Is an ADU right for YOUR family?

As hundreds of island homeowners have learned, the accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a creative solution for families who want to generate income from their property or need more space than their primary homes can provide.

 The open-design of the living area allows flexibility of use for the residents.

“The ADU is a great way to add a small but functional apartment to a single-family lot,” says Evan Fujimoto, president of Graham Builders. “ADUs can also be ideal for homeowners who want to age in place in houses that simply aren’t functional for those with mobility issues.”

Flexible, multigenerational housing

As Hawaii’s first design+build firm with a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) on staff, Graham Builders has demonstrated success with ADUs created with mobility and safety in mind. The firm now employs three CAPS, certified by the National Association of Home Builders, to help create designs that are ideal for their owners’ lifestyles – both today and in the future.

 A zero-step shower and accessible bath make this ADU perfect for aging-in-place.

For those with accessibility issues, the ADU can make perfect sense. Several years ago, Graham Builders did a teardown and rebuild project for an active, busy Manoa couple.

“We also built a fully accessible ADU on their property,” Fujimoto says. “They realized that climbing the stairs in their new two-story home would be increasingly difficult as they aged. They also knew the ADU could provide a home for an adult child, or even a rental income.”

The Manoa couple found that Graham Builders’ team offered enthusiastic support for their vision.

“We had conceptual ideas as to how our new home should look and feel, but it took Evan and his team to turn our ideas into building plans,” commented one spouse.

Small but mighty design

Since the City & County of Honolulu passed a law permitting ADUs on single-family lots in 2015, the concept of this type of flexible, multigenerational housing has received enthusiastic public support. ADUs have their own full kitchens, bathrooms, and sleeping facilities. They can be an extension of the main house, conversion of a garage or other existing structure, or a new build, but they must meet a number of criteria, including a minimum lot size of 3,500 square feet for a 400 sq. ft. dwelling. To accommodate an ADU of 800 square feet, a lot must be 5,000 square feet or larger.

“ADUs add to affordable rental housing, minimize urban sprawl, and encourage diversity,” observes Fujimoto. “Through careful planning and design, they can also help preserve a neighborhood’s unique character.”

 The bright and airy kitchen greets guests as they enter this ADU.

He shares the story of a client who decided to add an ADU to her mother’s Kaneohe home. The Graham Builders team proposed a design for a spacious unit above a carport. It blended perfectly into its surroundings. The stylish dwelling includes a great room with high windows that mimic those in the main house, offering panoramic views of the Koolau Mountains.

“Looking at the house from certain angles, it appears to be one structure, not a separate unit,” the homeowner marvels. “I love my new place!”

Founded in 1990, Graham Builders remains Hawaii’s only design+build contractor honored by the Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award for Business Ethics. For more information, and a library of award-winning designs, visit or call 808.593.2808.

Photos by Hawkins Biggins Photography.