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What's Required for an ADU?

What’s Required for an ADU?

by Robin Smith

Are you considering adding an accessory dwelling unit to your property? ADUs have become increasingly popular, and data show an increase of 250% in ADU construction in 2022 alone. This is due to their versatility and potential for extra income. 

But before diving into the world of ADUs. It’s important to understand what is required for construction and zoning regulations. In this blog post, we’ll break down the essential requirements needed to build an ADU and help guide you through the process.

So grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and let’s dive in!

What Is ADU?

An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a self-contained living space within or attached to a single-family home. ADUs are also sometimes called in-law units, granny flats, backyard cottages, or secondary units.

Typically, an ADU is smaller than the primary residence on the property and has a separate entrance. It may share some utilities (like water and sewer) with the main house. But it should have its own kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping area.

There are many reasons why people build ADUs. Some people do it to create additional income by renting out the unit.

Others build them for family members who need a place to live, like an aging parent or grown child. Some people simply want the extra space for themselves, like converting a garage to ADU.

You may reap the benefits of garage conversions in the long run. Whatever the reason, building an ADU can be a great way to make use of unused space on your property. 

Permit Requirements

Any time you build additional changes to your home, you need a permit from your city or county. This is true for an ADU as well.

The process for getting a permit will vary depending on where you live, but in general, you’ll need to submit detailed plans of the proposed ADU to your local building department and pay a fee. Once your plans are approved, you’ll be able to pull a permit and move forward with construction.

If you’re hiring an ADU contractor, they should handle the permitting process for you. But it’s always a good idea to be familiar with the requirements in your area so you can ensure the project stays on track.

Zoning Requirements

To build an ADU, you must first check with your local zoning department to see if they are allowed in your area and what the requirements are. Most zoning departments will have specific requirements for an ADU, such as how big it can be, how far away from the property line it must be, and what type of parking is required.

There may also be restrictions on who can live in an ADU and for how long. For example, some cities only allow family members to live in an ADU, while others allow any tenant as long as they meet the other requirements. Be sure to check with your local zoning department before starting any construction on an ADU.

Building Codes and Standards

There are a variety of building codes and standards that apply to the construction of an ADU. The most important code is the International Residential Code (IRC), which establishes minimum requirements for the construction of one- and two-family dwellings.

Other relevant codes include the International Building Code (IBC), which applies to commercial and multifamily construction, and the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC), which covers plumbing systems.

Local building departments may have additional requirements that must be met for an ADU to be approved. For example, some jurisdictions require that an ADU be designed by a licensed architect or engineer. It’s important to check with your local building department to determine what specific requirements apply to your area.

Size and Space Requirements

Consider the size and space requirements for an ADU. The minimum size of the unit is typically around 400 square feet. However, this can vary depending on local regulations.

It’s also important to consider the layout of the unit and how much usable space you’ll need. For example, if you’re planning on having a kitchen in your ADU, you’ll need to factor in space for appliances, countertops, and storage.

Another consideration is the location of the unit on your property. Most ADUs are built detached from the main house, but they can also be attached.

Parking Requirements

Most cities have minimum parking requirements that must be met for any new construction, and this includes ADUs. The parking requirements are typically based on the number of bedrooms in the unit, with one parking space required for each bedroom. For example, if you are building a one-bedroom ADU, you will need to provide at least one parking space.

If you are unable to provide the required number of parking spaces on your property, you may be able to obtain a waiver from the city. However, this is not always guaranteed, and you may still be required to provide some sort of alternative parking arrangement, such as street parking or renting a space in a nearby parking garage.

Environmental Considerations

When considering the environmental impact of your ADU, consider the materials used for construction, the energy sources and appliances, the water usage, the use of green space, and the potential for recycling and composting.

Using sustainable materials, like recycled steel, brick, or concrete, can help reduce your contributions to the carbon footprint. Consider also the energy efficiency of your ADU – solar panels, green roofs, and air source heat pumps are great options to make your ADU more environmentally friendly.

Water conservation is equally important as well – low-flow fixtures, water cisterns, and greywater systems can be used to reduce water consumption. Finally, think about landscaping choices or native plants that will use less water and create more habitats for wildlife.

The use of green spaces and minimized, efficient landscaping can help reduce your ADU’s environmental impact and make positive contributions to the planet in the future.

Consider These ADU Requirements Today

With an ADU, you can enjoy more living space without having to move or buy a new house. The process of building ADU may seem daunting at first. However, with the correct understanding of what is required for an ADU, it will be much easier to get your project off the ground.

Be sure to know the permit, zoning, codes and standards, size and space, and parking requirements. Also, consider the environmental impact of building the ADU. An ADU is worth considering as a valuable addition to any property!

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