Looking for extra income, extra space or both? Adding an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to your property might be just the right solution.

According to Ryan Graham, vice president of operations for Graham Builders, more than 1,300 ADU permits have been issued here since Oahu’s ADU ordinance went into effect in September 2015.

“Designed to offset Hawaii’s affordable housing shortage, an ADU is a second dwelling unit that includes its own kitchen, laundry and utility meter,” explains Graham. “It can be attached or detached from the primary residence. And depending on the size of the property, it’s limited to dimensions of 400-800 square feet.”

ADUs require solar hot water tanks, off-street parking and conformation with city ordinances. Additionally, the owner must live in one residence — but anybody else, related or unrelated, may live in the other.



First, you’ll want to determine the type of ADU you’d like to add to your property, and where you’ll add it. Will it be attached or separate from your main residence? A second floor attachment or a ground floor build?

“Many homeowners build ADUs for rental income,” says Graham. “They either rent the unit out, or live in it themselves.”

He strongly recommends communicating your intentions to your designer to en sure the unit is built for maximum flexibility and privacy.

“And it’s good to include your family in the discussions, so everybody can contribute ideas and know what to expect,” he adds.

You’ll also need to check if your property meets the requirements of the ordinance, and to investigate permitting.


“It’s smart to educate yourself on Honolulu’s overall building process,” Graham advises. “Our free Building Your Home for Life seminars are a great place to start.”

For optimal results, Graham suggests partnering with a design/build firm with its own in-house design team, willing to guarantee that you’ll collaborate directly with an assigned designer.

“They should also have experience constructing all types of accessory dwellings,” Graham says. “Experience means you’ll be guided by professionals who have successfully completed similar projects. They’ll ask questions you might not have considered.”

If an ADU doesn’t work for your property, there are several other options that can bring you more space and/ or income.

“Our team would be happy to speak with you about those, too!” Graham says.


A leader in the design and construction of multigenerational homes and aging-in-place design, Graham Builders is the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Hawaii Torch Award for ethics in small business. Its next free Building Your Home for Life seminar is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 10.

Register online now at grahambuilders.com or call 808-593-2808.

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