LA Times, Feb 2020
When it comes to good ADU design and, Peterson said, “Tall ceilings, long sightlines, windows facing toward the garden, and creating an indoor-outdoor connection using windows and sliding doors” create a sense of space many crave. A great room, encompassing the lion’s share of the home’s square footage and incorporating an open-plan kitchen, living and dining space is key, he said.
“Differentiate the areas by material selection or color choice, so that functionally you get one big space but it doesn’t look monotonous,” said Peterson. He advises against large bedrooms, oversize bathrooms and unnecessary hallways: “In an ADU it’s a waste of space.”
Regarding storage, more is more. “I always encourage people to build in as much internal and exterior storage as possible for things like suitcases and seasonal clothing,” said Peterson, “as well as long-term storage needs like suitcases and bikes, lawnmowers … canoes, that kind of stuff.”
Privacy should be enhanced through the use of screening, landscaping, fencing or vegetation. “Orienting the structure so that each person isn’t staring into the other’s kitchen is also a best practice,” said Peterson. Design, Modular Design
Coming to a backyard near you: Plant Prefab accessory dwelling units
With aging baby boomers and young people who can’t afford housing, there’s going to be a huge market for these.
Before I came to TreeHugger I was in the prefab biz, and met Steve Glenn and a few other prefab pioneers at a conference in Texas. He had just come from the tech world and was starting Living Homes, applying the lessons from tech to the staid and conservative building world, something that many were trying at the time. Most everyone else at that conference is long gone from the business, but Steve survived and thrived.
Now the latest in building tech and smart home tech merge in the LivingHome 10 from Plant Prefab, a 496 square foot Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) that’s “designed to provide affordable, sustainable rental units or family housing on existing single-family lots.”ADUs were not very common or even legal in most places until recently, but the combination of aging baby boomers needing to downsize and young people who can’t afford housing has created a need and an opportunity.
© Plant Prefab
The Plant Building System differs from traditional modular construction in that it is a mix of 2D panels and 3D core elements including the kitchen, bathroom, and mechanical services. This gives designers a lot more flexibility (modular homes are limited by road restrictions) and reduces the cost of shipping, and eliminates the need for a big expensive crane. It probably makes it easier to slip an ADU into a backyard.
© Sarah Rosenhaus Interior Design Photography
The Plant system also involves a lot more than just banging out modules and panels in a factory;
The engineering system is a modeling platform that creates detailed digital structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing renderings of the project to ensure design, structural, and manufacturing compliance before construction begins. The models are offered at a very high fidelity (down to every finish and fixture) and provide 3D plans, shop drawings, an executable bill of materials, and CNC data to expedite the actual building process to ensure expedited building and a better price point. All these engineering efficiencies enable much faster completion, less construction waste and cost, and higher quality at delivery.
© Typical plan of an ADU
This is why you will never see me getting excited about on-site 3D printed buildings. There are all kinds of components and materials that go into buildings, and they all have to fit together properly. It’s complex and sophisticated and it’s the real future of construction. (See our tour or Bensonwood/ Unity Homes which works in a similar fashion)
© Sarah Rosenhaus Interior Design Photography
I have often noted that I prefer dumb homes to smart homes, but a lot of these smart technologies are really useful for an aging population, many of whom might be living in these ADUs. Amazon (an investor in Plant Prefab) has been targeting the seniors market with the Echo and Alexa, with its VP telling CNBC that “we have looked at the older population in the context of health and we know this group has a lot of issues and unmet needs.” Seniors care companies are installing Alexa; a resident of a seniors home explains:
“Alexa is an absolute lifeline. I’d be bored stiff without her,” says Ruth Drahota, an 89-year-old resident who has been chatting with Alexa in assisted living for about a year. She did note that the experience was strange at first, but after getting the hang of it, she isn’t sure how should would live without it.
© Sarah Rosenhaus Interior Design Photography
Smart thermostats, locks and security systems, and the Ring video doorbell can all be useful for an aging population. And as I have noted on MNN, “The trick is to make this stuff normal and to make it work for everyone, not specifically for the old.” There are many people (including my wife) who won’t allow this stuff in their house, but for the ADU crowd it will be very useful. As David Jackson, the director of Smart Home at Amazon says in the press release,”homeowners can rely on Alexa to help make daily household tasks more convenient, offer peace of mind while at home or away, and more.”
These LivingHome ADUs will not be cheap, (although they start at $154,000, which actually is) but as has been seen in cities that permit back lane housing, they are cheaper than a house or a condo in expensive cities. They are a way for people to provide housing for their kids now and do a switch later. I suspect Steve Glenn is going to sell a lot of these.
By BONNIE MCCARTHY FEB. 14, 2020, LA Times
To find the hottest design trend in Los Angeles right now, look no further than your own backyard.
In 2017, when California relaxed the rules for obtaining building permits for accessory dwelling units — otherwise known as ADUs or “granny flats” — on single-family residential properties, it ignited a building industry gold rush of sorts and ushered in the dawn of the microdeveloper.
Now, legally permitted ADUs are becoming more commonplace as property owners build from scratch or transform carriage houses, backyard cottages and garage apartments into units that proponents say can ease Southern California’s housing crisis.
Kol Peterson, author of “Backdoor Revolution: The Definitive Guide to ADU Development,” said interest generated by the policy changes sent ADU development in Los Angeles skyrocketing. Admittedly, many of those permits are for legalization of existing and unpermitted ADUs, not new construction. “Still,” said Peterson, “it’s unlike anything else we’ve seen in the country.”
The idea: Allow homeowners in neighborhoods zoned for single-family residences to build long-term rentals or multigenerational housing to creatively address the housing shortage. Restrictions vary by city but in Los Angeles, structures up to 1,200 square feet are allowed.
Seeing dollar signs where the swing set now stands? In spite of his enthusiasm for ADUs, Peterson advises us to double-check our daydreams. “ADUs are very challenging and time-consuming to build, and they are extremely expensive.”
Here’s a look at how some savvy designers are using every square inch of that footage, factors to consider before you break ground and insight from homeowners who’ve done it:
1/4 Architect Paul Gasiorkiewicz designed this custom Echo Park hilltop ADU he shares with his wife, Yukiko, around an open-concept great room and a pared-down color palette by 5+ Design. (Paul Gasiorkiewicz)
2/4 The design also features walls of glass, which provide plenty of natural light. (Paul Gasiorkiewicz)
3/4 The living area feels quite spacious, offering up a place to sit and watch the outdoors. (Paul Gasiorkiewicz)
4/4 Warm wood and polished concrete floors add to the clean appeal. (Paul Gasiorkiewicz)
For Long Beach homeowner Jean Young, completing a 450-square-foot poolside studio with full kitchen and bath took a year.
“It was longer than I thought,” she said, “and it wasn’t cheap. If you think it’s going to be $75,000, it ends up being more like $110,000.” But the project has given her a sense of freedom and flexibility. “I can rent it for long-term stays,” said Young of her contemporary garage conversion currently occupied by a traveling nurse, “but it also gives me the opportunity to rent my house and stay in the granny flat. … As I go into retirement, I may travel more or visit family on the East Coast. It gives me the flexibility to do that and have income coming in.”
Bo Sundius, coprincipal of Los Angeles custom housing firm Bunch Design, has created plans for ADU prototypes aimed at fast-forwarding the planning stages. “We’ve found we can’t build anything for less than $175,000 in Los Angeles, with the regulations and the energy performance features that are required,” said Bunch. “HGTV likes to make it seem that these things happen overnight, but the truth is they don’t.”
1 Natural light fills the kitchen of this Bunch-designed ADU in a Highland Park backyard. (Yoshiro Makino )
2 The vaulted, stepped ceiling, glass door and partial wall define the space with style and simplicity. (Yoshiro Makino)
3 The open-plan living space makes it feel airy, despite the compact size. The unit is 850 square feet but feels much larger. The vaulted ceiling expands the visual space. (Yoshiro Makino)
A large skylight floods the bathroom with natural light, reducing the need for electricity. From the outside, it’s serene and compact.
Bottom line, building a small house is still building a house.
“When a contractor looks at it, he’s got to run utility lines, bring in every single trade that builds a house — his plumber, drywaller, painter, electrician,” said Sundius, “Even though it’s small doesn’t mean it’s simpler.”
When it comes to good ADU design and, Peterson said, “Tall ceilings, long sightlines, windows facing toward the garden, and creating an indoor-outdoor connection using windows and sliding doors” create a sense of space many crave.
A great room, encompassing the lion’s share of the home’s square footage and incorporating an open-plan kitchen, living and dining space is key, he said.
1/3 The kitchen in this ADU designed by Cover features a Wolf induction cooktop and custom bamboo cabinetry that sleekly incorporates a Sub-Zero fridge and freezer. (Cover)
2/3Although costs vary according to project and location, Cover built this Mid-City ADU for $194,000. (Cover)
3/3 Cover’s ADUs incorporate hydronic heating and cooling systems, instead of forced air and duct work, that pump hot or cold water through hidden aluminum panels. (Cover)
“Differentiate the areas by material selection or color choice, so that functionally you get one big space but it doesn’t look monotonous,” said Peterson. He advises against large bedrooms, oversize bathrooms and unnecessary hallways: “In an ADU it’s a waste of space.” Regarding storage, more is more. “I always encourage people to build in as much internal and exterior storage as possible for things like suitcases and seasonal clothing,” said Peterson, “as well as long-term storage needs like suitcases and bikes, lawnmowers … canoes, that kind of stuff.” Privacy should be enhanced through the use of screening, landscaping, fencing or vegetation. “Orienting the structure so that each person isn’t staring into the other’s kitchen is also a best practice,” said Peterson.
In South Los Angeles, homeowner Ricardo Lopez worked with the contractors at Clean Energy Solutions in San Dimas — which specializes in streamlining ADU projects — to convert his garage into a two-bedroom, one-bathroom unit with central heat and air. (Garage conversions are said to be the most popular ADU option in Los Angeles.) Lopez’s project was completed in eight weeks, and the new space is already rented. The $1,800 rent is not only paying off the $440 monthly payment on the loan he took out for the project but helps with the mortgage payment on his primary residence.
“To be honest, besides starting a business inside your house, there’s absolutely nothing you could do to your property that is going to generate income besides this type of rental,” Lopez said.
Alexis Rochas, founder of Los Angeles-based Oasys, also specializes in quick and efficient modular ADUs using space-frame technology — triangular, interlocking truss supports and customizable panels — often seen in commercial structures, sports stadiums and temporary event venues.
1/6 Poolside in Palm Springs, a backyard ADU by Oasys. (Joshua White)
2/6A prefabricated ADU by Oasys in Palm Springs features built-in storage, natural wood and glass. (Joshua White)
3/6 Indoor-outdoor living maximizes square footage in this ADU by Oasys. Transparent walls in an ADU by Oasys allow rooms to shine with natural light. (Joshua White)
Oasys has built one ADU in Palm Springs and has a second under construction in Venice. Rochas constructed a third 800-square-foot model for public viewing on-site at Row DTLA to demonstrate that form and function can live happily ever after. “For some reason there’s this idea that ADUs are tiny,” he said, but “at 800 square feet, that’s not a tiny home. We don’t have to retrain ourselves to live in an ADU.”
Bonnie McCarthy contributes to the Los Angeles Times as a home and lifestyle design writer. She enjoys scouting for directional trends and reporting on what’s new and next. Follow her on Twitter @ThsAmericanHome