Where should I put a detached ADU?

Every day we get calls and emails from people looking to build and ADU.  One of the most common questions is about placement.  Although there’s no single answer that would apply to everyone, I can share a few ideas that should be considered for the ADU placement.  When you have a great big yard it’s usually not a problem finding a good location.  If your property is smaller the ideal location often may not be where you think. 

 

One of the first things to I ask is who the ADU is for.  If it’s family or more specifically an elder family member, then there may be more consideration to placing the unit as close to the front of the property and main house as possible.  Older people with or without disabilities may struggle with simple tasks of carrying items from the front of the property to the ADU so keeping the distance to a minimum is important.  It’s also a good idea to make sure the travel path is open and well lit.  If they are in a wheelchair or using a walker you also want to minimize elevation changes (stairs or ramps) along the access path.  If the occupant is a renter then you may want to place the ADU as far as possible from the main home for privacy between units.

When the property has the ability to place the unit to the left or right side there are a few things to consider here as well.  Most people start with the idea of placing the unit so it has the least interference with the rear yard view of the main house.  While this may make perfect sense, it’s not the only factor to consider.  I like to look at a few other details to see if they align with this placement strategy.  First, where is the driveway?  Placing the ADU on the driveway side of the home is usually better for rear yard access since most homes have a wider side yard on the driveway side of the home for garbage and other utility uses.  Another thing to consider is where the existing homes bedrooms are. If they are also on the same side as the driveway, then you might want to consider using the other side for placement or access.  Since the ADU is going to be someone else’s home, you may not be able to predict when they come and go so having the pathway isolated from your sleeping space will cause less disruption to your life, especially if you plan to illuminate the walkway with mention sensor lighting.

 

Prefab home

 

Outside of these core issues there are a few other things to consider.  I’ve listed them below:

  • Are there trees that would block or impede the use of solar panels on the ADU?
  • Which side presents best access to utilities (water, sewer, gas & electric)? 
  • If the driveway goes to the rear do you want the ADU situated so a car shines lights on the ADU?
  • Do you have a neighboring property you want to screen or do you  want to preserve a view?
  • Will the placement preserve a good yard for you and separate space for the ADU tenant?

 I suggest you go over these in more detail with your designer/builder to make sure the final placement has looked at all these issues.  You may not be able to work them all into a placement plan but at least you will be aware of the considerations prior to making a decision so you will have weighed out the priority list for yourself and you wont have to end the process with “why didn’t I think about that”.

Next time I’ll share my thoughts on room placements and window/door placements.  This can aid in the overall best solution when the physical placement of the ADU is not ideal for one or two of the items above.


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