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Federal Grant Supports Innovative Wood Products Use for Affordable Housing & Wildfire Prevention, May 23, 2018

Posted on May 23, 2018 in Latest Department News


First Time Hawai‘i Awarded U.S. Forest Service Grant Promoting Wood Innovations



(HONOLULU) –Hawai‘i’s critical shortage of affordable dwellings will get a boost from a USDA Forest Service Wood Innovations grant. Nationwide the U.S. Forest Service is awarding almost $8 million in grants for projects in 20 states to expand and accelerate wood products and wood energy markets.  The grants are intended to stimulate the removal of hazardous fuels from forests and reduce the risk of wildfires, promote overall forest health and reduce forest management costs.


The design and build of a prototype Accessory Dwelling Unit is one project of the three-part $250,000 grant the Forest Service awarded. This is the first time Hawai‘i has been awarded one of these grants and is one of 34 projects funded from 119 proposals.


DOFAW Administrator David Smith said, “Existing market research we included in the grant application showed that on O‘ahu alone there is the possibility of nearly 1,400 Accessory Dwelling Units to help address our housing crisis.” These are separate homes of 400-800 square feet that can be built on existing lots of between 3500-5000 square feet or larger. Three years ago the Hawai‘i State Legislature passed a bill to incentivize scalable and affordable housing alternatives.


State Resource and Survey Forester Philipp LaHaela Walter explained, “Even if we were able to only build 10% of the estimated market for Accessory Dwelling Units on O‘ahu, we’d utilize more than one million board feet of wood. In addition to the prototype unit we plan to design an 800 square-foot Education Center for the Mānā Plain on Kaua‘i that could be used as a template for similar environmental education facilities on public and private lands throughout Hawaii. That’s the second part of this grant.”


Partnering on the grant with DLNR/DOFAW is the Albizia Project and the Hawai‘i Forest Industry Association. On the UH-Manoa campus a prototype structure built from albizia is in the final stages of completion. Joseph Valenti is the Project Leader for the newly formed Hawai‘i Wood Utilization Team, a collaboration of state, university, public and private wood industry experts. Valenti explained, “In addition to the abundant supply of albizia, Hawai‘i has millions of board feet of harvestable wood from other tree species, that thus far has not enjoyed much of a market because of the lack of local, large-scale processing facilities and the high cost of shipping lumber out-of-state. If we can begin to utilize our excess timber resources for housing, it’ll be a win-win for our communities and for our forests.”


The third part of the grant will be used to create an online Hawai‘i Forest Products Directory. 

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case commented, “With this crucial funding for wood innovations leadership and communications activities, the construction of the dwelling unit prototype, the design of the education center, and for the creation of the forest products directory we hope this will increase the visibility of and confidence in sustainable wood products and local manufacturing for commercial building markets.”


LaHeala Walter concluded, “The Hawai‘i Wood Utilization Team is excited that this grant will help us cast a wide net to educate consumers and businesses on the impressive advantages of wood products and draw new investment in local wood processing infrastructure. This will also lower wildfire risk by facilitating the use of wood from forests with hazardous fuels and form new pathways for overcoming economic and legal obstacles of Hawaii’s wood products market.”


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(All images and video courtesy: DLNR)


HD video-UH Accessory Dwelling Unit and Joseph Valenti SOTS (shot sheet attached)


Photographs-UH prototype under construction:


Link to USDA Forest Service news release: 



Media Contact:

Dan Dennison

Senior Communications Manager

Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources

1151 Punchbowl Street, Room 131

Honolulu, HI  96813

[email protected]

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