First, the acronym; D-A-D-U which stands for Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit. It is sometimes called a backyard cottage, granny flat, or even Laneway house if you’re from Canada, eh.
A DADU is basically a detached, smaller, newly constructed home in a Single Family zoned neighborhood which includes a sleeping area, bathroom, kitchen and living quarters. They don’t always have to be newly constructed. Sometimes homeowners can convert a garage or other out building but this is normally more expensive than a new build because these types of buildings were not constructed to be habitable, conditioned spaces and they must be retrofitted and brought up to code for a living space. They are also different from an interior ADU which you can read about in this blog post.
These homes are typically smaller than the main home (current rules allow up to 1,000 square feet; July 2019) and they are situated for privacy from the main house, existing neighbors and with careful placement of doors, windows and landscaping.
Many times, these units are used for additional family members or to rent out for extra income. They are a great typology for “missing middle” homes. This term is used for homes that are smaller than the large, stand-alone single-family houses but not necessarily as small as a high-density apartment building. Rowhouse and townhomes are also included in this category. I am writing this as a resident of Seattle and if there is any city in the country that needs more affordable housing options, Seattle is it! Backyard Cottages meet these criteria and use existing land and therefore limit urban sprawl. Building them near Urban Villages and frequent transit create density in an area where it is most beneficial.
What else could a backyard cottage be used for? Well, I am glad you asked because many times they are also built as a studio space, an office, a shop for wood working or any other thing you can possibly imagine. Permitting for a garage or office space is easier than for a dwelling unit and if you plan the space from the beginning, as one which may be updated to a DADU, you are ahead of the game. A good feature in urban areas is to live where you work! And if you can incorporate work space on the same property as your living space you have removed your commute and possibly added 5-10 hours of free time per week to your life! Woo Hoo!
So why doesn’t everyone have a Backyard Cottage? Well, like everything that is super cool and awesome they are expensive. They take planning, designing, and building. The City of Seattle is slowly and painfully working towards making permitting and utility hook ups more cost effective and fair.
If you are building a cottage to house aging parents, your aging self, or planning for your future aging self, they are a whole lot cheaper than retirement homes. Once you pay room and board at a facility it’s gone. If you took that same money ($45,000/year average) and paid it towards the mortgage of a Backyard Cottage you would be investing your money instead!
So much to consider! A good place to start is taking a good, hard look at your current home and imaging how something like this could exist. Then maybe do some online research on this topic. Hint: Portland is slightly ahead of Seattle in these matters. Then contact 1AD Studio for a consultation to give you information pertinent to your property, your home and the way YOU live. We can decide if this is a viable option for you to pursue and come up with a plan and design to accomplish it!