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“ADUs make sense, especially when you build an ADU within an existing structure. The idea is creating density and community. All trends are leaning towards people not wanting to live in giant houses. As things become more and more expensive, people can’t afford the costs of housing and energy.”-Paz Pozarycki
Paz Pozarycki’s ADU experience began in 2000 with his first Portland home. The attic of this 1890 Victorian had been partially converted to an apartment by the previous owner. Paz investigated his options with the Bureau of Development Services and learned how to convert the attic into a self-sufficient unit, which could be rented out separately from the rest of the house.
Paz and his business partner, Katharina Grad Steinmeyer, have recently completed three UDUs (a twist on the ADU acronym which stands for Urban Dwelling Unit). Their new design firm UDU Design LLC has been inspired by the small housing movement and the need for aging-in-place design.
Previously Paz and his brothers have built more than 15 ADUs in Portland. The Paz brothers also have been inspired by the small housing movement, the income potential, and the ability to create community by increasing density. The majority of their ADUs have been investments, but Paz and his brothers have also built ADUs for clients. Most of the ADUs have been carved out of the underutilized spaces in existing homes: basements, attics, back bedrooms. The ADU featured in this case study is Paz’s most recent project and it was funded with business cash on hand. This most recent ADU was Paz’s first ground-up detached ADU (though when you read about his creative work around the height restrictions, you’ll understand that ground-up takes on a whole new meaning for this ADU since he took it down a notch!)
“Building from the ground up is a whole different thing, from the setbacks to the height restrictions. Of course, when you’re converting basement or attic none of those things come into play. This time we were working with contractors for pouring concrete foundations, learning about the bolting processes, the rebar, the type of timber, using glue lams, basically all those details of new construction.”-Paz Pozarycki
Since this was his first detached new-construction ADU, it was the first time Paz worked with the design guidelines that pertain to detached ADUs. The ADU zoning code presented Paz with three big challenges when he was building his ADU. The first challenge was the setbacks from the existing structure.
“It would be nice to have more distance so you can create more privacy. Right now it feels almost like an apartment building. Moving the UDU farther from the house would not have impacted privacy for other structures since there is nothing near it. All the other structures are 20 feet away!”-Paz Pozarycki
Second, Paz found that Portland’s requirement that a detached ADU match the roofline of the primary dwelling added considerable cost.
“We have one gable running east/west and one north/south. I love the design, but it adds cost on the exterior materials and the interior finish work. You can’t see the roofline from the street because the main structure is blocking it almost completely. So if I had it to do over again I would do a faux roofline. It would still match the exterior gable look but would simplify the interior ceiling reducing cost for painting, sheetrock, and trim. You’re always balancing between economics and design.”-Paz Pozarycki
Finally, the height restriction of 18 feet from the mid-point of the peak made it difficult for Paz to make the house as tall as he wanted it to be. He approached this last challenge creatively by taking his design down a notch. He ended up tucking the entire structure down into the ground three feet. The height of the midpoint of the peak is now 18 feet above the ground although the structure itself is 21 feet tall.
Paz’s most recent ADU features sustainable finishes and materials such as recycled wood for kitchen shelving and trim work, recycled and reclaimed tile for bathrooms and kitchen, and bamboo floors. These are design elements that UDU Design always incorporates into their UDU’s. His UDU Design business partner Katharina is a certified horticultural therapist and master gardener as well as an interior designer. She will complete the urban habitat by creating beautiful outdoor “rooms” to expand the limited indoor living space of the ADU and to blur the lines between interior and exterior.
“We are using found and recycled materials to build a comfortable sitting area with a fire pit. The plants are mostly native, or low water use, as well as attractive screens to create more privacy from the main house and the neighbors. There will be space to grow vegetables and herbs as well as many plants to attract wildlife and create the illusion, that the space is larger than it actually is.” -Katharina Grad Steinmeyer
Inside the unit, south-facing windows maximize passive heating from the winter sun, while a south facing second story deck provides shade in the summer. Paz also installed a Caroma toilet with a sink over the tank so that water from hand-washing is used to flush the toilet.
“The highlight of building this UDU was setting the spiral staircase in place. The staircase is my favorite feature.” -Paz Pozarycki
As soon as it’s complete, Paz intends to live in the ADU, though he’ll eventually make it into a rental unit in the future. He plans for the residents in the ADU and main house to share outdoor spaces, gardens, and a barbecue area. When I asked Paz if it looks like he will have sufficient storage space in his ADU, he replied, “I like to think of it as another incentive to simplify.”
Paz is disappointed that he had to give up garden space for his detached ADU, but he says that what he likes best about having an ADU on his property is that it has provided income potential and created urban density.
“I will be designing and building more UDUs in the future. We are looking to work with folks who want to age-in-place. This is the new niche for our company; the exploding aging demographic along with people who need a caretaker to live on site. We’re looking at building another detached ADU on a property in NE Portland. We’re even looking at doing the container structures, but we need to meet with BDS to discuss that. We are open to building every which kind. I’m not leaning in any particular direction.”-Paz Pozarycki
So what advice does Paz have for someone considering creating an ADU on their own property?
“Plan, plan and plan…”-Paz Pozarycki