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Jill Cropp of Studio Cropp Architecture first learned about ADUs when they began popping up on home tours like the Build It Green (BIG) Tour, formerly hosted by the City of Portland. She then attended the 2012 Build Small, Live Large Summit and learned more about the potential of ADUs.
“I went to the first Build Small Summit and at the time I was feeling like the simplest, low-tech way to build energy-efficiently was just to build small. It turns out the most common way to build small in the Portland area is to build ADUs.” –Jill Cropp
Jill got inspired to begin designing ADUs because their size requires fewer building materials to construct and less energy to maintain. She also likes that ADUs make neighborhoods better by increasing density without dramatically changing neighborhood character. But perhaps most importantly, she likes the challenge of creating well-designed small spaces.
“I know that one or two people can live quite comfortably in a simple, small space. Each ADU has its own unique challenges. It’s like a puzzle sometimes and that can be fun. I love the design challenge of fitting a living area in a compact space. Also, the new construction, detached ADUs are one of the most common ways to be able to design a new house in the city limits, since land is so hard to come by these days.” –Jill Cropp
As she designs an ADU, Jill addresses 4 major design considerations:
For Jill, finding opportunities to incorporate clever storage is another priority of ADU design. She has two major design tricks. First, she likes to use the attic area as storage since it doesn’t count towards total square footage. Second, inspired by an efficient and well-thought-out 1940s apartment she lived in once, she’s learned that the best solution is to “scatter storage in the spaces it’s needed most.” She explains that she now incorporates storage in the right places, even if those spots are small. (See more ADU Storage Solutions.)
“Instead of providing some big storage shed where everything goes, offer storage where it’s needed. That way you can get at your stuff without having to pull out the entire contents of a large closet to get to things. I provide room in the bathroom for towels, a closet for coats, and cabinet for cleaning supplies. I do exterior storage for bikes and gardening things. For one project I designed a bike storage shed with a 6-foot roof that was short enough to go in the setback. It was just big enough to put a couple bikes and helmets in there. Then you can use the rest of the yard for gardening.” –Jill Cropp
One of Jill’s favorite ADU designs is one she developed with a client through the schematic design phase before the project fell through. Their plan was to create a garage with living space above and then ditch the car and use the garage as a studio space.
“She wanted to have a garage on the ground floor as a shop for her jewelry making. Plenty of people have a garage but never use it to store a car. You do what you have to do to maintain a parking spot for the residence, but you don’t actually have to park in it (especially if you don’t have a car!) It doesn’t work as living space, but it’s unofficial extra space, so it works well for live-work.” –Jill Cropp
Once the site plan and ADU layout are determined, Jill turns her attention to ensuring that the building is as sustainable as possible. For her, sustainability translates to energy efficiency.
“Energy efficiency is always my number one sustainability priority with the most important detail being a well-insulated, well-sealed building envelope. There are pretty simple things with just the way you do the envelope that make a huge impact on energy efficiency. We also include high-efficiency heating (for ADUs ductless mini splits are a good option) and water heating, appliances, lights and all that. It’s good to remember that lights use an incredible amount of energy. Beyond that anything a homeowner can incorporate is gravy.” –Jill Cropp
So what advice does Jill have for homeowners considering creating an ADU on their own property?
“Check out AccessoryDwellings.org! Seriously, my clients who have done that are very well-prepared and inspired for this design project they are about to take on. Also, collect images from the internets or books and magazines. It really helps your designer/architect get a clear picture of what you want. Design can be difficult to communicate clearly with words.” –Jill Cropp