At the completion of every new home constructed by Graham Builders, a small brass seal is placed at the edge of the driveway.
The seal includes a petroglyph depicted as a construction worker, and the words “Graham Builders Custom Designed and Built.” This small but significant practice, which began in 1992, symbolizes the pride Graham Builders’ team takes in its work — and confidence in every project it completes.
Great design through collaboration
Unlike many design+build companies, Graham Builders is willing to sign design-only agreements with homeowners — another early innovation from founder Danny Graham. “My father realized that we had to have faith in our design process,” says Ryan Graham, vice president of operations for the Honolulu design-build firm. “We have to earn the homeowner’s confidence, so they trust us to build.”
Trust is developed through a five-phase design process that brings the homeowner, architectural designer, estimator and ultimately the project/construction manager together in collaboration.
“As my father says, ‘Good construction never makes up for poor design.’ In a collaborative design, where the homeowner is working directly with the person who’s drawing the plans, it really makes a difference,” Graham comments.
He’s seen plenty of examples in the houses he’s helped tear down or renovate where collaboration could have helped — kitchens and bathrooms with completely inadequate lighting and ventilation, for instance, or solid walls built on the view side of the house.
Collaboration offers opportunities to create a home that is perfect for every aspect of the homeowner’s lifestyle. “You can say, ‘This is how I want to live in my house. I want my kids to be within sight while I chop vegetables, but I don’t want visitors to see my messy kitchen,’ for example,” says Graham. “Our designers help you define the concept, and through collaboration, you fine-tune everything together.”
Teamwork results in true custom design
That was Jared Hanaoka’s experience of the Graham Builders team. “They helped us throughout the process,” recalls the homeowner. “We had multiple planning meetings in which the design was created. They listened to our ideas (and) gave their own input on how to make our ideas work better.”
Honolulu homeowner Douglas Kurth brought his own initial floor plan to Graham Builders, and worked with the team’s designer and estimator to tweak the details.
“The collaboration provided an advantage over me trying to design the house myself and then put it out to bid,” he says. “Working with both specialists, we were able to value-engineer and right-size the design to fit our budget.”
Client Bruce Miyoda says collaboration with the construction manager assigned to his project was particularly helpful.
“There were things we hadn’t thought of in the design process, but because of his experience he knew these things would be important, like providing access to areas in the house to better utilize storage space,” says the Manoa homeowner.
Construction managers can help identify on-the-fly opportunities for useful enhancements and personal touches.
“One of our managers was working on a renovation for an East Oahu family,” recounts Graham. “He noticed that a wall slated for demolition had dozens of tick marks with the children’s names and measurements through the years. The project manager saw how precious that was, and he saved it and had it framed for the homeowners.”
When it comes to construction, collaboration results in a home that is truly custom-built, in every sense of the word. “That’s not just because you pick your own cabinets, doorknobs, light fixtures, and every other detail,” says Graham. “Even more, it’s because your home was designed around your lifestyle.”
Founded in 1990, Graham Builders remains the only design-build contractor in Hawaii honored by the Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award for Business Ethics. Call 593-2808 for more information. For a library of award-winning designs, visit graham builders.com.
Photography by Hawkins Biggins Photography.