New year, new casita Posted on January 10, 2016 By Cindy Black

Poolside_24_sRGB_sRGB_1158‘Accessory Dwelling Unit’ (or ADU for short) is the latest catchphrase in Austin – the city’s recently passed ordinance relaxes building restrictions related to these backyard casitas. At the November 2015 Council meeting, the following changes to the ADU regulations were approved:

  • Reduce minimum lot size for ADUs on SF-3 zoned lots to 5,750 square feet.
  • Set the maximum size of an ADU to 1,100 square feet or 0.15 FAR, whichever is smaller
  • Reduce building separation to 10 feet (front to back and side to side).
  • Eliminate requirement that an entry be more than 10 feet from a property line.
  • Remove driveway requirement
  • Provide one parking space for the ADU in addition to main structure parking.
  • Eliminate parking requirement for ADU within 1/4 mile of an activity corridor as identified in the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan that is also served by transit
  • Limit use as short-term rental to a maximum of 30 days per year for ADUs constructed after October 1, 2015.
  • Prohibit use as a Type 2 short term rental.

What I love about this news is that it will encourage the development of small-scaled architecture and occupant longevity in central Austin properties. The accessory buildings we’ve designed have been variously used for occasional out-of town guests, elderly housing, studio or work space, music recording, therapy sessions, map storage, bicycle garage, printing press and photography.

The Zilker Hideaway has a 547 sf bike garage / workshop with 563 sf upstairs, and contains one bedroom, full bath, breakfast bar, living area, and desk nook.


The building has a stepped form so as to not crowd the main house or loom over the neighbor’s yard. With a backyard building, the resultant landscape area can be shaped for new uses, such as outdoor dining, garden tool storage, or a bocce court. An old stone wall on this site inspired our idea for the biergarten.


In a small building, rooms are proportioned so as to not feel cramped, but the smaller size allows for light to enter from all sides.


The Poolside Flat has 771 s.f. and contains two bedrooms (one used as a massage studio), full bath, galley kitchen, and living area.

Poolside_25_sRGB_sRGB_1158Separating the approach to the poolhouse from the main house gives its visitors some discretion.


The poolhouse galley kitchen doubles as a hallway, so no circulation path is wasted. The unit is designed to be fully accessible, with low thresholds , wide doorways, and, of course, no stairs.


Studio Outbuilding for Photography and Print has 470 s.f. downstairs, 170 s.f. upstairs and contains creative space, half bath, future shower, and computer desk space.


The studio outbuilding relieves the main house from the burden of work, and creative supplies can be arranged at arm’s reach.


A simplified building form contains a double height space over the make-table.


This Bonnell Backhouse has a 528 s.f. garage and 307 s.f. upstairs suite for map storage, desk space, a tiny full bath, and covered deck.


Isn’t that stair kind of crazy? Kind of like a telephone booth lollipop.


The large sliding door transforms the garage during party-time.

Bonnell - 29

The tiniest sink available made this 42″ wide full bath a possibility.

Bonnell_PlansThe ideas are brewing for more central Austin casitas! We can’t wait to see what’s in store for this year.

This post is a contribution to ArchiTalks, a monthly series hosted by Bob Borson of Life of an Architect. Please see the links below to read other architects’ view on the new year.

In addition, the participants of this ArchiTalks blog post series are asking you to help a friend of ours who is dealing with a family tragedy. Rusty Long is an Architect based out of Portsmouth, Virginia, whose son Matthew is fighting for his life. Here is Matthew’s story, as told by his Dad, Rusty:

Matthew Long was born May 29th, 2013, happy, and seemingly healthy. Less than two days later his mother and I found ourselves in an neonatal intensive care unit waiting room, listening to a rushed intensive care doctor explain how our son needed immediate dialysis to save his life. The disease, he briefly explained, was one of a group of disorders called Urea Cycle Disorders, which impact the way the body breaks down protein. We later discovered that Matthew’s particular variant is called OTC Deficiency, a particularly severe form of it in fact, which results in a rapid rise of ammonia in the blood, called hyperammonemia, resulting in devastating neurological damage. This form of OTC is so severe, Matthew has virtually no peers who have survived it. Once the immediate crisis was arrested, we came to find out more about the disease and the impact of this initial event.

The disease is inherited, and the damage is permanent. Treatment consists of a combination of medications, low protein medical diet, and ultimately a liver transplant. Matthew was fortunate to experience no additional hyperammonemic events in the following fifteen months of life, and had a liver transplant on August 24th, 2014. The cure for the disease, a transplant, isn’t so much a cure as trading one condition for another. While we will never risk the chance of another ammonia spike, Matthew is on a half a dozen or more medications at any given time to avoid rejection. Despite these challenges, intensive daily therapy for cerebral palsy (a result of the initial damage), limited motor function, and various other challenges along the way, our son is remarkably happy and has changed all our lives for the better. He’s taught us to be stronger than we ever thought possible, to have faith beyond human understanding, and the immeasurable value of life.

The #ArchiTalks community is hoping to raise $5,500 to help Architect Rusty Long and his family reach their financial goal on If each reader of this post contributes a small amount, our impact will be massive and we can make a difference for Matthew’s family. Click here now and donate $2.00.

Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
New Year, New Community on Business of Architecture

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
New Year, New CAD

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
New Year, New Adventures

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
new race new year new start

Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect)
New Year. New Budget.

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
New Year, New Goals

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
New Year, New Business

Nicholas Renard – dig Architecture (@dig-arch)
New Year, A New Hope

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
New Year, New Gear

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
New Year, New Underwear

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design (@EquityxDesign)
New Year, New Era

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“new year, new _____”

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
New Year, New Plan

Amy Kalar – ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
New Year, New Adventures

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
New Year, New Life!

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
New Year, New Home

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
New Year, New·ly Adult Architect

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
A Little Premature

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
new year, new [engagement]

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
New Year, New Business

Brinn Miracle – Architangent (@simplybrinn)
New Year, New Perspective

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
The New New

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
New Year New Reality

Anthony Richardson – That Architecture Student (@anth_rich)
New Year New Desk

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
New Year, New Appreciation

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
New Year, New Goals

Jeffrey A Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
New Year New Office

Aaron Bowman – Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
New Year, More Change

Kyu Young Kim – Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
New Year, New Office Space

Jared W. Smith – Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
New Year, New Reflection

Rusty Long – Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
New Year, New Direction