Reliable reputation

Each decision you make regarding your home construction or renovation project will be important, but selecting your contractor might be the most vital decision of all.

If you choose a design/ build firm, that company will handle all aspects of your project. The firm’s designers, contractor and crew, subcontractors, and suppliers will work together as a team to make your dream a reality.

“That means a lot of accountability for the firm you hire,” observes Evan Fujimoto, president of Honolulu design/build firm Graham Builders. “To design and build the home that might be your family’s most valuable asset, you’ll want to search for a company with a solid reputation — and one whose experience and approach are in harmony with your vision for your project.”

How does one choose a design/build contractor? Below, Fujimoto offers suggestions for those who are about to begin the process. (And if you’ve already started your search, these tips might help you make a more informed decision.)


Careful investigation in the early stages of your search will help eliminate troubled companies that consistently disappoint their clients.

“A good firm should be eager to provide you with references from clients with similar jobs,” suggests Fujimoto. “Look for a company with respected professional and trade affiliations — one that’s well-rated by the Better Business Bureau, and a member of BIA Hawaii.”

It’s also smart to check with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to see if the firm’s license is current, the length of time that license has been active, and for any unresolved complaints about the firm’s services.

A reputable company will provide a performance bond for your project, as well as a clear written warranty and home care recommendations upon completion. Firms with easy-to-read documentation and policies can be easier to deal with than those whose paper work is filled with technical and legal jargon.

“Ask to see examples of payment and change order policies to make sure you understand them,” Fujimoto suggests.


Finding a design/build contracting firm that, simply put, is the right fit for your project should be high on your list of priorities.

“Will their services meet your needs?” asks Fujimoto. “Whether your lot is beachfront, rocky or on a slope, do they have experience building homes on similar properties? Does their portfolio include designs that you love?”

Look for a firm with a team of professionals whose skills and services are complementary to your project.

“They should assign you an architectural designer to help you define your needs and desires, and they should have qualified subcontractors and trade partners to execute any unique aspects of your design,” says Fujimoto.

Accordingly, if you’re planning to build your forever home, find a company with an experienced Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist.

“And if you’re serious about sustainable building, look for a team with a Certified Green Professional,” Fujimoto recommends.


The best design/build firms provide full, turnkey project management to their clients.

“A capable firm will be able to design to fit your budget, and will also employ an estimator who can help you value-engineer your project,” says Fujimoto.

For maximum efficiency and innovation, a good firm should have up-to-date computer-aided design software capable of producing renderings (images generated from models).

“They should also have a library or sample room of interior finishes and fixtures, so you can inspect and choose exactly what you want for your home,” adds Fujimoto.

Professionalism, integrity and efficiency are important — and remember that personality counts, too.

“The design/build process is intimate and collaborative,” says Fujimoto. “For best results, you’ll want to be comfortable with your team.”

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. The next free Building Your Home for Life seminar is scheduled for Saturday, June 4. Register now at or call 808-593-2808.