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 diversity. 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.

Monday, June 14

We Can Help Legalize Your Backyard Cottage

Do you need help legalizing an existing backyard cottage built without a permit? We helped Lars and Denise to legalize their cottage originally built as a one room schoolhouse in the 1960's.  It was converted to a cottage sometime after that. Lars and Denise have made numerous upgrades to the building to create a nice rental unit. As a result, the work required to permit their cottage was fairly minimal.

In general, legalizing, or establishing use of an existing cottage, requires bringing the cottage up to current building codes. This may include ventilation, electrical, energy and seismic upgrades.  For many older cottages the condition of the foundation may be of primary concern. The current building code has minimum requirements for concrete foundations and the building mudsill must be bolted to the foundation. Cottages originally built as garages may not have adequate foundations.  Meeting the current energy code may also require upgrades. For Lars and Denise this meant adding insulation to the cottage ceiling and perimeter of the foundation.  They also had to add a fan in the kitchen.

Why legalize your backyard cottage?  Municipalities that have revised their zoning codes are offering a carrot to homeowners. The stick is that they are cracking down on illegal cottages. In Seattle landlords will be required to register their rental units and be subjected to mandatory inspections beginning October 1st, 2011. Seattle also levies a minimum $5,000 fine for dwelling units established without a permit with additional daily penalties.

If you have a cottage that was inhabited as as residence prior to 1956 you may be eligible to establish you cottage as a stand alone residence without meeting current building codes. Contact us to find out more.

Thursday, June 3

microhouse at seattle green festival

Microhouse will make a virtual appearance at the Seattle Green Festival June 5th and 6th. We try to keep a low overhead here so we won't be an exhibitor, but you can check out the Smart Module plans at the Method Homes booth and learn more about prefab construction. You can also check out the great sustainable materials and finishes that populate our designs at the Ecohaus booth.  If that leaves you wanting more contact us.