Accessory Dwelling Units in Austin

Thinking of creating a secondary apartment for your in-laws? Are you looking to add rental income to your property? Maybe you just want to create an ideal environment to enjoy a favorite activity? The solution could lie in one of the most affordable, exciting options: the Accessory Dwelling Unit, or ADU! This term covers what many people would call a mother-in-law apartment, a garage apartment, an alley flat or a granny flat. ADUs are quickly becoming one of the most popular choices for homeowners who want to expand their space, have available room for visiting friends and family, or have additional rental income in their backyard. If this is what you are looking for, we would love to design that dream space for you!

We have experience designing many building types within the complex zoning codes of Austin, TX. We also know that dealing with permits and zoning can be a nightmare. To put your mind at ease, we've assembled some quick notes on what will likely come up during the process of making your ADU a reality:

  • Any ADU must work within the City of Austin regulations dictating that a residential lot is only allowed 45% Impervious Cover and 40% of Building Coverage. These percentages are for the entire lot.
  • A maximum of either 15% or 1100 SF FAR (whichever is smaller) can be allotted to an ADU, 550 SF of which can be built on a second story.
  • ADUs may not exceed 30 ft. in height; an ADU is also only allowed up to a second story.
  • One parking space must be provided for the ADU; however, this does not necessitate an individual driveway for said ADU. Alternatively, a parking space does not have to be provided for an area in which the ADU is located within 1/4 mile of an area served by transit.
  • Minimum lot sizes for an ADU on SF-3 zoned lots must be 5750 SF.
  • Short term rentals must be limited to 30 days.
  • Additional information that could help:
  • Tree regulations must be maintained in relation to the footprint of the ADU and all other structures on your property.

While it may seem like a lot to digest, we have experience designing and permitting all kinds of structures, including ADUs. Construction is about to begin on the Holly ADU; taking advantage of the generous backyard, the design manipulates the classic gable form, intersecting two respective gable volumes to create a dynamic space and a cozy outdoor atmosphere.

If you're thinking about a new, fresh space in your very own backyard, or converting an existing detached garage, we would love to talk to you. 

Holly St. ADU - rendering by Elliott Petterson

Holly St. ADU - rendering by Elliott Petterson

ADU Concept - rendering by Elijah Montez

ADU Concept - rendering by Elijah Montez


Building a New Modern Home in Austin

Tired of condo living? Roommates cramping your style? Girlfriend starting to wonder why you live out of your van? Maybe it’s time to build your own custom home!

Home Designers require land the way that an artist requires a blank canvas. Enter: the vacant lot. Land ownership can be difficult because similar to canvases, they come in many different sizes.  Dissimilar to canvases, they can also come with restrictions. It’s important to learn these challenges before diving head first into building your dream home.

1. Where is it?

It’s always important to look at the context of the property. What is the school district like? What’s the neighborhood like? Is it the property comfortably nestled in a little family neighborhood? These can affect resale value, but more importantly they can affect your quality of life. Something to consider, especially considering most families live in custom homes for a lifetime after they’re built.

Find out this and more using the city’s property profile!

2. What will limit your building size?

The first thing you should check in the city of Austin is the zoning requirements.

And decoding the zoning code here:

It’s typically going to be easier to build a house on a Single Family zoned lot than anything on a Commercial Lot for you and your family to live in. The goal would be to find a lot that is zoned already to your planned use. Zoning also can dictate the setbacks from your building. This will determine how far you can build from the street, how close you can get to your neighbors and how tall the house can get.  

Once the city deems the land alright for your dream home you need Nature’s approval. Look at the property. Are there any heritage trees that can’t be cut down? Is the topography, or slope, too drastic for affordable construction? Is it in a floodplain?

Search for floodplain info here:

These are all crucial elements to consider. There are properties in Austin that look good at first but once you overlay the zoning setbacks and topography lines building a home would be challenging indeed.

3. What will limit your building style?

Alright, so you’ve acquired your land, time to build the modern home of your dreams, right? Unfortunately, once you buy a lot there are still requirements that want to limit your creative, architectural expression. There can be covenants placed on lots and deeds. These can limit what you can build, especially when related to Accessory Dwelling Units or ADU's in Austin. Certain lots do not allow these garage apartments. It’s important to check your deed or plat. Architects can help you with this.

In short, building your first home can be a rewarding experience, but not without challenges. It’s a tough task to take on alone. What can make it easier is having an architect in your corner. Architects are trained to know these design challenges and can help you overcome them. Before you buy, get an architect’s advice and see what they recommend. Plus, if you bring them in early on, it will be much easier for you build your dream home down the road.