Land Clearing in Hawaii Before Building a Geodesic Dome

With its stunning landscapes and tropical climate, Hawaii is a dream destination for many who seek to build their own paradise. The process of land clearing has an entirely different meaning in Hawaii. Why? Soil is created from basaltic lava, volcanic ashes, limestones from corals, and material deposits from water runoffs. There are some important steps to prepare your property for construction while respecting the island’s unique ecosystem and regulations.

Our first, one-acre property in Leilani Estates is covered by lava rocks or, as the locals call it, “blue rocks.” Where the 1955 volcanic eruption happened and left an unmistakable footprint. (On May 3rd, 2018, the same volcanic eruption returned and claimed our newly built home.)

Hurricane knocked down trees, made land clearing easier

However, when we moved to the Big Island on August 4th, 2014, by August 7th, hurricane Iselle stormed through the islands and left behind a sizable devastation. In our case, it helped with the land clearing and saved us some money. LOL! She turned our property upside-down by knocking down and uprooting ginormous albizia trees. When it came to land clearing, all the D9 bulldozer had to do was push the broken trees to the sides. Well…almost.

The D9 had to remove trees, stumps, and rocks, rip up the lava rocks, and grade the lot. Also, we brought in (not sure how many) truckloads of cinder to cover the entire one-acre and 2 inches of drain rocks for the driveway and around the dome and garage for better drainage.

It’s Worth It To Hire Professionals for Land Clearing

After we lost our newly built home to the 2018 volcanic eruption, we decided to stay on the Island and give it another try. We’ve purchased a three-acre property in Waiakea Uka, Hilo, and started the rebuilding process with land clearing.

This time, we hired Excavation Tech LLC to prepare the lot for the dome and carport. But Paul, the owner, did so much more than that. Since we have over 200 inches of rain fall each year, some of our neighbors were concerned about moving the dirt around and warned us about the possible flooding problems. Paul completely redesigned the property, rerouted the water into the deep creek we have in the back, and solved the flooding issues for the neighbors, too. Now we have happy neighbors.

The best way to describe the end results is that he carved out the Grand Canyon, rerouted the Colorado River on the left-side side of the property, and built Machu Picchu for the dome pad about an extra 13-15 feet high. Boy, with all the rain we had since, we are truly grateful!

D9 buldozer in the process to do land clearing

Consider These Before Start Land Clearing on Your Own

Before you look into land clearing, you’ll need to take a few steps. Walk through the area and become familiar with what you want to clear away. Are there any significant obstacles, like steep hills, lava tubes that are common in Hawaii, giant trees, or boulders?

Also, it would be best to learn more about building and zoning permits, depending on your area and what you intend to use the land for. The land is protected for environmental reasons, or it may not be eligible to build anything on it. Professional land clearing companies can assist you in the permit process. But it would be best if you did your research first, perhaps even before purchasing the land.

Clearing land involves removing trees, vegetation, and other obstacles; you’ll need more than just a chainsaw. While it might be tempting to attempt land clearing on your own to save money, there are several compelling reasons why you shouldn’t do it without professional help:

  1. Safety Concerns: Land clearing can be hazardous. It involves the use of heavy machinery, chainsaws, and other potentially dangerous tools. Professionals are trained to handle these tools safely, minimizing the risk of accidents. Without proper training, you could injure yourself or others.
  2. Knowledge and Expertise: Professionals have the knowledge and expertise to assess the land and identify potential hazards such as unstable trees, underground utilities, and wildlife habitats. They can plan the clearing process effectively, ensuring that it’s done efficiently and safely.
  3. Environmental Regulations: Land clearing is often subject to local environmental regulations. Professionals are familiar with these regulations and can obtain the necessary permits. Attempting land clearing without proper permits can result in legal issues and fines.
  4. Preservation of Ecosystems: Professionals can assess the land to preserve valuable ecosystems, such as wetlands or habitats for endangered species. Clearing land without this knowledge can harm local biodiversity and ecosystems.
  5. Proper Equipment: Land clearing often requires heavy machinery that most individuals don’t have access to. Professionals have the right equipment for the job, which allows for efficient and safe clearing. Using improper equipment can lead to damage, injury, or incomplete clearing.
  6. Debris Disposal: Clearing land generates a significant amount of debris. Professionals have processes in place for proper disposal, recycling, or repurposing of the debris. Handling this aspect on your own can be overwhelming and time-consuming.
  7. Soil Considerations: Professionals can assess the soil quality and composition. They can advise on proper erosion control measures and soil conservation techniques. Incorrect land clearing can lead to soil erosion and degradation.
  8. Cost-Effectiveness: While it might seem like a cost-saving measure to clear land on your own, the risks of damage, potential fines, and the time and effort involved often make professional services more cost-effective in the long run.
  9. Time and Effort: Land clearing is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process, especially for large areas. Professionals can complete the job more quickly and efficiently, allowing you to focus your time and energy on other aspects of your project.
  10. Quality of Work: Professionals can ensure a high-quality, well-executed clearing job. Their experience and expertise result in a professionally cleared land, providing a solid foundation for any future construction or landscaping projects.

In summary, land clearing is a complex and potentially dangerous task that requires knowledge, experience, and the right equipment. Hiring professionals ensures the job is done safely, legally, and efficiently, saving you time, effort, and potential headaches.


Understanding Local Regulations

Before you begin clearing your property, it’s vital to research and understand the local regulations and permits required for construction in Hawaii. The state’s environmental and zoning laws can be stringent, and failing to comply with them can lead to delays, fines, or even the cessation of your construction project.

1. Consult with Local Authorities: Start by reaching out to the local planning department or county offices to obtain information on zoning laws and building permits specific to your property. They can provide guidance on what’s allowed and what restrictions might apply.

2. Environmental Impact Assessment: Depending on the location and size of your property, you may need to conduct an environmental impact assessment. This is especially important in Hawaii, where the environment is fragile and protected. The assessment will determine any potential impacts your construction may have on the local ecosystem.

3. Building Permits: Once you’ve obtained the necessary information and conducted any required assessments, apply for the appropriate building permits. This process may involve submitting site plans, engineering designs, and other documentation, so be prepared to provide all the necessary paperwork.

Respecting Hawaii’s Unique Ecosystem

Hawaii is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, much of which is found nowhere else in the world. It’s essential to respect and protect this unique ecosystem when clearing your property for geodesic dome construction. Here are some eco-friendly practices to consider:

1. Hire a Local Ecologist: Before clearing any land, consult with a local ecologist or environmental consultant. They can help identify sensitive areas, endangered species, and other ecological concerns on your property. Their expertise will ensure that your construction project has minimal impact on the environment.

2. Selective Clearing: Instead of clear-cutting your entire property, opt for selective clearing. This means removing only the vegetation and trees necessary for your geodesic dome construction while preserving as much of the existing landscape as possible.

3. Native Plant Restoration: If you must remove native plants during the clearing process, consider implementing a native plant restoration plan. This involves replanting native species to help restore the ecosystem and maintain biodiversity.

4. Erosion Control: Hawaii’s terrain is susceptible to erosion, especially during heavy rains. Implement erosion control measures, such as installing silt fences and retaining walls, to prevent soil erosion and runoff that could harm nearby water bodies.

Site Preparation

With a focus on environmental preservation, you can now begin preparing your property for geodesic dome construction.

1. Clearing Vegetation: Work with a professional land clearing crew to remove vegetation as needed. Ensure that only necessary vegetation is removed to minimize the impact on the environment.

2. Grading and Leveling: Geodesic domes require a level foundation. Grading and leveling the site may be necessary to create a suitable base for your dome’s construction. Work with a licensed grading contractor to ensure proper site preparation.

3. Soil Testing: Conduct soil testing to determine its composition and stability. This information will help you make informed decisions about foundation design and construction.

4. Utility Connections: Ensure your property has access to essential utilities such as water, electricity, and sewage. If your property is in a remote area, you may need to plan for off-grid solutions, such as solar power and rainwater harvesting.

Conclusion: Building a geodesic dome in Hawaii can be a fulfilling endeavor, offering a unique and sustainable living space in one of the world’s most beautiful locations. However, it’s essential to approach the project with a deep respect for the island’s environment and regulations. By consulting local authorities, working with environmental experts, and taking eco-friendly measures during clearing and construction, you can create a geodesic dome that harmonizes with Hawaii’s natural beauty and contributes to its sustainability goals.

By Stella

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