SB1461: Project square footage should dictate architect sign-off

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Senate Committee on Housing on Jan. 30, 2024.

Jan. 30, 2024, 1 p.m.
Hawaii State Capitol
Conference Room 225 and Videoconference

To: Senate Committee on Housing
      Sen. Stanley Chang, Chair
      Sen. Troy Hashimoto, Vice-Chair

From: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
          Ted Kefalas, Director of Strategic Campaigns


Comments only

Aloha Chair Chang, Vice-Chair Hashimoto and members of the Committee,

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer its comments on SB1461, which would change the types of projects that do not need to be stamped or observed by a licensed architect or engineer. 

Specifically, under the bill, projects exempt under Section 464-13 would be based on square footage instead of costs, and certain one- and two-story residences would be exempt entirely. 

For example, right now, according to SB1461, up to $40,000 of work may be done on a privately owned one-story structure — such as a residence or a business — without needing a licensed architect to draw up the plans. 

The bill would replace the $40,000 with language stating that the work is exempt so long as the “floor area of work does not exceed 1,200 square feet.” For certain two-story structures, the bill would change the $35,000 value limit to a 1,000 square feet limit. 

As a side note, it appears that SB1461 is using value figures and other language from an out-of-date version of Section 464-13. Those figures were updated last year by Act 177, SLH 2023 for one- and two-story residences from $50,000 and $45,000 to $180,000 and $162,000, respectively. For square footage limits, SB1461 would change them to 1,500 and 1,350, respectively. 

In any case, by calculating the exemptions on the basis of square footage, this bill would ensure that the exemptions stay in play despite inflation or any other reasons for the cost of the work increasing. Most other states calculate all or some of their exemptions by looking at square footage or other non-cost-based metrics. 

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Ted Kefalas
Director of strategic campaigns
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

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