Ok, so this is post is specifically for one person (you know who you are - Lola), but I found it interesting enough to share. This person is moving to Hawaii with her small family and building a house and plants to use salvaged materials. I found some information... the last part is a bit technical (but interesting per se with regards to construction techniques in the tropics). PS. yurts are not recommended - but Haiku Houses are ; ). Oh and if you go straw bale construction, it would suck to pay shipping, but I could get you many bails for free thanks to my Whatcom Co. Connections. :)
I found a re-use store near Honolulu. http://www.reusehawaii.org/reusehawaii.org/welcome.html Maybe a material salvage store on the Big Island would be a great business plan and a way to build a house? Craigslist.org isn't as big of a source of material as it is in Seattle although this free Jalouise glass looks interesting http://honolulu.craigslist.org/big/zip/1921111354.html
Details about building "alternative homes" Source: http://www.city-data.com/forum/hawaii/113519-yurt-homes-hawaii-5.html
Old style single wall construction is legal in Hawaii, several of my clients have done small houses using that method in the past several years. Post and beam construction is also an alternative construction style as well as the telephone pole and beam "haiku house" type construction. I do drafting, so folks are always telling me what sort of house they want and then I draw up the plans so they can build it. Depending on the type of construction you are used to, "post and pier" might be considered "alternative" construction.
That type of construction has the house built up off the ground so the air can blow under it to keep it cool, it sometimes has screened floor areas in closets with louvered doors so the air can circulate better. There are generally less centipedes in a post and pier house and the wood floor is much kinder to your feet. It also is a good type of construction if you are building somewhere a concrete truck can't get to. Frequently, yurts are put on a post and pier foundation although there is a bit of a round house on a square platform conundrum.Almost all houses will need some sort of ground work done, usually a bit of land clearing for a driveway, house area and some sort of septic/cesspool.
Either solar/photovoltaic for off the grid houses or attachment to the power grid. Those prices will remain the same for the different types of construction. The rest of the construction prices can be kept low by using the less expensive construction materials and using the ones available here so they don't have to be shipped in.
Generally, for Hawaii houses, really wide eaves are good so they not only keep the rain off the side of the house so there won't be mold and mildew but it also keeps the sun off the sides of the house so the house won't be so hot. Three foot wide eaves is almost considered minimum. Also putting a lanai or other covered indoor/outdoor type use between the house and the outside allows the breeze a bit of time to cool down and or dry off a bit before entering the living areas of the house.
Having cross ventilation is extremely important for having a liveable house. The price of electricity here is astronomical, so running an air conditioner is too expensive for most folks. Also, many houses are off the County water lines (there is also a small private water company over in Pahoa, but most piped in water is from the County) so having the wide roof eaves gives them more rain catchment area.
The expense of electricity shapes a lot of proper house design in Hawaii. Big windows let in light and air, sky lights or those new sola-tubes bring in sunlight to decrease the need for electric lights. Energy efficient appliances as well as no-energy appliances whenever possible (such as solar clothes dryers), etc. Each house is generally different because each house has to fit it's own unique house site as well as suit the owner's needs.
Some of the construction methods which aren't frequently seen here are straw bale construction, due partly to the excessive rain in many areas but also due to the price of straw bales. Those are generally shipped in from the mainland and are terribly expensive, at least, for a straw bale. We also have a lot of earthquakes here so concrete and rock might crack in an earthquake so they aren't overly favored for building the entire house from. Bricks are all shipped in from the mainland and ferociously expensive as well as prone to cracking in earthquakes so brick houses aren't common, either. Stucco isn't very favored in many areas because of the humidity. Steel doesn't get eaten by termites, but gets eaten by the salt laded tradewinds. The balmy tropical climate is actually really corrosive.Read more: http://www.city-data.com/forum/hawaii/113519-yurt-homes-hawaii-5.html#ixzz0xpLb5b5s