Like many small cities across the country, Santa Cruz is struggling to maintain its small-town character despite enormous growth pressures.With few new development sites left, the city has turned to its primary asset for help – its single-family neighborhoods, where it is allowing property owners to develop accessory dwelling units, commonly known as a “granny flat.
If you are waiting to create an accessory dwelling until Santa Cruz County has adopted new rules to make the process easier and less expensive, you’ll have to be patient a little longer. The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 Tuesday to adopt new rules for ADUs to comply with new state laws, SB 1069 and SB 229, aiming to make ADUs easier and less costly. Continue reading
No matter where you live – Santa Cruz, Monterey, the Peninsula, or for that matter anywhere in California- if you are considering building an ADU your first concern will be feasibility: will this project pencil out? In this article we discuss considerations when deciding whether to invest in constructing a rental unit on one’s property.
Is an ADU a Good Investment?
Even with ADUs gaining popularity, the value an ADU adds to a given piece of property is hard to calculate. This can make determining whether an ADU is a “good investment” difficult. You may not know whether it is a good investment until you sell the property (which may be many years down the road.) Determining whether an ADU is a good investment is also going to depend heavily on the investor’s (your) financial situation and goals. Continue reading
Effective January 1, 2017, local laws regarding Secondary Dwelling Units were superseded. State law now mandates that local jurisdictions ease restrictions and barriers to the permitting and use of what are now referred to as Accessory Dwelling Units (“ADUs”). Continue reading
The California Legislature recently passed new rules making it easier, faster, and presumably less expensive, for people to get permits for new “granny units” otherwise referred to as “accessory dwelling units” (“ADUs”). Senate Bill 1069, which was signed by Governor Brown on September 27, 2016 and takes effect on January 1, 2017, amends Government Code section 65852.2 to require local agencies statewide to amend their zoning ordinances to implement several uniform development requirements and restrictions on ADUs – both substantive and procedural.
The Department of Energy (DOE) defines Integrated Design Process as “[a] process of design in which multiple disciplines and seemingly unrelated aspects of design are integrated in a manner that permits synergistic benefits to be realized. The goal is to achieve high performance and multiple benefits at a lower cost than the total for all the components combined.”
The Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) describes Integrated Project Delivery as “an approach to the design and construction process that is based on shared risk and reward, and open exchange of information that is intended to optimize project results. IPD unifies the Project Delivery Team at the beginning of the project with the shared goal of project success.”
While in the public’s mind IDP is generally associated with larger, multi-million dollar projects, such are the benefits of Integrated Project Delivery that in our firm’s practice it’s now the norm rather than the exception, with applications for all our clients, whether institutional, corporate, or residential.
In the case of the homeowner planning a new custom home, a second unit (ADU), or simply a substantial addition, the philosophy and mindset of IDP has important practical benefits.
First and foremost, the IDP mindset entails bringing an experienced builder onto the project team as early as practicable in the design process. Involving a builder in the capacity of professional estimator allows early and accurate tracking of project construction costs. This eliminates guesswork, reducing the uncertainty surrounding the most important factor in construction, the Project Budget.
As importantly, factoring costs-benefits as early as possible into the design decision process eliminates uninformed design decisions, re-thinking of previous design assumptions, backtracking, and associated wasted effort.
Regulatory requirements in California are such that the Project Team for anything but the most modest residential project can typically include not only the Owner-Architect partnership but also geotechnical engineer, civil engineer, wastewater specialist, structural engineer, and energy analyst.
With this many professionals working in coordinated fashion towards a common goal, one can see that targeting those resources towards an uninformed goal, without clear comprehension of the construction costs attached to that goal, can be disastrous.
For this reason in our practice for all but the most modest residential projects we typically recommend that the homeowner engage a professional estimator and incorporate them as part of Project Team formation. Thus we collectively target the design objective from an informed position as to construction costs, and not shoot for that objective twice.
In other words, quoting the carpenter’s aphorism, “measure twice, cut once”.
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Over the years our architectural practice has worked out some best design practices for the design of small homes and accessory units, as well as the design choices that should be avoided. You can benefit from our experience. Here’s a list of common design mistakes people make when planning their Not So Big House or accessory dwelling unit.
1. Lack of interior sight lines
Limiting the number of interior walls, thus keeping with an open plan, has the advantage of optimizing a feeling of spaciousness. Conversely, having too many too small rooms contributes to a feeling of kludgyness and claustrophobia. You want a place that feels wonderful and creates a positive catalyst for your goals, therefor keep your floor plan open and airy as much as possible.
2. Too few windows
Many homeowners try to lower their project’s cost by reducing the number of windows. But a house with too few windows is not only a gloomy place to live in, it can actually increase your energy bill if you find yourself using electric lights in daylight hours. As a rule of thumb, you should install at least 10 square feet of windows for every 300 cubic feet of space.
3. Poor window placement
Window placement is also an important design consideration. It’s a mistake to only place windows on one side of a room. This makes a room stuffier and harder too cool because it prevents cross breezes. Especially in living rooms, try to place windows on more than one wall, ideally on walls directly across from each other.
4. Improper kitchen measurements
Kitchens are tricky to design in small homes because refrigerators, ovens, and other appliances take up so much space. Make sure you have enough space in your kitchen to accommodate the specific appliances you want – in fact, it may be best to pick out your appliances before building any counters and cabinetry.
5. Insufficient acoustical separation
Sounds are amplified in small living spaces. Kitchens and bathrooms tend to be the noisiest spaces, and bedrooms the quietest. It’s a good idea to separate the room used for sleeping from the rest of the home with a sound-proofed wall. If you are considering a sleeping loft, consider this factor as part of your decision whether it should be open to the space below or not. If you do elect to have it open, you can minimize noise by placing the loudest spaces beneath the loft, rather than directly across from it.