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.

Tuesday, May 31

thinking about a backyard cottage? want to find out more?

Microhouse and Ncompass Cottage Company are offering convenient, concise informational workshops to help you learn more about backyard cottages.
You’ll learn about the history of backyard cottages, current codes and regulations, financing options, planning and design considerations, and how to select an architect and builder.
“Smaller cottages can be thought of as income producing rental properties, equity building additions, or perhaps as a warm safe place to have an aging parent live close by,” said Stefan Hansmire of Ncompass.
Ncompass Cottage Company provides folks all over the Puget Sound with affordable, environmentally sound and sustainable backyard and small lot cottages. The company’s philosophy can be summarized this way: Smaller homes on existing lots mean more affordable housing, less demand on municipal infrastructure, better use of immediate resources, and more flexibility for everyone.
Bring your photos and sketches and get answers to all your cottage questions.
Workshops are offered June 22, June 29 and July 13, from 7:00 – 8:00 PM, at the Community School of West Seattle, 9450 22nd Avenue Southwest.

For more information or to RSVP for a workshop, contact bruce@microhousenw.com or call 206-428-8599.

seattle backyard cottages 1st year retrospective

Over one year has passed since the Seattle City Council adopted legislation to allow backyard cottages in all single family zones.  Roughly 50 cottages have been built in Seattle. Join Council members, architects, and backyard cottage owners as they discuss and review what they look like, their scale, and where they're appearing.  The brown bag lunch will occur tomorrow, Thursday, May 12th and feature Seattle City Council member Sally Clark as well as architects, homeowners and planning commission members and others interested in backyard cottages. 


Time:
Thursday, May 12, noon – 1 p.m.
Where:
Council Chambers, second floor
City Hall, 60
0 Fourth Ave, Seattle, WA 98104

seattle backyard cottages one year on

The Seattle City Council's Committee on the Built Environment met yesterday to discuss the backyard cottages that have been built or are in the permitting process since the expanded backyard cottage ordinance went into effect in November of 2009. The discussion included council members, architects, and one homeowner who recently built a backyard cottage. 


The focus of the meeting was a formal presentation of a report by the Seattle Department of Planning and Development.  The report shows that the number of new backyard cottages to be just over 50 with a 58% of those being conversions of existing structures.  The new structures were spread throughout the city. A map of the new cottages is included in the report.


During the meeting panel members and the public had an opportunity to discuss the new ordinance and evaluate it success. All present seemed to share enthusiasm for the ordinance. Challenges addressed by homeowners building cottages were discussed including height limits  parking, and privacy issues.  


backyard cottage report


Based on our experience we would suggest the following.


  • To take solar access to adjacent properties into consideration when evaluating roof forms that extend above 17 ft. 
  • Allow a height bonus for sloping lots similar to that allowed in lowrise zones.
  • Allowances for extra insulation to increase the roof height.
  • Allow backyard cottages on lots in shoreline buffer areas where the cottage would be outside of the buffer. 
  • Further clarification on the parking waiver process or the ability to obtain a binding decision about  parking waiver request prior to the commencement of a project.

Other interesting ideas. A trade off; eliminate a required parking space in exchange for a rain garden or other offset to the increased impervious surface created by the new structure.





Sunday, May 15

report concludes backyard cottages are a positive addition

The results of a report focusing on the first 18 months of the expanded backyard cottage ordinance is being discussed by the City Council's Committee on the Built Environment today at noon.  To watch the meeting click the following link.




City of Seattle – City Council's Committee on the Built Environment today reviews a report on backyard cottage development in Seattle over the past 18 months. In November 2009, Council adopted legislation allowing construction of backyard cottages on eligible lots in single-family zones throughout the City.  Fifty-seven units have been permitted since. 
Report concludes that:
·         Backyard cottages are evenly spread-out over the city
·         Many owners matched designs with the existing house
·         Siting, design, and neighborhood fit of the completed cottages is consistently positive
·         Units are generally well-screened from the street
·         Many have been converted from existing garages
·         Only three of the 57 units requested a waiver for parking requirements



“Backyard cottages create affordable housing options, help someone pay their mortgage and to make a room for a son or daughter moving back home," saidCouncilmember Sally J. Clark.  "We're seeing a range of design and most appear to fit in really quite well."
The report, developed by the Department of Planning & Development, includes photos, site layout, and additional information on each of the 57 backyard cottages.  Page nine also includes a map showing the diverse geographic spread of backyard cottages throughout the City. 
For more information on backyard cottages, also referred to as "detached accessory dwelling units," visit the Department of Planning & Development’s website.
When:            Today, Thursday, May 12, noon - 1 p.m.
Where:           City Hall Council Chambers, second floor
600 Fourth Ave, Seattle, WA 98104
What:             Backyard cottage discussion
Who: Seattle City Councilmember Sally J. Clark

Representatives from the Department of Planning and Development Seattle Planning Commission
Architects and designers
Backyard cottage owners

Tuesday, May 3

microhouse global in india

Microhouse is pleased to announce the launch of our microhouse global team to work on sustainable township projects located in India. Our focus on small house design and sustainability is in step with the goals of an increasingly sophisticated middle class of Indian consumers who are entering the home buying marketplace.  

Design Approach

Microhouse is an award winning collaboration of architects, landscape architects, designers, and constructability experts who are passionate about the design of small houses and their communities.  As a young flexible team we are energetic, resourceful, and creative. Our collaborative approach to design allows us to draw on a vast resource of knowledge that we apply to our projects both local and worldwide.  This approach allows us to fully realize our clients’ goals on a wide range of projects.  We take pride in creating innovative designs that are closely tailored to local conditions and construction technologies.

Microhouse specializes in the design of small houses and larger ground related multi-family residential projects. Our space efficient designs feature a refined Western aesthetic. We distinguish ourselves by closely tailoring our designs to use local construction methods in order to achieve the highest results at the lowest cost. A majority of our work is with builder/developers who value our thoughtful yet cost effective designs. We welcome continued work with quality developers to develop a similar market driven approach for the design and construction for projects in India.


Community

Microhousing is a concept that is adapts the spatial and social dynamics of traditional communities and re-imagines them to create modern urban villages. It embraces simplicity and connection to place and community.  As people seek to live more simple purposeful lives microhousing has been enjoying a resurgence in popularity. 

Comfortably accommodating all of the functions and activities in a tiny house requires thoughtful design.  The multiple domestic and social demands of living require the small spaces to be flexible and adaptable. For example, a single room may need to be, at one time, a dining room and, at another, a bedroom. Because the interior spaces are small natural lighting and  the visual continuity to the outside is vitally important. Careful placement of windows, doors, and wall openings brings the outside in and makes the interior seem more spacious.  In a sense, the exterior spaces become an important as the interior layout itself.  The careful balance between the two is the hallmark of a vibrant community. Our design team is at the forefront of innovating concepts within this spatial and social framework.


Sustainability

We are passionate about sustainability.  We believe that sustainable design is good design and informs every project that we do.  Sustainability is about context, and we strive to make the right choices for the project and the environment.  Our projects don’t hide their sustainable features - they show them off proudly, as design features that add to their unique and intensely local qualities. Sustainable design begins with the initial planning phase of the project and continues to the choice of local materials and finishes. Space and energy efficient buildings are inherently sustainable. We incorporate water conservation, natural lighting, local building materials, and a reasoned response to local climate and site conditions into each of our projects. As a result our buildings are not only great places to live, but often cost less to build and operate.


Teamwork

We have a skilled and dedicated team with a minimum of 10 years of architectural design and construction experience primarily in the United States but also in Mexico, India, China, and Africa. Our project teams are assembled by matching the experience of team members to unique skills needed for individual projects. Microhouse Team India consists of Architects, Landscape Architects, Civil Engineers, Constructability Experts, and Marketing Professionals. Microhouse team members are accomplished at coordinating complex projects locally and overseas. We use real time collaboration tools to facilitate a seamless design and construction process. We routinely partner with local firms to complement our global client services.

Competitive Pricing

We are able to offer quality contemporary architectural designs at competitive pricing due to the skilled nature of our design team members and a business structure that minimizes overhead costs. We are accustomed to working with builders on large scale projects and are able to produce quality design work quickly and efficiently.  We offer a single point of contact for client interaction to facilitate rapid response times and continuity.