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Trend Report

The latest and greatest in Hawaii’s construction industry

Designer Ware
Honolulu is the home of top-notch architects, so it takes a lot for one company to make a big design splash. Eight Inc. has done just that. The San Francisco design firm opened a five-person office in Honolulu in 1999, after designing the King Kalakaua Plaza Project (the sleek Waikiki retail development housing Niketown and Banana Republic). Eight Inc. also designed the noveau retro retail townhouses at 2100 Kalakaua, which opened in December 2002. Nationwide, Eight Inc. is the designer of Apple stores across the country. Its other style-conscious clients include Burton Snowboards and Sony."We saw that there was an opportunity here for a creative design firm in both the retail area and the residential sector," says Matthew Goyke, Honolulu partner for the company. Next: Apple’s new store, scheduled to open this year in the Ala Moana Center. Says Goyke,"We bring a global perspective with local sensitivities."

The architecture of this Apple store is the brainchild of Eight Inc., a San Francisco design firm that opened a Honolulu office four years ago. tags.
Photo: Eight Inc.

Ergonomics Take Two
Construction companies confused by the Hawaii state government’s past convoluted ergonomics policies heaved a sigh of relief when lawyer Nelson Befitel was tapped last December as Linda Lingle’s new head of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. Befitel replaced Lorraine Akiba, of the Cayetano administration. Under Akiba’s reign, DLIR’s Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division (HIOSH) last year started a citation campaign that had many businesses not just miffed, but mystified. Some were cited for asking their employees to lift more than 50 pounds without mechanical assistance, a rule that could have affected a broad swathe of construction industries."My concern was that there is no evidence to show lifting will cause serious physical harm," Befitel says. Worse, according to Befitel, HIOSH had never given employers a chance to comment on the new rules and had failed to provide proper notice to many of them. As a result, DLIR has rescinded last year’s ergonomic citations and plans to revamp the state’s ergonomics policy, including public hearings. Says Befitel,"It’s only fair to businesses that we go through the proper administrative process."

An ergonomically friendly keyboard.
Photo: Jacy L. Youn

The State of the Elderly
There are four new senior projects on Oahu worth $230 million, and six more construction projects are in the development stages. No doubt, these will create thousands of senior housing units to Hawaii and generate hundreds of millions in construction spending. What’s driving the boom? Demographics on steroids. More than 13 percent of Hawaii residents are 65 years and older. That percentage is about to skyrocket."We also have the highest concentration per capita of baby boomers of any state as well," says Greg Marchildon, the director of the Hawaii branch of the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP)."We have people living longer in Hawaii than in any other state in the country." Translation? The building boom may be just the beginning of a boffo market for senior facilities in desirable locations.

Construction for the Plaza at Punchbowl, a senior housing community in Makiki, is scheduled to be completed in December.
Photo: Ronen Zilberman

Construction Crunchers
Building permit numbers aside, forecasting construction growth in Hawaii has been largely a back-of-the-envelope affair. Carl Bonham, the executive director of the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, aims to change that. Bonham and UH graduate student Ting Zhou are creating the state’s most detailed statistical forecasting model of construction activity. It will, for example, correlate not just permits and economic growth, but also economic growth, job-count growth, home prices, increased profits and expenditures on construction."There is a need for it. We have had a number of private-sector clients who were interested in the sector and helped fund the research," Bonham says. He won’t identify who is funding the program but was scheduled to roll out his first forecast in the second quarter of this year.

The construction industry relies on financial forecasts by Byron Gangnes and Carl Bonham, both professors of economics at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Photo: Jacy L. Youn

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Hawaii Business,June