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Adam Lucas of Hardline Design and Construction Inc. first began building in the 1970s with his father. Over the years, he and his dad built several mother-in-law suites before Portland changed the regulations to allow ADUs by right on single family lots. Prior to the changes, it was possible to convert internal spaces such as basements into living quarters, but more challenging to build detached structures.
“I’ve had my company here for 25 years, so I’ve been doing the in-law suite for a long time and I’ve always liked them. The first one where I figured out the detached ADU regulations was when I did the Billy Hines job in 2006.” –Adam Lucas
Check out Billy Hines’ ADU: Modernizing the Carriage House to learn about this project form the homeowner’s perspective. This project was completed just before RICAP 5 changed the accessory dwelling guidelines, simplifying the process to create an ADU in Portland.
“I know there are always growing pains when the city decides to make this an official thing. I knew it had to get easier. Fortunately, Billy was a great client. His appreciation and love of the project made it really worthwhile. It was a small old building with that cool factor. I knew the potential.” –Adam Lucas
Until recently, Portland’s ADU Guidelines required detached ADUs to carefully match the primary dwelling. These requirements were relaxed somewhat in December 2015 when The Accessory Structures Zoning Code Update Passed. The regulations are considerably more lax than they were when Adam first converted Billy Hines’s carriage house.
“We design our ADUs to match or compliment the main structure and to add to rather than detract from the neighborhood. Billy Hines’s ADU was a good example. It was a CMU building. The city said ‘You have to make it look more like the neighborhood.’ So we did horizontal lap siding and we were able to keep the awning over the front with the parapet roof. It looks totally different from the house but fits the neighborhood.” –Adam Lucas
After completing his first ADU, Adam was inspired to do another. He appreciates the ability to create multi-generational housing options and improve quality of life for his clients. In fact, thinking ahead about his own housing options, Adam decided he wanted an ADU of his own. He created a space that would serve as a music room now and place for a family member in the future.
“I’m cognizant of clients’ need to age in place in a high-density urban growth environment while being near family. The ability for my mother to age with me seems more ethical and valuable than having her somewhere else. I’m a small company so I’m family-oriented. To see someone achieve something that improves their quality of life the way an ADU can, that’s really rewarding. ADUs can improve a client’s life to an extent that other projects can’t.” –Adam Lucas
When Adam meets with potential clients to learn “what their lifestyle is all about,” he pays particular attention to kitchens and bathrooms, to ensure that these spaces are efficient and meet the client’s needs.
“We need to have an honest conversation. It’s a relationship between the designer, builder, and client. There’s a juxtaposition of needs and desires, mashed with reality. I explain, ‘You’re not going to get the storage you want.’ The client must simplify their life if they are serious about the ADU option.” –Adam Lucas
Adam’s favorite design trick for ADUs is keeping the entire space as open as possible.
“I reckon simply having as few walls as possible and open shelving. I have more opportunity to work the tricks in a bigger space. You’ve gotta keep ADUs so simple.” –Adam Lucas
As he designs an ADU, Adam considers access to both units and privacy for residents of both the primary dwelling and the ADU. He notes that privacy is especially challenging to incorporate into a basement ADU because sound travels between the floors.
“Typically a ceiling in a basement isn’t tall enough to drop the ceiling. If I put in Roxul [a mineral wool insulation with good sound deadening properties] and use 5/8” drywall, I’m able to get a decent sound barrier.” –Adam Lucas
Sustainability is another key design consideration for Adam. He notes that low-flow fixtures and energy-efficient appliances are part of every remodel Hardline does. They can also offer solar energy assistance depending on the budget.
Adam say that his biggest challenge in creating ADUs is meeting the city and country requirements for access, parking, taxes and fees.
“I’ve done ADUs in Multnomah County and some in Clackamas County. Multnomah is by far the easiest to work with. They give you huge incentives on the impact fees and they have a more streamlined process. Clackamas County wanted to throw road blocks in our way. It’s rural and not so much into the higher density growth. Interest has increased in the past few years, but I had a client pull out recently because of the county’s new taxes.” –Adam Lucas
(For more about Multnomah County’s new taxes, check out The Death of Detached ADUs in Portland and What to Do About It.)
So what advice does Adam have for homeowners considering creating an ADU on their own property?
“Simply two things: First, hire someone who has experience doing them and have a good relationship. Make sure you trust them and like working with them. Second, have reasonable expectations. If you don’t have a lot of experience, be realistic and have a good relationship with your trusted professional.” –Adam Lucas
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