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Find out the 7 crucial points that will enable you to build an ADU with a sustainable design
We regularly hear from customers who would like to incorporate sustainable design elements into their ADU. If the client has a specific practice they are investigating, such as greywater systems, we assess it on a case-by-case basis and according to budget.
Of course, it takes more time and budget to integrate specific systems, but we work with our clients to provide the specific services they are looking to achieve.
There are many different applications of "sustainable design" so no list can be really complete. But here is a particular list of the top sustainable design considerations for ADUs:
1. Site Optimization
Choosing the location and orientation of a building, even a small ADU, is something that, as a company, we look at deeply from the beginning of each project. Each case has a different scenario and often clients have a specific area or size they would like the ADU in.
In many cases, with smaller batches, there are only a few designs that work for the site. With more space, there are more opportunities for solar and wind energy-oriented design.
2. Reduced energy use
This is the bread and butter of environmental design. Some strategies include:
- Solar protection devices (window shading designed outside based on climate/latitude, insulating curtains inside)
- Thick walls/ceilings with high insulation
- Thermal mass (tile/concrete/stone to store and release heat in cold months)
- Light-colored roofing/exterior materials to reflect the sun's rays
- Efficient lighting and plumbing (standard for all projects in California, but you can always increase efficiency through product selection)
- Photovoltaic systems (photovoltaic panels) (now required for California projects)
- Solar water heating
- Cross ventilation oriented to the wind direction
- Green walls/roofs (can be very expensive) or deciduous landscaping to reduce solar heat gain during summer and allow sunlight to enter during winter.
3. Environmentally Conscious Products
There are multiple agencies that assess the environmental quality of materials. On larger projects, the primary resource is "LEED accreditation," which is a standard that provides guidance on how to design, build, and maintain energy-efficient and sustainable structures.
This has endless possibilities and can vary greatly in cost. It can be as simple as choosing a recycled glass countertop or recycled floor, to various levels of LEED certification.
4. Water Conservation
This varies in complexity and cost and depends on the client's preferred end result. Beyond the typical plumbing efficiency selection, water conservation and protection can include:
- Site runoff treatment or bioretention systems
- Gray water systems
- Rainwater tanks
- Bioretention systems that treat water
5. Indoor Environment
We typically consider interior quality in every home, especially maximizing daylight, proper ventilation, hallway widths, etc.
6. Aging-in-Place Design
Otherwise worded as "accessibility" or "ADA guidelines", design for the elderly and disabled is essentially to accommodate additional space for wheelchair/walker accessibility.
Design can go as far as installing grab bars, lower counters, etc. The cost of this type of design is that it significantly increases the space required and some features are slightly inconvenient when not used for accessibility (such as low counters).
We design many multi-family projects to strict ADA guidelines and are very familiar with these processes.
Here are five of the biggest benefits of aging in place for older adults and their families:
a) Keep your independence
One of the main reasons people choose to age in place is because they will be able to maintain their independence for as long as possible. There will come a time when you will need help from others, but when you are in your own home, you will have more control.
In an assisted living facility, you have less control over your daily routine and activities. You live depending on the nursing staff, who are often busy working with multiple residents. It's not as ideal as being in your own home.
b) Home is a healthier environment
Some studies have shown that assisted living facilities are less healthy for their residents than their own homes. There are several reasons why this could be. Moving out of your home takes an emotional toll, especially if you've lived there for decades. This can culminate in mental health problems, including depression.
There is also an increased risk of infection in assisted living facilities. These can be life-threatening, at worst. For these reasons, it is best to stay in your own home for as long as possible.
c) Keep the same routines
You can enjoy the same practices every day when you live in your own house. These routines benefit you, both physically and mentally. Being in a family home, where you can follow those routines, is very important.
If you move into a facility, you will not be able to enjoy the same routines in many cases. Many seniors never really feel at home in an assisted living facility, and it makes living there much less comfortably.
d) Cheaper to stay at home
It's no secret that living in an assisted living facility is expensive. Many seniors need to sell their homes to pay costs, something they would rather leave to their children and grandchildren.
There are also costs for aging in place, as you will need to do renovations. However, it can be much cheaper in the long run.
e) It's easier to be around family and friends
In many cases, aging in place will make it easier for seniors to continue seeing friends and family as usual. Staying close and connected to a social network is incredibly important for older adults.
For one thing, when older adults stay connected with their loved ones, they often have people they can turn to for help, whether it's with everyday activities of daily living or if a more serious situation arises.
It is impossible to overestimate the value of having a well-established local support network for older people nearby.
It's also hard to overstate how beneficial it can be for older adults to be able to continue spending time with their adult children, grandchildren, neighbors, and friends.
7. Food Production
Allocating an area of land for growing fruits and vegetables is one way to offset reliance on long distances from farm to table and energy use. Gardens also offer an attractive landscaping alternative while contributing to food production.
Learn more about ADUs with ADU Specialist Bay Area
Whether you're interested in making improvements to an existing unit or adding a new one, it's clear you'll see the benefits of an ADU for your property. So, get a free ADU construction estimate from ADU Specialist.
If you're interested in learning more, let the professionals at ADU Specialist Bay Area give you a hand. We have decades of experience in ADU construction.
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