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Maui

The Environmentally Friendly Hawaiian Pole House

Pole homes are environmentally friendly and less costly to construct

I love great architecture and was drawn to the look of the pole house. They also have the added benefit of being energy and environmentally friendly. The home that I currently live in is a pole house, and I made my buying decision within the first few steps of entering the front sliding door.

Hawaiian pole homes have a woodsy, tree house feeling as they generally sit one story above ground and are constructed primarily of redwood. Over the years of pole home ownership, my research led me to the man responsible for most of the pole homes on the island, Frank Stiller. I was determined to track him down to see if he indeed was the builder of my home. So off I went to the land of Google and low and behold, I found his website, which led me to an email address, which got me a phone number, which got me an interview. So I just got off the phone with the Rockstar of pole house construction.

This home closely resembles my pole house

First, what is a pole house you ask? A pole house is a “semi modular” designed house in which the internal framing or “skeleton” bears all the weight.  Large diameter vertical wood poles are bolted or sunken into concrete footings which carry the weight of the floor and roof. Girder beams and floor joists are bolted directly to the notched vertical poles creating a unique structural grid-like system. Another, earlier examples of this basic style include post and beam architecture of the 50’s and 60’s.  Poles houses are know to withstand the effects of hurricanes, earthquakes and floods because of the notched and bolted interlocking support systems.  Once the poles are in place, framing can be designed to evenly distribute the weight.  After the framing is done, the roof can go up and the walls are put in place.  This construction method reduces the amount of time needed for construction as well as reduce the cost dramatically for site preparation.  Undesirable hillsides, sloping lots, rocky, sandy or flood prone sites are ideal locations for a pole house. They can be build with the least disruption to the land as possible.

This pole house is located on Makena Beach

Enough about the boring stuff.  I was thrilled to actually speak to Mr. Stiller and get his take on the design and why that is his preferred building style. Fortunately, he knew of my family and my brother had actually helped him with site preparation on a number of projects so that broke the ice a bit. I was told that it all began in the early 70’s when an engineer friend took him to an event called, The Parade of Homes.  It was on Oahu and a new style of home was featured.  It was called a Pole House.  That intrigued him and led him to his first project up in the Kula Highlands.  The house was built in 1972 at 1500 square feet for a total cost of $45,000 or about $30/sq ft. That was the beginning of a prolific career on Maui, building approximately 200 homes, 50 of which are located in the  area of Maui Meadows. There isn’t a street you drive through Maui Meadows without seeing a pole house.  I was curious to see how costs have risen since 1972 and I asked what would be the cost to build that home. He said it would be approximately $150-170/sq ft as an owner builder with an additional 20k for site prep work. I was especially interested to hear his take on energy efficiency as pole homes usually have deep eaves and can protect the house from the hot afternoon sun. It seems that there was some sense of placement of the home on the lot in relation to the elements. I was pleased to hear about that. I have come to appreciate my home and I seriously believe it is about 5 – 8 degrees cooler than other homes I see throughout the course of the day. I have made some energy efficiency upgrades including an insulation backed metal shake roof and a self venting skylight in my dining area.  I did notice the difference after the install. A ridge vent wouldn’t hurt but that will be something to consider upon my next roof replacement.

I would guesstimate that approximately 60% of the wall area in my home is glass and wondered if new building codes would hamper placement of that much glass in new homes. He did mention that a requirement for double paned windows is coming around the corner so that would affect the cost to build. My home is a single walled redwood construction so I get to see wood throughout. Frank mentioned that double wall construction will be required soon, so, unless you faced the inside walls with wood instead of drywall, that may take away some of the tree house feel. Another change is that open beam ceilings are now required to have insulation either the inside or outside. If the insulation is on the inside, you would lose the look of the wood roofing panels since the insulation would be covered with drywall. I’m so glad I got a vintage pole house! You can’t build them like they used to.  I was excited to learn that Frank had indeed built my home.  My suspicions had been proven correct.

Exposed, vaulted ceilings make rooms feel larger than they are

Frank has relocated to the Big Island but he still plans to build another home on Maui. Construction begins sometime in October.  With any luck I will be able to stop by and check out the progress. I’d like to thank Frank again for taking the time out of his day to talk to me about his passion.  Here is a link to his website, Pole Homes by Frank Stiller, where you can get some additional information on designs and photos.

There is another site that advertises pole house construciton. Polehouses.com has a product called the P-POD. The modular designed P-POD is just shy of 600 sq ft and comes in at a cost of just under $16,000. You can set up a series of them to create a P-POD community.  Check them out.

I have also compiled a gallery of Maui Pole Homesthat are currently listed for sale. If you would like any additional information about those listings, don’t hesitate to contact me at 808.344.6421 or ken@hawaiilife.com.

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Justin - Head Web Head

May 24, 2010

I’m a really big fan of pole houses too, as I grew up in on in Haena, Kauai. I love the older ones with single wall construction.

Justin - Head Web Head

May 24, 2010

I’m a really big fan of pole houses too, as I grew up in on in Haena, Kauai. I love the older ones with single wall construction.

Tobi Fisher

May 25, 2010

I am a big fan of Frank Stiller and the Maui pole house is so unique, cooler, better views and extrememly sturdy. You are so smart to own one!

Tobi Fisher

May 25, 2010

I am a big fan of Frank Stiller and the Maui pole house is so unique, cooler, better views and extrememly sturdy. You are so smart to own one!

Katie Minkus, R(BIC)

May 25, 2010

We actually considered hiring Frank to build a pole house for us on the back of our Puako Beach lot. Still might, but of course, first we must find construction financing for Realtors… sigh. Awesome homes. Even better people. Buy local and sustainable – how does it get better?

Katie Minkus, R(BIC)

May 25, 2010

We actually considered hiring Frank to build a pole house for us on the back of our Puako Beach lot. Still might, but of course, first we must find construction financing for Realtors… sigh. Awesome homes. Even better people. Buy local and sustainable – how does it get better?

Dano Sayles

May 26, 2010

Aloha Ken,
The Maile plan was one of my favorite Frank Stiller designs.I think your 1st photo my have been my home that I built in 1987-88 on Nahenahe Place Maui Meadows with Frank Stiller designing and building it.We owned another Maile plan @ 645 Laniolu that is now for sale again.

Dano Sayles

May 26, 2010

Aloha Ken,
The Maile plan was one of my favorite Frank Stiller designs.I think your 1st photo my have been my home that I built in 1987-88 on Nahenahe Place Maui Meadows with Frank Stiller designing and building it.We owned another Maile plan @ 645 Laniolu that is now for sale again.

roswitha sokolowski

June 5, 2010

what is the cost of a typical pole home in Kauai?

Appreciative

roswitha sokolowski

June 5, 2010

what is the cost of a typical pole home in Kauai?

Appreciative

The Organic Homesteader

June 17, 2010

How is Organic Cotton Different?…

I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

The Organic Homesteader

June 17, 2010

How is Organic Cotton Different?…

I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

Erik Hinshaw

March 6, 2011

Just helped a family purchase one here on the Big Island. I love them too. Perfect Island House.

Erik Hinshaw

March 6, 2011

Just helped a family purchase one here on the Big Island. I love them too. Perfect Island House.

Ken Molina R(S)

March 6, 2011

Was it a Frank Stiller design? He’s on the Big Island now.

Ken Molina R(S)

March 6, 2011

Was it a Frank Stiller design? He’s on the Big Island now.

Momi

June 2, 2011

Yes, Hawai’i is a beautiful place. From a kanaka maoli’s point of view, imagine this…. You live in a beautiful house, one day strangers come and start eating your food and using your kitchen to make their meals, they get comfortable in your easy chair to watch your big screen TV. They need a bath, so they go into your closet to choose some clean clothes, they soak in your tub and use your favorite soaps and shampoo, leaving a mess. Then they go to lie in your bed maybe taking your spouse with them. When you complain about what is happening, they tell you to get out or they will put you in jail for causing them a problem.

Your research is good, but maybe more research should be done about the overthrow of our Queen. This is not the 50th State of Hawai’i. This place is the Hawaiian Kingdom which is being treated like a beautiful house. So how would you take care of the intruders?

We as kanaka maoli must learn to forgive so we can move on in life, living in a world that is against us. You must forgive us when we choose to stand up for water rights, for land rights,or for the rights of our Nation to Survive.

God sees ALL… What has been done and what will be done.

Momi

June 2, 2011

Yes, Hawai’i is a beautiful place. From a kanaka maoli’s point of view, imagine this…. You live in a beautiful house, one day strangers come and start eating your food and using your kitchen to make their meals, they get comfortable in your easy chair to watch your big screen TV. They need a bath, so they go into your closet to choose some clean clothes, they soak in your tub and use your favorite soaps and shampoo, leaving a mess. Then they go to lie in your bed maybe taking your spouse with them. When you complain about what is happening, they tell you to get out or they will put you in jail for causing them a problem.

Your research is good, but maybe more research should be done about the overthrow of our Queen. This is not the 50th State of Hawai’i. This place is the Hawaiian Kingdom which is being treated like a beautiful house. So how would you take care of the intruders?

We as kanaka maoli must learn to forgive so we can move on in life, living in a world that is against us. You must forgive us when we choose to stand up for water rights, for land rights,or for the rights of our Nation to Survive.

God sees ALL… What has been done and what will be done.

cyn

October 8, 2016

every land, county,every people began one place and ended in another. No people sprang from the soil here. You are not a victim. The people voted overwhelmingly to be part of the USA….some less friendly, tolerant powers would have overtaken you because of your military location in the vast Pacific ocean…Let’s all love, share, and learn from one another…No Victim, Community Builders one and all.

Anita Weber

September 6, 2015

Want to build a 700 sq ft. pole house cottage in Napili, Maui. Looking for cost estimates

Anita Weber

September 6, 2015

Want to build a 700 sq ft. pole house cottage in Napili, Maui. Looking for cost estimates

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