LA launches initiative for architect-designed home improvements

LA launches initiative for architect-designed home improvements

Los Angeles’ Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Standard Plan Program is a forward-thinking initiative that offers homeowners a way to enhance their living space through clever, architect-designed home improvements

As a city already known for its enviable array of housing stock – whether its a midcentury modern mansion or a Spanish hacienda-style house with a luscious garden – Los Angeles has recently revealed a new building initiative that will allow homeowners to get even more bang for their buck through home improvements. Known as the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Standard Plan Program, the initiative puts forward 20 pre-approved designs for ADUs, which are secondary livable structures that can be added to the same piece of property, that enables the process of obtaining planning and building approval from the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety to be expedited and simplified.

‘This program is about making ADUs more accessible, more affordable, and more beautiful — and making them part of the blueprint of our efforts to tackle our housing crunch and create more affordable communities citywide,’ said the city’s Mayor Eric Garcetti, when announcing the program, which has been in development for a year and in a pilot phase for seven months. 

“Lean-To ADU” by Jennifer Bonner/MALL
Exterior view of the “Lean-To ADU” by Jennifer Bonner/MALL

Currently featuring the work of 14 architecture firms, including Why Architecture, So-Il and Jennifer Bonner/Mall, the pre-approved designs offers homeowners flexible designs that will work with residential zoned properties, consumer protection from contractor abusers, a reduction in cost for the overall permitting process as well as access to the architecture firms who have been pre-approved. The plan check review process for these home improvements is also diminished from 4-6 weeks to as little as one day.

‘The Standard Plan Program will dramatically streamline the process for homeowners of selecting and getting an ADU design approved by LADBS, while at the same time supporting the work of Los Angeles architects and extending the City’s rich tradition of innovation in residential architecture,’ says Christopher Hawthorne, Chief Design Officer for the City of Los Angeles. ‘The ADU plans available at launch include contributions from some of the most talented architecture and design firms at work in Los Angeles and around the country — and we look forward to seeing new designs added to the mix.’

ADU Standard Plan design by wHY Architecture
Exterior view of an ADU Standard Plan design by wHY Architecture

Since state laws were updated in 2017 to make it easier to build ADUs, these standalone structures now account for 22% of newly permitted housing units. The designs in the ADU Standard Plan Program are designed with a variety of homeowner needs in mind, and range from small studios to two-storey layouts. The creative approaches on display are also wonderfully varied; Jennifer Bonner’s ‘Lean-To ADU’ combines facets of the utilitarian lean-to shed with two LA architectural mainstays: the stucco box and the exaggerated false front, while So-Il’s ‘Pebble House’ draws from the region’s history of case study houses to form its flower shaped footprint that allows for natural cross-ventilation while placing necessary mechanical and wet spaces at its core.

Fung + Blatt Architects has designed an elegant, all-electric dwelling that teams an L-shaped footprint with a series of staggered fences to provide privacy. Welcome Projects’ two-floor Breadbox’ combines stucco and clay tile to form a whimsical garden cottage, accompanied by a variety of porch and window options that can be configured to suit specific backyard conditions. 

With the program open to architects, contractors and firms who can meet its basic criteria, the first assortment of designs is simply a taster of what lies in store for homeowners in Los Angeles. For anyone thinking about springing for that home office, wellness or creative studio, a place to house relatives, now is certainly the time for home improvements. §

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