"From design to delivery, Acton embodies quality and trust."
- Eric Towner
"Even when faced with the wettest winter in years (2016) they protected our home and delivered the project on schedule."
- Eric Towner
Part 1: Motivations
The Towner family lives in the Willow Glen area of San Jose. Eric Towner is an advocate for housing in California himself, and together with his wife Bree, the couple set out on a project to invest in their property.
More and more the Towner's wanted a flexible investment, to expand their home for their two young children, generate passive income from a renter, and actually help provide lower cost housing options to people in their community. And so, after some research and referrals, the Towner family reached out to Acton ADU.
Part 2: Getting Started
The Towner project came at an interesting time. It was 2017 before the regulations for ADUs were fully stabilized, and though those regulations change very frequently, at this time it was a new frontier for both homeowners and the city of San Jose Planning and Building Departments.
What was learned is that an attached ADU would be the ideal solution for the property, in order to make it easy to expand the home in the future and incorporate the ADU as a kind of big addition for Eric and Bree’s two kids.
So we knew initial design challenges would be to keep with the architectural consistency of the main house, as well as being as economical as possible.
Part 3: Feasibility
Developing an architectural plan for connecting an ADU to a pre-existing main home is important. Lots of engineering questions exist, especially with older homes, which if not addressed or assessed early in the process can be costly to solve.
We worked closely with the Towner family not only on the layout the ADU, but set the expectations for how adding an ADU would impact their home.
And since the family intended to provide affordable housing as a means to support the cost and impact of the ADU before converting it to their own space, we also designed a discrete, rear yard entrance and private living space. A space that would be easy to convert into family living space in the future, but would provide a great backdrop for privacy for both tenant and the Towner Family.
Part 4: Conceptual Design
The conceptual design phase was a fun one. We explored ways to increase the open feeling of the small home using best practices and investing in particular design elements that make small spaces feel much, much bigger.
Some best practices include:
1/ Vaulted ceilings:
It's amazing what a vaulted ceiling does to a small space. Open air and ceiling high make for a wonderful design element for any small area, especially ADUs. Vaulted ceilings do require additional investment, but in our experience we’ve never worked with a homeowner that ever regretted it.
Creating a loft area for storage, an additional sleeping area, or a private space for work. Lofts are not permissible in all jurisdictions however, so make sure you chat with your design and building partner to understand clearly what’s possible on your own property.
3/ Smaller Amenities
Not too dissimilar to apartment living, great design choices include smaller kitchens, laundry closets, and outdoor living spaces like porches or planned landscaping. All features incorporated into the Towner home.
Part 5: Detailed Design & Navigation
As we mentioned before, the Towner project came in the early days of San Jose ADU regulations and required a high level of detail to navigation the project through design. One particular challenge was providing the right solution for fire protection.
Firewall separation is a common requirement for ADUs, for both attached and detached ADUs. Firewalls are required to separate attached ADUs so that each home is independently protected from the other in the event of a fire emergency. Additionally, firewalls are also required on property lines and setbacks (which have varying requirements).
Once the fire safety features of the ADU were complete in the design and up to code, we focused our attention on designing all of the elements that would make the home comfortable, private space that would seamlessly convert into additional family space.
Part 6: Breaking Ground
Site preparation for attached ADUs is important and with the Towner project, we walled off part of their home and created a physical dust barrier, so the ADU could be built without creating clouds of disrupting debris and dust.
Additionally, there were also considerations as we implemented the structural requirements for the addition of the vaulted ceilings. All in all it was a challenging project, but the results were superb.
Part 7: Home sweet home.
After finishing their ADU, the Towners met a delightful, retired woman named Betty, looking for a quiet place to live. The Towners decided to rent the unit to Betty, who fell in love with the open space, quiet environment and comfort.
The Towners when so far as to share their accessory home at a discounted rate and enjoy having her around to interact with the family, kids, and keep an eye out on the property while they’re gone.
Ultimately the Towners are generating a passive income while they plan for their family’s expansion into the ADU in the future. A win win for certain.