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Comprehensive Construction Code Update Submitted to Council

by Thunda

The largest update to Hawai‘i County’s construction codes in decades arrived Thursday, June 18, in the Office of the County Clerk, for placement on a committee hearing scheduled for July 7, 2020.

The 197-page bill, which is yet to be numbered, repeals existing Chapters 5 (Building Code), Chapter 9 (Electrical Code), and Chapter 17 (Plumbing Code), and consolidates them within a new Chapter 5 (Construction Administrative Code), Chapter 5A (Building Code), Chapter 5D (Electrical Code), Chapter 5E (Energy Conservation Code), and Chapter 5F (Plumbing Code).

In addition, the electrical and plumbing codes are updated to the 2017 and 2012 standards, respectively. Chapter 5A adopts a new appendix for tiny houses, and building code updates will be addressed in future legislation. The energy conservation code in Chapter 5E was updated earlier this year.

The overall effect of this bill will allow the Building Division of the Department of Public Works to streamline its administration of the permit application and plan review process by consolidating what are presently separate permits from the existing chapters into a single permit. The fees for this permit are derived from a simplified fee structure that is based on the value of the work to be performed.

 “This bill was a monumental undertaking for our staff and our stakeholders that took over a year and a half to get to this point,” said Acting Building Division Chief Robyn Matsumoto. “But consolidating our codes was something that needed to be done because now there is a clear and consistent permitting path that supports a one-permit system. In addition, this new administrative code further prepares us for the upcoming amendments to the building codes.”

Council Member Sue Lee Loy, Chair of the Committee on Public Works and Mass Transit, noted that a lot of thought went in to the structure of the bill, and she praised the Building Division and Legislative Specialist Leslie Chow for their diligent work to re-engineer the codes.

“This co-designing to come up with an updated framework really sets the stage for the streamlining and modernizing of the construction codes,” Lee Loy said. “But also keep in mind the bigger picture – re-working the building permit process will help to pull our economy out of this COVID-19 depression, while reducing plan review time and ensuring up-to-date construction standards.”

A pre-introduction draft of the bill was released for public comment in late May, and during that time stakeholders were asked to submit written comments. Additional changes were made as a result of those comments received by the comment period deadline. Unfortunately, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Building Division was unable to hold topic-focused workshops in Hilo and in Kona. However, testimony will be welcome when the bill appears on the Public Works and Mass Transit Committee on July 7, as well as the two Council meetings that are required before the bill goes to the Mayor’s desk for approval in August.

The bill is available for review on the DPW website at:

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