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Local architect on how a self-certification permit process would affect Oʻahu

The Davies Pacific Center at 841 Bishop St. in Honolulu.
Catherine Cruz
The Davies Pacific Center at 841 Bishop St. in Honolulu.

On The Conversation last week, Avalon President and CEO Christine Camp mentioned a possible self-certification for Honolulu's building permit process. That prompted a listener to send in her concerns.

“She spoke of self-certification. Meanwhile, yesterday’s NPR had an account from post-earthquake Turkey, in which the reporter pointed out several ruined buildings were new, luxury condominiums, which had been self-certified. I urge the city Department of Planning and Permitting to not allow self-certification," Laura Fink said.

The Avalon Group recently purchased Davies Pacific Center, a 1970s-era building that many powerhouse law firms and businesses call home. The developer is in the process of turning 17 floors into residential condos for sale.

The Conversation was curious as to whether that was an accurate depiction of the situation in Turkey, and whether Oʻahu was at risk for similar results should the Honolulu City Council pass Bill 6, which would allow self-certification.

The Conversation talked to Todd Hassler, a local architect and the president of the Honolulu chapter of the American Institute of Architects, to find out.

"My understanding is that it's not necessarily the self-certification or even the building codes that were the issue. The issue was the enforcement during construction. An architect can self-certify, and then during construction, you know, there's no oversight by any other entity. So it lets the contractor cut corners to save costs and expedite the construction," Hassler said.

He said the intent of the bill is to ease the backlog of small project applications such as single-family homes or tenant improvements.

This interview aired on The Conversation on March 29, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Russell Subiono is the executive producer of The Conversation. Born in Honolulu and raised on Hawaiʻi Island, he’s spent the last decade working in local film, television and radio. Contact him at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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