Commuters and tourists cruising along H1—Oahu’s major highway—pass by Layton’s Honolulu headquarters. Sandwiched between Daniel K. Inouye International Airport and Waikiki Beach, our Oahu office is home base for more than half our teams who are busy working on jobsites across the islands.
The other half are based on Kauai, where Layton first opened an office in 2005. “We’d gotten wind of a project in Poipu that a client needed help getting off the ground” said Will Summerhays, Layton Executive Vice President in Hawaii. “Next thing I knew, I was moving my family to Kauai—that small island in the Pacific—without knowing anyone.”
Since that time, Layton has completed over 100 projects on the islands and grown both offices to more than 70 local staff, hiring seasoned construction experts and fresh University of Hawaii graduates alike. Together, they’re building the places where the diverse people of Hawaii live, work, play, and heal.
What a view! Construction on the Maui Coast Hotel is well underway.
Working and Living in Paradise: Building on Hawaii
There’s nothing quite like building on Hawaii. The climate can be unpredictable—one minute it’s warm and sunny, the next you’re sheltering in place as a massive tropical storm moves through the jobsite. Procurement is unique—most materials are imported, which can result in long lead times and potentially major impacts to a project schedule. Plus, acquiring even the most basic supplies requires some planning too—there’s only one Home Depot on Maui!
Regional challenges aside, expanding operations to Hawaii was a natural transition, and one of which we are proud. We’ve grown to be recognized as one of the top 5 contractors in Hawaii, as ranked by Engineering News Record. Our projects have received multiple awards, and our teams continue to champion Layton’s core values: honesty, safety, unity, and quality—all of which resonate with Hawaiian natives and transplants alike.
Hawaii is rich in culture and tradition—two things that demand preservation and the utmost respect when building here.
“The culture of Hawaii is caring about people,” says Dade Apao, Layton Project Manager born and raised on Kauai. “I think our core values and our motto of sending people home safely every day—that concept—it ties in with the lifestyle here.” He continues, “That’s one of the biggest things about Layton… we actually care about each other and how the people around us are doing.”
Our emphasis on safety is a major Layton differentiator—both on the mainland and on the islands. And quality ties directly into that. We want whatever we build to last a long time on Hawaii. We want our projects to impact lives, improve communities, and stand as a testament to our commitment to building sustainably here.
Trade Winds, Trade Partners, and Creating Lasting Relationships
Having a lasting impact on the community extends beyond the spaces we construct. We aim to build long-term relationships that create real value. For our Hawaii offices, that means contributing to the state’s economy and supporting local businesses. “Hawaii has a fantastic trade partner base,” said Summerhays. “Convincing them to work with the ‘new kid on the block’ initially proved to be a challenge. It was critical for us to gain their trust and show that Layton was here to learn from them and also share what we know.”
Apao explains, “There’s such a small pool of people we can work with on the islands, and we end up taking the same trade partners from project to project, so creating lasting relationships with them and ensuring they’re taken care of is paramount.”
Layton is also invested in the success of our trade partners. On a past project, Apao recounts a plumbing contractor that didn’t have a quality control checklist in place—something Layton relies on heavily for efficiency on all projects. “We need everything documented, especially all quality issues so we can track changes and avoid rework, so we took the time to develop a checklist for them. It was simple, 10 or so questions. But it gave them a tool to use and set the expectation that their foreman would walk through each room and fill it out.” Apao adds, “Helping them was beneficial for both of us and improved our processes on future projects together.”
Taking those extra steps to help others is rooted in a deep appreciation and respect for the islands and the overall Hawaiian way of life. “There’s a special way of building here; it’s very lockstep with the culture,” explains Melissa Humphrey, Layton Project Manager. “The aloha really permeates who you are and how you operate—at home and at work.” She continues, “When you’re working with people who were born and raised on that spirit, it’s special.” That sentiment isn’t just applied to Layton operations, either.
Building Bridges, Fostering Community, and Sharing Aloha
Engaging with community organizations and charitable causes is second nature to our Hawaii staff. They’re always up to something philanthropic outside of work.
Layton Hawaii has long supported Habitat for Humanity, doing food drives, building homes, and even leading Wahine Build, an initiative to introduce girls to construction. They’ve helped conduct clothing drives for the NAWIC and toy drives during the holidays, and the teams have organized beach cleanups.
Layton Hawaii never misses an opportunity to participate in a food drive.
They also embrace every opportunity to get involved at the local level. When our jobsites shut down to observe King Kamehameha Day in 2022, Layton called Kauai County officials to offer their services to the community that day. “They were slightly taken aback,” recalls Mia Checkley, Business Development Associate, “but we explained we just wanted to help.” Our team members spent their day off making repairs and cleaning up community ball fields in Hanapepe, the same fields one of our project managers played ball on growing up.
“We repainted the dugouts and backstops of the baseball fields. It felt good to be able to do something like that for local keiki,” Checkley said. “We’ve got a warm group of people here who are very giving and generous with their time.”
All these efforts have allowed Layton to be recognized as one of Hawaii’s most charitable companies—and we continue to make strides. “It all goes back to being human, on and off the jobsite”, says Summerhays. “We want everything we build to last, including our relationships with the community.”
After severe rainfall left Hanalei under water, the Kauai team got to work helping with flood mitigation and cleanup.
Being Good Neighbors: Our Kuleana
On a small parcel of land—wedged between the busiest freeway in Hawaii, a preschool, a church, and a 17-story parking garage—sits Hawaii’s only full-service children’s hospital, the Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women & Children. When it came time to expand, the medical center’s board hired Layton to demolish the existing parking structure and lead construction of the Diamond Head Tower—a 200,000 SF facility directly adjacent to Kapi’olani’s NICU.
Working on an operating healthcare campus is a delicate undertaking, but intensive care units for neonatal and pediatric patients require even more sensitivity. “Kapi’olani is home to a lot of really sick kids,” said Whitney Walter, Layton Vice President over healthcare. “And of course, there were concerned and sad family members walking in and out of the hospital every day. We knew we had to do our part to not add to their overall stress.”
The Layton team set out to turn the jobsite into a place where pediatric patients and parents alike could safely engage with the process. “We posted children’s drawings on the temporary walkways and safety barriers around the site, and added windows to the covered walkways so parents and their kids could watch construction unfold on their way to and from the hospital,” said Walter.
Equipped with clearance from their doctors and donning proper safety gear, some children even got to be part of the action. “On days where the pediatric patients were feeling good, we’d bring them on site and let them shovel dirt or just check out the tractors,” said Walter. “They loved it, and I think their parents felt relief watching their kids do something normal.”
Standing Down to Stand with Grieving Families
Because Kapi’olani provides treatment for children with serious conditions, the Layton team maintained a daily line of communication with the hospital CEO and chief nurses in each unit to stay informed of anything major happening with the patient population.
Walter recalls, “There were times where we’d get a phone call from hospital staff letting us know a child was going to be taken off life support.” Whenever these sobering calls came in, “Layton would halt construction for 30 minutes, no matter what was on the schedule that day. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.” She added, “We weren’t asked to do this. We just wanted to give these kids and their families some peace.”
Layton maintained this stand down policy for the duration of construction.
Home is where Ohana is
While we invest in our projects and in the community around us, our teams also act as a tremendous support to each other. “The Layton group here is a family. They go above and beyond what a coworker is,” states Humphrey. Dade Apao feels the same. “I’ve had mentors who not only gave me opportunities but went the extra mile to help me through them. If I asked for more, they found them and let me run with it,” he recounts. Humphrey shares a similar sentiment, stating, “When leadership ensures the opportunities are there from top to bottom, you know the organization is great. We have good people running the ship.”
Those outside Layton have even picked up on this, as Layton’s office culture was recognized as one of “Hawaii’s Best Workplaces” by Pacific Business News in 2023.
That culture plays a key role in the diversity of our Hawaii offices, too. “The industry standard for women in construction is around 10%” says Mia Checkley. “Our office runs at about 30% women, which is remarkable.” Layton made history on our Wai Kai project with our first all-female project team.
As one of the first female employees in Hawaii, Melissa Humphrey has watched the diversity grow. She reflects, “It’s funny, they really don’t treat you any differently being a woman, but they know how to lift you up and support you. It’s hard not to want to be here.” Looking around the Hawaii offices, it’s clear that most feel that way—both about the organization and the islands.
Here to Build. Here to Stay.
Of all things to be said about Layton Hawaii, there’s one key aspect that speaks to our approach and mindset: We know we’re contributing to an established way of life. Hawaii is rich in culture and tradition—two things that demand preservation and the utmost respect when building here.
“The aloha really permeates who you are and how you operate—at home and at work.” – Melissa Humphreys, Layton Project Manager.
With each project we take on—whether it be a shopping center, hospital, resort, Honolulu high-rise, or rural renovation—we focus on its impact, the opportunity to improve the community, and the opportunity to involve them. It’s all made possible by our team here. With homegrown natives and passionate transplants, Layton’s two offices on Hawaii are filled with local construction experts who live and breathe the islands. They understand the culture. They bring extensive local knowledge. And they champion local care.
Will Summerhays puts it best, saying, “Hawaii is our home. It has been a blessing and adventure to see Layton grow from one family relocating to Kauai to a business unit that is full of great local talent, building wonderful projects in the most beautiful place in the world.” With that, it’s clear: Layton is here to stay, doing our part to build lasting structures and improve the communities we live and work in every step of the way.
See our Hawaii portfolio.
Have questions about our Hawaii experience?
Or have a project in Hawaii coming up?
Contact Will Summerhays, Executive Vice President
firstname.lastname@example.org | (808) 652-4334