Hawaii’s Unique Structural Challenges

Just as we adapt our attire and our actions to accommodate Hawaii’s island temperatures, building and structural considerations must adapt to Hawaii’s environmental influences.

Hawaii offers a unique combination of structural challenges that include seismic forces, strong winds and weather patterns, and sea-related salt corrosion. All of these considerations need to be taken into account when designing a new building or updating your existing commercial or residential structure.

Another key environmental factor is the remoteness of the location. The islands of Hawaii do not have ready, affordable access to many of the building materials used on the mainland. As a result, some structural systems common to other states are not readily available.  It can also be challenging to get ready access to skilled labor, as Hawaii’s smaller population means a smaller pool of professionals experienced in areas such as structural engineering, building design and new construction.

So, what do you do when you want to build, repair or add on to your existing structure?

  1. Use easily accessible materials. There are plenty of readily available materials such as concrete that you can employ in your building’s design. Not only will these materials be more affordable because they are common to most areas, they will be less susceptible to environmental factors that would cause corrosion or other damage to materials such as untreated metal.
  2. Consider the environment. Make sure that the structural design and materials used can stand up to the challenges of strong winds, seismic activity and salt corrosion. Use a firm that honors the island spirit by using renewable resources and proposes designs that fit in with the beauty of the island while maintaining the integrity of the surrounding landscape.
  3. Find experienced professionals to support your project. Look for contractors and structural engineers who understand the unique requirements of your location and can work with your building design team to create structures that can thrive in your tropical setting.  Check for professional association memberships and degrees as well as references, as these contractors will be more likely to deliver high quality services in a timely fashion.

K2N specializes in creative problem solving in the practices of architectural design, structural engineering, architectural engineering, interior renovation, forensic engineering and roof consulting.  With an office in Kahului, Maui, the company also has 5 years of experience in the evaluation, recommendation and design of structural solutions to support photovoltaic (solar panel) installations—including attractive, eco-friendly designs that utilize natural, indigenous, renewable resource materials. Building owners and managers throughout Illinois and Hawaii look to K2N for their architectural, structural and roof evaluation needs.  www.k2n.com/hawaii