What is an ADU? Although many people have never heard the term, accessory dwelling units are timeless and may be associated with  different names: granny flat, granny pod, secondary dwelling, or in-law apartment To be clear: An accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is a small residence that shares a residential lot with a larger, primary dwelling. As an independent living space, an ADU is self-contained, with its own kitchen, bathroom and sleeping area. An ADU can be attached or separate from a primary residence, including basement apartments and garage conversions.  

As you can see in the imagery on these pages and in many of the resource materials that we are making available, accessory dwellings come in many styles, shapes and sizes. The Buncombe area’s HOAP:ADU Program 2020 is concerned with  promoting ADU’s primarily for housing older adults. As such, the universal design of the dwellings is a top priority. But as a national trend, only some ADU’s that have been built are adequately rendered as appropriate places for older adults to live.  The ADU’s that you are likely to see are located over garages, in basements, or otherwise only accessible via stairs. Furthermore, many of the available examples have two stories and inaccessible bathrooms.  While these designs don’t properly accommodate older residents, they might offer pointers for pricing, location, permitting or general design. This is what we have included them. We’ll try to highlight the examples that best demonstrate home designs that work better for older adults. Check out our helpful guide to age friendly design features here.

Since ADUs make use of the existing infrastructure and housing stock, they are also environmentally friendly and respectful of a neighborhood’s pace and style.

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The Ronald L. Mace Universal Design Institute is a non-profit organization based in North Carolina dedicated to promoting the concept and practice of accessible and universal design. The Institute's work manifests the belief that all new environments and products, to the greatest extent possible, should and can be usable by everyone regardless of age, ability, or circumstance.


The Institute's sister initiative, Better Living Design is changing the way homes and home products are designed, built and remodeled to better meet the needs of everyone at every life stage. 

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© 2019 RL Mace Universal Design Institute. All rights reserved.