Editor’s Notes

Rebuilding vs. Renovating
Photo: Provided

Why don’t they just tear it down? I mean really. 

Most of us have watched shows like HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” and “Flip or Flop” and wondered why these dedicated — borderline delusional — souls pour so many resources into these dumps. From rat-infested, trashed out homes with incoherent floorplans and decaying wiring and plumbing, these projects are made to make TV viewers go, “Oh, that’s just awful.” 

But in the real world, you know with all three dimensions, the decision to fix it up or tear it down isn’t so easy. Many builders prefer to tear it down, start with a clean slate, a clear floorplan and use updated materials. Architects, on the other hand, are more likely to renovate. “Some architects want to hold onto the historical nature of Hawaii’s homes,” says HK Construction’s Alan Twu, whose the subject of a builder profile. “It really depends on the project.” 

But renovations can be tricky. “Architects and builders who don’t have a strong grasp of structural design might be risk-averse when renovating involves going over an existing structure using large girder beams that have to span over wide open spaces,” says Evan Fujimoto of Graham Builders. “Additions can be quite complex when it involves things like busting concrete to relocate drain lines, moving electrical panels, or framing complex roofs that have to tie into existing roofs. Both architects and builders are always concerned about foundations, leaks, latent/hidden defects, etc. and the budget. So much money can get sucked into repairing existing structural defects that there might not be enough to accomplish what the homeowners were initially hoping for.” 

Architect Reid Mizue says in Hawaii, the decision to renovate over rebuild usually comes down to one simple factor — money. “I’d say for the majority of homeowners here it’s purely financial,” says Mizue of Omizu Architecture Inc. “You start looking at the project and asking yourself, ‘Do we really need to fix the kitchen?’ or ‘Do we really need a new bathroom?’’’

If you do decide to renovate, choose a building professional who’s been tested. “Whenever a home has historic or sentimental value and the owners want to keep it, the main thing is to work with design and construction professionals who are experienced in renovation work,” Fujimoto says. “The goal should always be that an addition does not look like an addition; it should seamlessly blend old and new.”

Categories: Architecture, Building Industry