Our beautiful islands are known around the planet for glorious weather. However, as locals know very well, Oahu has its own “climate zones” — areas whose weather patterns and conditions are subtly different from the sunny stereotype.

“Some properties get a lot of rain, wind or salt spray, which must be considered,” says Malia Yee, senior designer for Graham Builders. “And properties with no particular climate challenges might be located on a busy corner or near a bus stop. Every home should be designed for its own unique surroundings.”


Before any project begins, Yee and her team study each site thoroughly, observing conditions and thinking about how to maximize the comfort, privacy and beauty of each home.

On properties in wetter surroundings, houses are sited — positioned on the lot — so that drainage flows away from them. Yee recommends post and pier foundations for such homes.

“They’re less susceptible to flooding, and offer storage space under the house and easy access to plumbing,” she explains. “Additionally, depending on soils and topography, costs can be lower than for a slab foundation.”

Typical design features for wetter environments include connected garages, and covered walkways and entryways. Proper construction techniques are employed for building wrap and siding finishes. Trex® decking is often used because it doesn’t need painting and won’t rot.

“We always consider which direction the predominant wind and rain come from,” Yee adds. “On that side of the house, we plan for larger overhangs, higher or double-hung windows, and no entry doors. We recommend no carpeting in these homes, and outlets in closets for dehumidifiers.”


Living on or near the ocean is delightful, but extreme exposure to seaside elements, especially salt, can cause a great deal of wear and tear on structures over time. Residential elevations follow FEMA requirements, protecting the home from storm surges.

“We recommend impact-rated windows and walls, and concrete floors,” says Yee.“Also,oceanbreezescan be less than pleasant when they are heavy and constant. Windows and doors should be thoughtfully oriented for homeowner comfort.”


Because most of Graham Builders projects are designed and built for generations of families, the company takes no shortcuts. For example, the firm’s designers view retaining walls as a featuremeanttoholdbackearth. These barriers never serve as house walls of Graham Builders’ homes.

“Some builders do this, but thewallsofyourhouseshould not hold back earth,” Yee explains.“Intime,the pressure of the earth will break down the sheathing on the wall, which can result in problems with mold, mildew, termites and other pests.”


Corner lots can be challenging, and the Graham Builders team employs a variety of design techniques to help ensure privacy and sound reduction for homeowners.

The topography of a corner lot often drives the location of a home’s driveway and garage, and its overall design. House designs must allow for driver visibility around corners as well.

“The main thing is to avoid building a structure with a corner that thrusts out toward the intersection,” says Yee, who instead designs homes with an “inside” corner on these lots. “That opens the yard so you can cluster trees, adding privacy, while minimizing street noise. Remember, ‘curb appeal’ is a complementary combination of design and landscaping!”

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, March 12. Register now at grahambuilders.com or call 808-593-2808.