Small is the new green

Increasing environmental awareness along with economic and demographic trends favor smaller house sizes. Many cities are doing their part by updating zoning codes to allow cottage housing and small backyard cottages (detached ADU's) on residentially zoned lots. Seattle and Portland are two cities which allow backyard cottages up to 800 sq. ft. in size. These small houses provide opportunities for families, while increasing housing stock, density and affordability. Continue reading for more information about small house design and Seattle's backyard cottage ordinance or contact us to find out if your lot is eligible for a backyard cottage.

Thursday, October 9

vote for the next babackyard cottage open house

Open houses are a great way to get a feel for these small houses, to meet the design and construction teams, and others interested in building backyard cottages.  At microhouse we have seven backyard cottage projects under construction in Seattle and are looking forward to our next open house this winter or spring. We won't be able to host open houses for all of our projects so we thought it might be fun to have vote to help choose which cottages are featured.   To vote you can send us an email open house vote or visit our microhouse pinterest page and like the cottage you would most like to visit.

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The capitol hill backyard cottage features one bedroom, living room, kitchen and bath on one floor and a sleeping loft.


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The tangletown backyard cottage is Seattle's 100th built backyard cottage. It features an open first floor plan with a living room and kitchen. The second floor contains a bedroom, bath and study.

backyard cottage, microhouse, dadu

The Madison Valley backyard cottage has a few bonus features that we usually able to feature like a powder room,  mud room, and rooftop deck. 

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The Broadview backyard cottage will be roughed in by a general contractor and the owner's will complete construction. The cottage features a garage which will be converted to a bedroom at a later date.

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The Portage Bay backyard cottage has great views and an open contemporary plan. One bedroom is located on the first floor but the kitchen and living room are on the top floor to take advantage of the views. 





The Fremont backyard cottage is being built not over a garage but a room for table tennis. When it is completed it will be the home of it's owners while they rent out their primary residence. The owner is acting as the general contractor for this project.

The seventh of the aforementioned backyard cottage projects is a net zero backyard cottage located in west seattle. Images coming soon.

rainier valley backyard cottage

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This Rainier Valley backyard cottage takes advantage of solar access and territorial views. The design of this cottage was intentionally simple to keep construction costs down and to make it easier for the owner who operated as the general contractor for this project.  

At the beginning of the design phase we staged a design charette with the cottage owner's whole family, our design team and the contractor.  Around the kitchen table with scones and coffee, we had an opportunity to establish the parameters and budget and get a jump start on the design process. We knew from the beginning that the available footprint was going to be small and we worked to make the cottage feel as open as possible.  


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Exposed ceilings in the kitchen and the living room add warmth and make the space feel taller than it is. Multiple floor levels were used to differentiate spaces and bring in natural light.


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Looking back down to the living room from the bedroom.


backyard cottage, microhouse, backyard cottages


The sleeping area is elevated above the bedroom floor.


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The main floor contains a living room, kitchen and bath. A bedroom and sleeping loft are located on the second floor. The overall footprint of the backyard cottage is 14ft by 22ft.


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High windows bring natural light into the living room.

Monday, September 8

City of Seattle DPD 1- reality (tv) 0

We were recently approached by the producers of tiny house nation about featuring a Seattle backyard cottage on their new television series. They had a family ready to downsize and move in, were looking for a contractor, and the film crew was scheduled to be in the area in four weeks.  All they were lacking was, as it turns out, a building permit. 

This is perhaps a good time to reflect on the permitting process for backyard cottages in Seattle.  In Seattle backyard cottages otherwise known as detached accessory dwelling units, require a full building permit. The building permit process usually takes 3 months for a simple project and can take considerably longer if one is interested in pushing the boundaries of what is allowed or the site is in an environmentally critical area. 

Pushing the boundaries is not hard to do because of what is and what is not included in the actual wording of the land use code and inconsistency in interpreting the code from Seattle DPD. Backyard cottages haven't been allowed for long and the code section allowing them is brief and not well vetted. In addition because of the relatively small number being built it isn't a high priority for the city to fix the shortcomings. 

How does Seattle compare with other West Coast Cities when it comes to regulating backyard cottages? The sightline Institute and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Green Building Team recently compiled a list of West coast cities that allow backyard cottages, compiled a chart, and ranked them on friendliness to accessory dwelling units. Vancouver was the clear winner with a score of 96, Seattle received a score of 58, near the middle of the pack. So as we get ready to celebrate Seattle's 100th backyard cottage, Vancouver a city of roughly the same size, has completed roughly ten times that number.  Is that good or bad? It depends on your perspective, but inconsistent rules and a cumbersome permitting process don't make for better built work they just make it take longer and cost more.


Tuesday, July 15

backyard cottage open house today, July 15th

Please join microhouse for an  backyard cottage open house today at  3273 McClintock Ave S, Seattle, WA. Entrance is off of the alley west of McClintock.  4:00-8:00 pm.

 

Wednesday, June 25

backyard cottage open house - tuesday 7/15

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Would you like an opportunity to see inside a backyard cottage (DADU)? 

Microhouse's newest backyard cottage has a footprint of 14 ft x 22 ft but features two full floors on three levels and has one bedroom, one bath a kitchen living room and sleeping loft.  For this project we worked with the owner to create a cottage with a small footprint that would be simple to build and love the sun.  The project will serve as a rental property for the owner and in Seattle's tight market was rented out before the construction was even completed.  The tenant has graciously offered to host an open house on Tuesday July 15th from 4:00-8:00 pm.  3273 McClintock Ave S, Seattle, WA. Entrance is off of the alley west of McClintock.

Open houses are a unique opportunity to see inside a backyard cottage, meet the design and construction team, and others thinking about building backyard cottages.  Please follow our blog or contact us for updates.  

Considering building your own backyard cottage? Contact us with your address and your goals and we will run an preliminary analysis and talk you through the design and permitting process.

info@microhousenw.com
206.428.8599

Friday, March 7

backyard cottage workshop - wednesday 3/12

meet others and learn about backyard cottages

Would you like to learn more about backyard cottages and meet others thinking about building a backyard cottage?  We periodically assemble experts in the design, construction and of financing backyard cottages. These workshops offer a unique opportunity to have your questions answered in an informal setting.  Drop ins are welcome but we prefer it if you RSVP so we can be sure to accommodate you. If you send us a description of what you would like to to and your address we can do background research for you prior to the class.

RSVP: bruce@microhousenw.com  (206) 428-8599

backyard cottages and ADU's; stay-at-home strategies for seniors   Wednesday March 12th,  from 7:00 to 9:00pm, Blue Building Room 6. Phinney Neighborhood Center 6532 Phinney Avenue North

Microhouse and Ncompass Cottage Company
$20 PNA member, $25 Public

Backyard cottages provide opportunities for seniors and their families. Join us to learn more about stay-at-home strategies for seniors including the design, construction and use of backyard cottages.  Bring your ideas, this is a great opportunity to meet others thinking about how a backyard cottage may fit into their long term plans.

Tuesday, March 4

thinking about sustainability - think small


Are you interested in simplifying your life, reducing costs, and a more sustainable lifestyle?  Small houses can help achieve all of these goals.  But how does house size stack up against a myriad of other green building technologies? A 2010 report by the Oregon Department of Environmental Equality examines the impacts of constructing, maintaining and operating a home over a 70 year occupancy.  Key findings of the report include:

  • Of 30 different material reduction and reuse practices evaluated, reducing home size and multi-family living achieved the largest greenhouse gas reductions along with significant reductions in other impact categories.
  • Reducing home size by 50% results in a projected 36% reduction in lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Reducing home size is a significant leverage point for environmental impact reduction and may be a more effective measure than achieving minimum levels of "green" certification.
  • New and existing homes can incorporate accessory dwelling units (ADU's) as an option to increase density and reduce the square foot/person ratio, provide flexible living spaces, and achieve the environmental benefits of both small and multi-family living.

To see some examples of our backyard cottages, small houses and multi-family projects check out our projects page and visit one of our upcoming open houses.  To read more about the environmental benefits of small houses and the full report follow the link. DEQ smaller homes, smaller footprint, report