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The 5 Elements of Perfect ADU Design In San Diego

The design process for a San Diego ADU does not stop once a preliminary design has been decided upon. Despite generally being smaller than standard single-family homes or multi-family apartment units, San Diego ADU architecture can be deceptively difficult.

If you work with us at ADU Contractors the entire work process will be smoothened out.

Tight spaces and strict code requirements around living areas can make it difficult to figure out what’s possible in the living space. Contact us at ADU Contractors if you want more information.

The 5 key elements of a perfect ADU design are as follows:-

Key 1: Daylight in the ADU

ADU spaces are often small, tucked away in a backyard, and may be surrounded by neighboring houses, trees, and fences. Nevertheless, improving a design for daylight can completely transform your ADU, regardless of the environment.

The main design approach is to ensure that each room receives light from at least two directions. These can be two exterior walls, interior openings to brighter areas of the ADU, or skylights.

An important consideration when choosing a window location is the impact on comfort and energy use. For example, exposure facing south provides pleasant warm ambient light for most of the day. However, the same large south-facing openings in a hot climate will generate more heat and increase reliance on air conditioning systems.

North-facing light, on the other hand, will be softer and cooler with fewer glare issues, but will bring in much less direct light, and will generally be significantly more diffused. Due to the large impact on the feel of the space, daylight exposure should be a determining factor in the initial ADU design, throughout the design development process. Our design team is well-versed in these options and trade-offs and is happy to discuss your ADU design with you.

Key 2: Your accessory dwelling unit’s privacy

After talking about daylight, it’s also important to consider privacy as a balancing factor when thinking about windows, doors, and other openings.

Although large windows with views to the outside may sound charming to most of us, it’s less appealing when it shows your neighbor your hanging laundry, taking out the trash, or making a U-turn in the driveway while cooking dinner.

For ADU design, privacy is a crucial factor. Depending on your use case and property design, determining the correct level of visual separation between the main house and the new unit will be critical to ensuring your ADU will meet your long-term needs.

At ADU Contactors, our goal is to strike the right balance between being fully secluded and fully integrated with existing and neighboring structures. We take advantage of tips and tricks, such as the size and location of windows, the selection of their opening mechanisms, and the choice of particular glasses from darkened frosted glass to fully transparent.

These help ensure that the ADU will stand the test of time – through changing use cases, new tenants, and a possible future sale of the property.

Key 3: Storage in your ADU

When designing small spaces, it can be tempting to strip walls and other design elements to a minimum and envision larger, open living areas. However, we make sure that each ADU offers enough storage space to comfortably accommodate the needs of residents.

Various areas of the ADU can be used for storage. Bedroom closets are common storage features, while bathroom or linen storage is often overlooked. Kitchen layouts also need to be efficient, since in small spaces, every linear inch of cabinet counts. Our design team avoids dead corners and maximizes unoccupied spaces such as utility closets, attics, and under-counter areas.

Key 4: Plumbing blocks for your ADU

While plumbing may seem like more of a technical consideration for your ADU, it can still affect the design and quality of your space. When designing the elements of your ADU, our team places a strong emphasis on optimizing the “Plumbing Blocks”, meaning kitchens, bathrooms, and other rooms and appliances that require water or sewage pipes.

The most important thing for you is that designing with these considerations in advance saves you construction time and money! Optimizing plumbing blocks enables space-efficient design, reduces plumbing material and installation costs and leaves room and budget for features you’ll love and see every day.

Key 5: Points of emphasis for your ADU design


Not to mention, all excellent ADU designs ought to feature breathtaking aesthetic characteristics. While high-end finishes and custom millwork won’t fit most building budgets, it doesn’t cost more to pay attention to detail where design can produce big “moments of space” that the resident or renter will feel every day when walking through the unit.

We believe both small and large ADUs should feel like a luxury. And part of this comes from putting ourselves in your shoes, imagining what it’s like to walk through space. We don’t want to walk in and be faced with a stackable washer and dryer. We don’t want to go to bed looking at the water heater cabinet. We don’t want to cook while looking at a blank wall.

However, we want to place typical eyesores away from the eyes, and make the most of every little corner. We want to highlight a great view with a prominent window, and emphasize wall space for art or storage. Finally we would like to design comfortable, visually pleasing, and quality housing for all.

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