Potential Clients, PC, have many good questions which prompted me to jot some down, so in a sense these are frequently asked questions between clients and architect which I will paraphrase a few along with my responses. I will add to this list as time over time. Please feel free to leave a comment or ask questions.

PC:     What are the differences between the services that an architect can provide versus a builder?

Fins:     There are similarities and the results are all dependent on the clients taste and desired value. As an Architect I tend to approach a project with not only the clients goals but also many personal goals such as aesthetics, site sensitivity, sustainability, ease of construction and economically. When I sign a contract with a client, I am committed until the project is complete, usually one and a half to two years. The design phase may last a year then another year for construction. During construction the architect represents the client and serves as a barrier to the contractor. This method has proved historically the best way to protect the client from many conflicts that arise during construction. Ideally to protect the client from the nightmare of cost overrun.

There is a very good chance that the design for the new home is an original, because it will be designed to fit in a particular site. It will also reflect the client’s lifestyle. Above all if the client can afford all the bells and whistles to make it a special place then we all win.

Read more about designing a home with an architect…

PC:     What if I act as owner builder?

Fins:    I would discourage that unless you have experience as a contractor. Contractor has the pulse of his territory; he has a handle on where to find a crew, subs, and where to get the best deals for materials. Some contractors also have working relationships with county officials and inspectors that can help avoid delays.

PC:      What is your fee based on?

Fins:    This is always the hardest questions for me to answer because each project is different from the next. Small and complicated projects will take just as much time to complete as larger more simple ones. My fee is generally based on a percentage of the construction cost estimate.

PC:      What is the average cost per square foot? (Hawaii Island)

Fins:    My experience with a project of similar scope that is under construction is a little over $200/SF, but here in Hawaii there is a great variation. A spec home with 2000 SF may cost $150/SF or a luxury home may cost up to $1200/SF or higher. (Determining square foot cost is fairly simple, one just has to compare with properties currently listed for sale in the area. At this writing home prices are no less than $175/SF for an existing home)

PC:     How much do the sustainable components costs?

Fins:   My recent project, the Sato Residence, has 20 photovoltaic panels, a three panel solar water heater system, a one thousand gallons gray water catchment, two one thousand gallon tanks for rain water, gray water filter and an appropriate plumbing system costs about 4 to 5% ($25k to $30 k) of the entire construction cost. The true cost of the panels are much less when with rebates.

PC:     Which solar energy system is best to use, hybrid or off grid?

Fins:   Currently the local electrical company, Hawaiian Electrical Company, only offers a net metering system or commonly refer to as a hybrid system, where the PV panels turn the meter back during daylight hours). An off the grid system requires storage batteries that has a life span of about 10 years. I recommend a hybrid system to eliminate the need to maintain the batteries.


1.       AIA, What an architect can do for you?

2.       Hawaiian Electrical Company , Net metering in Hawaii

3.       US Department of Energy , Alternative Energy information

4.       Federal and Hawaii Tax Incentives Summary

5.       Hawaii and Maui construction costs 2006

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