Accessory Dwelling Units: Granny Flats to Luxurious Digs

(Ben Munday - Connect Homes, Photographer)
Ben and Sara Munday live in a Connect-Homes main residence with a detached accessory dwelling unit, used as an office and guest bedroom. The all-inclusive cost is $279.000.

    Everywhere you look you’ll find a computer, laptop or notebook. Cords and cables resemble a tangle of knotted necklaces. Cell phones have become appendages. The dining room has transformed into a study hall with laptops at each end of the table. The guest bedroom has morphed into an office and communications hub.
    Since spring, 2020, this portrays the lifestyle of many families working and studying from home, together 24/7. The latest challenge: Where will grandpa stay when he gets released from rehab after his hip replacement surgery? An accessory dwelling unit, or ADU, could solve this dilemma.
    Often referred to as a granny flat or in-law unit, an ADU can provide permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation. The long list of possible uses includes offices, art studios, workout gyms, guesthouses and rental dwellings.
    Units may get attached to an existing home, built over a garage, be completely contained within a single-family residence or placed elsewhere on a property as a stand-alone structure. The material, cost and design options vary, and as the saying goes, restrictions apply. Regulations for setbacks, square footage, parking, building heights and permitting can be accessed at
    Construction choices include site-built, modular (with components built off-site and assembled in place), a prefab (completely manufactured off-site and installed on the property) and new construction technology using a 3D printer at an Oakland facility. According to Orinda Planning Director Drummond Buckley, consideration for adding an ADU has definitely become “a popular issue.”
    Roberta and Orlando Calderon of Orinda started researching ADU options several months ago. A safe place to shelter in case of fire, bad air quality and earthquakes prioritized reasons for their exploration. They also considered housing for their elderly moms and having ample, private space for family visits.
    This spring, the couple plans to have a “disaster-resistant” dwelling unit by CloudHauz installed. According to former Orinda resident Lisa Copass, founder and CEO of CloudHauz, the prefab panels, made from composite and steel, seed together, making them airtight.
    “CloudHauz dwelling units have the highest flame-spread index rating,” said Copass. “Even if cedar shakes are used for the exterior finish, the dwelling won’t burn. They are dwellings for a new planet,” she said.
    Orindans Laura and Roman Giverts had a combination gym and office unit built on-site by Green Sheds. It sits on 33 piers rather than a concrete slab.
    “As the CEO of VuMedi, a 50-person company, collaborating via Zoom just isn’t the same,” said Roman Giverts. “I invested in an ADU for my home office. Chris at Green Sheds offered the full service of installing a bathroom plus building a large deck for people to sit together at a distance and work. This is the perfect solution for my needs,” he said.
    “The turn-key 12’x 16’ structure, with a 500-foot redwood deck, cost less than $60,000 dollars,” said Chris Lotz, owner of Green Sheds.
    Ben and Sara Munday of Orinda ordered their main house and an ADU from Connect-Homes in 2015. The 8’ x 40’ connectable units are built in a Southern California factory. They’re transported in what looks like shipping containers, readily transported by truck, rail or ship. Ben Munday’s office with a guest bedroom, a Connect-Two ADU (two 8 ‘x 40’units), provides 640 square feet of space. The main residence, a two-story Connect-Eight, affords 2,560 square feet of living space.
    As Connect-Homes Northern California representative Ben Munday said, the turn-key, all-inclusive cost for a Connect-One, 11.5’ wide, runs $200,000 and a Connect-Two goes for $279,000.
    Habitat offers prefab ADUs built at a mobile home factory. The HUD-coded home arrives on the property complete with appliances, window treatments, floor coverings and customizable amenities. “We do all the hard work,” said Robin Schick, Marketing Director at Habitat. “Our customers get to do all the fun stuff like choosing wall colors, drapery fabrics and the kitchen sink!”
    He concluded, “Habitat offers great solutions for a lot of buildings. We’re an awesome Honda or Toyota; we’re not a Tesla.”
    According to a statement by AARP, “ADUs are among the housing solutions that can help to ensure that people of all ages, including older adults, have a roof over their heads.”

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