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Students create preliminary ADU designs for Small Backyard Homes Initiative

Architecture students discussed their design ideas with residents in the Cully neighborhood
on Feb. 22 in partnership with community organization Living Cully.

Portland is one of the friendliest cities in the U.S. for homeowners who want to build a small second house, known as an accessory dwelling unit or ADU, on their property. Not only does Portland’s zoning code allow for them—which isn’t the case in all places—the city actually incentivizes their construction by waiving systems development charges that would normally add between $12,000-$20,000 to the cost of building an ADU. Some of the world’s leading ADU advocates and developers are based in Portland, offering a trove of resources to help people navigate the design, permitting, and construction processes.

And yet, building an ADU can still seem out of reach for many Portland homeowners.

Architecture students in Margarette Leite’s graduate Design Studio course at PSU took one giant leap winter term toward making ADUs more accessible to more people. The result? Seven innovative preliminary design ideas that consider possibilities of using salvaged materials, flexible layouts, and prefabricated components, all with the aim of creating a more affordable ADU that could be quickly permitted by the city and deployed in backyards all across town.  

Students and faculty from PSU’s Center for Public Interest Design in the School of Architecture will refine the preliminary designs during spring term. Their goal is to complete several full-fledged designs so that prototypes can be built over the summer.

The project is part of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions’ Small Backyard Homes Initiative, which aims to make it easier and more affordable for homeowners to construct ADUs.

Explore each of the preliminary designs by clicking on the images below.

AD1-2-3 by Mitchell Davis and Carlos Restrepo

AD1-2-3 design details


Additive Dwelling Unit by Lauren Sanchez

Additive Dwelling Unit design details


Alley ADU by Ashwaq Al Khalil

Alley ADU design details


Insert ADU by Rosemary Hill

Insert ADU design details


Salvage ADU by Heather Larose and Kayla Anderson

Salvage ADU design details


Shell ADU by C. Wm Rer and Austin Zeitz

Shell ADU design details


Turn Key ADU by Chad Wallace

Turn Key ADU design details

» You might also be interested in this: Maps show 30 percent of Portland lots could host backyard homes