Framework for the full-sized albizia house

Hawaiʻi’s critical shortage of affordable dwellings will get a boost from a USDA Forest Service Wood Innovations grant. Part one of the $250,000 grant will fund the design and build of a prototype Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), through a partnership involving the University of Hawaiʻi Albizia Project, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the Hawaiʻi Forest Industry Association.

This is the first time Hawaiʻi has been awarded one of these grants and it was one of 34 projects funded from 119 proposals.

The new prototype ADU will expand the exciting work of the UH Albizia Project. On the UH Mānoa campus, a structure built from albizia is in the final stages of completion. It was constructed as a proof-of-concept of a single-family low-income shelter made from albizia, reconceptualizing the invasive species as a useful building material. It utilizes a design-build process that integrates state-of-the-art wood engineering technology and digital fabrication to pilot a Hawaiʻi-based system of sustainable wood structures.

The UH Albizia Project is the fruition of architecture graduate Joey Valenti’s vision. Today, Valenti is the project leader for the newly formed Hawaiʻi Wood Utilization Team, a collaboration of state, university, public and private wood industry experts.

“In addition to the abundant supply of albizia, Hawaiʻi 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,” said Valenti. “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.”

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.

See Governor Ige’s website for more.