How to do ADU Concept Design?

4 min read
remodeling contractors Los Angeles

You may know the term “Accessory Dwelling Unit” or ADU. ADUs provide several advantages, including improving property value and offering more affordable housing options. However, An ADU’s design can be challenging and overwhelming.

We will walk you through below the procedures and factors in ADU concept design to help you build a valuable and attractive addition to your home. Also, visit ADU Builders, Los Angeles website,, to learn about an ADU concept design.

Understanding ADUs

Before going through the concept design process, it’s critical to understand what ADUs involve.

An ADU is a secondary housing unit typically constructed on the same lot as an existing single-family home. ADUs can come in various forms, such as a detached backyard cottage, converted garage or basement, or an extension to the main house.

Step 1: Research the Regulations

Designing an ADU in Los Angeles requires complying with local regulations and building codes. Thus, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the guidelines the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety set forth. Some fundamental rules to consider include:

  • Maximum allowable ADU size
  • Setbacks and distance requirements from property lines
  • Height restrictions
  • Parking requirements

By understanding and adhering to these regulations, you can ensure a smooth design process while avoiding potential complications in the future.

Step 2: Assess Your Property

Take a close look at your property and identify potential areas where an ADU could be integrated. Consider factors such as available space, access to utilities, and the impact on neighboring properties. In several cases, ADUs are built in rear yards, but you may also explore other possibilities based on your property’s layout.

Step 3: Determine the Purpose and Features

Before entering into the design specifics, it’s essential to determine the purpose and desired features of your ADU. Are you planning to rent it out for supplemental income, accommodate extended family members, or use it as a home office? Knowing the intended purpose will help shape the design decisions and ensure the space meets your requirements. Consider features such as:

  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Kitchen facilities
  • Living and dining areas
  • Outdoor space

By defining your desired functionalities and amenities, you can create a well-designed ADU that suits your preferences.

Step 4: Engage Professionals

While it is possible to design an ADU independently, consulting with professionals can significantly expedite and enhance the process. Engage architects, designers, and contractors with experience in ADU concept design and are familiar with local regulations. They can provide valuable insights, suggest creative design ideas, and streamline construction.

Working with professionals also ensures that your ADU design adheres to requirements such as earthquake safety, accessibility, and energy efficiency. Besides, they can assist you in obtaining the necessary permits and approvals.

Step 5: Design Considerations

When it comes to ADU concept design, there are several key considerations to keep in mind:

  • Maximizing Space: Since ADUs are smaller than the main house, efficient use of available space is essential. Consider open floor plans, versatile furniture options, and creative storage solutions to optimize every square foot.
  • Natural Light: Incorporate large windows and skylights to maximize natural light, making the space bright and spacious. It can remarkably enhance the overall ambiance of your ADU.
  • Privacy: Ensure that your ADU design maintains an appropriate level of privacy for the primary residence and the new unit. Consider window placement, landscaping, and separation from the main house based on your property layout.
  • Aesthetics: Harmonize the design of the ADU with the existing architecture of your home and the surrounding neighborhood. A cohesive aesthetic will enhance the overall appeal and value of your property.

Step 6: Cost Considerations

ADU concept design should also take into account budgetary considerations. Factors that can impact the overall cost include:

  • Size and complexity of the ADU
  • Materials and finishes
  • Site preparation requirements
  • Professional fees

Establishing a realistic budget at the outset and discussing it with your design professionals is crucial. They can help you select cost-effective solutions and prioritize design elements to ensure your ADU remains within your financial means.

Step 7: Sustainability and Energy Efficiency

Incorporating sustainable and energy-efficient elements into your ADU design is not only beneficial for the environment, but it can also reduce long-term operational costs. Consider features such as:

  • Proper insulation
  • Energy-efficient appliances and fixtures
  • Solar panels
  • Drought-resistant landscaping

By prioritizing sustainability, you can create an environmentally responsible ADU that positively impacts your energy bills and the environment.

Step 8: Visualize and Refine

It is crucial to visualize your ADU design during the concept design phase. It can be achieved through digital renderings, architectural drawings, or even physical models. Visual representations allow you to understand better the spatial layout, aesthetics, and flow of the ADU.

Once you have a visual representation, take the time to review and refine the design. Consult with your design professionals and make necessary adjustments to ensure the final concept aligns with your vision and objectives.

Step 9: Obtain Permits and Approvals

Before construction can begin, obtaining the required permits and approvals from the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety is a must. Working with your design professionals, compile the necessary documents and submit them for review.

Be prepared for a thorough review process, as the permitting authority will assess the compliance of your ADU design with local regulations. Once approved, you can move forward with the construction phase.


Designing an ADU involves a series of thoughtful steps, from understanding the regulations to the final approval of the concept design. By conducting thorough research, engaging professionals, and considering factors such as space optimization, aesthetics, and sustainability, you can create an ADU that is a valuable, functional, and visually appealing addition to your Los Angeles property.

Always remember that each property and ADU design is distinct. Therefore, it’s crucial to customize the procedure to meet your requirements. In the vibrant metropolis of Los Angeles, adding an ADU can be a lucrative investment because it offers housing flexibility and raises the livability and value of your residence.

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