The Scent of Cedar
An off-the-grid niche in an unlikely place

When you envision a tropical, sustainable retreat in the mountains, Kailua is not the first, or even second, town that comes to mind. Situated 12 miles from Honolulu with a population of over 50,000, it's probably the last place where you'd expect to find a quiet and secluded off-the-grid home with Ko'olau Mountain views and a gurgling perennial stream perched above the congested sea-level town.

This off-the-grid retreat is constructed entirely out of environmentally sustainable woods, including reclaimed cedar from the Pacific Northwest and redwood beams reclaimed from the Pearl Harbor Navy Shipyard. Photo: Kevin Whitton
The open-air abode is situated on the property to take advantage of the prevailing trade winds and melds with the natural surrounding, incorporating the existing mature trees into the overall design instead of cutting them down. Photo: Kevin Whitton

Ryan and Janet Costello, owners of Land of Organica, an organic food and beverage outlet in Chinatown, built their open-air dream home by hand. They brought in reclaimed Pacific Northwest cedar once used for lumber truck bridging and sustainably farmed Douglas fir, ipe (a Brazilian hardwood), tiger wood and bamboo. The earthy home's posts and beams came from the Pearl Harbor Navy Shipyard and were once used as siding on the docks.

The home was designed roof to floor with sustainable principles in mind and models as an off-the-grid masterpiece. An array of 32 solar panels powers the residence. Two solar hot water systems meet the demands of the two-bedroom, two-bath home and a 500-gallon propane tank fuels the stove, the clothes dryer and serves as a backup for the water heating systems. Inside, the 2,800-square-foot floor plan is open and airy with no hallways to stifle airflow; a bedroom and bathroom is perched at each end of the spacious great room. In fact, the walls that stitch together the bedrooms are more like partitions. They purposefully do not connect with the ceiling to allow air to circulate freely.

Weathering the elements, the roof is designed to channel rainwater to four different zones to utilize water catchment. And for the Costello's, what grows around the home is just as important as the home itself. "If I'm going to plant and water something, I better get food and fragrance," notes Ryan Costello, quipping about his lush, edible landscaping. Surinam cherry, mango, banana, starfruit, orange, macadamia nut, coffee, herbs, vegetables and lilikoi are all on offer.

Above and beyond all the sustainable design elements and materials, the Costello's are most proud that no trees were harmed in the building of this home.