is to encourage the use of materials grown in Hawaii.
County codes administrator Ralph Nagamine said a University of Hawaii engineer has been reviewing the use of various Hawaiian materials to determine their strength, including wood from trees commonly found in Hawaii.
Nagamine said while the engineer has come up with a preliminary conclusion based on similar properties of some woods, he also will be conducting tests on Maui to determine the strength of the materials. Some trees that are scheduled to be tested include ohia, ironwood, eucalyptus, strawberry guava, mangrove and kiawe.
Nagamine said the county will be seeking some $23,000 from the state Legislature to conduct the engineering study.
He said under the draft, the Hawaiian huts would be allowed in areas where their use is appropriate to the zoning.
For instance, a hale allowed for sleeping would be permitted in a residential area, and a canoe hale, near the beach, Nagamine said.
Except for a sprinkler system on the roof, the traditional house would have no electricity or plumbing.
Riecke said while there were Hawaiian hale for cooking, the group decided not to allow cooking inside the huts at this time because they did not have enough information. He said the draft also allows parachute cord to be used as lashing material.
The draft also allows the use of materials other than pili grass for thatching because there is very little on Maui. But Riecke said adoption of the indigenous architecture code may change the availability of materials.
"If this becomes possible to do, I think people will begin growing pili grass in the future," he said.
I gotta think the inspectors weren't getting enough bribes under the old system...