Following up on the previous blog about OUTDOOR LIVING, let’s talk about the variety of structures that can play a supporting role to a primary residence. The umbrella term is Accessory Structure and it can include: a detached garage; a storage shed; gazebo; a pool house, etc. The common denominator is that it shares a parcel of land with the principal structure. 


Given the current climate of rising rents and home prices, accompanied by declining inventories of properties for sale, accessory structures have become a hot topic in the search for affordable solutions. When they include kitchens and baths, they become dwelling units, and a potential source of income for homeowners.  

Zoning regulations in densely populated areas across the country are being debated and/or revised to address the need for additional housing. The debates are frequently contentious, with many longstanding homeowners very concerned about increased density and resulting changes to the existing social fabric. Outdoor living structures  

Let’s look at the forces that have brought the issue front and center – demographics and lack of supply.  

  • The population overall is aging, with resulting reductions in household sizes.  
  • There has been a decided drop in mobility, meaning smaller households are staying put in houses designed to accommodate a larger number of inhabitants. 
  • Since the onset of the pandemic, there has been an increase in multi-generational living, be that caring for elderly parents or young adults trying to gain an economic foothold.   
  • Depending on who you ask, there is currently an estimated three to six million shortfall in the supply of housing units relative to the formation of households, and that gap widens every year.  
  • Median housing prices are 40% higher than they were in Jan. 2020 (Redfin).  
  • A combination of zoning regulations and pure economics makes it more difficult and less profitable to provide smaller, more affordable housing. The end effect is that the major impact of housing shortages is felt by lower income households.  


ADU’s won’t ever solve a national housing shortage, but they do have the potential to alleviate the impact on a city-by-city / town-by-town basis. They come in many forms, including the ubiquitous basement conversion, garage apartments, attached to the main structure (with a separate entrance) and detached structures sometimes referred to as “tiny houses”.  

Prices vary greatly, with a basement or garage conversion starting around $40,000 and separate structures starting around $100,000. The primary reasons people choose to make the investment is to generate additional income or accommodate a family member. Beyond that they can be an integral component of outdoor living and used as home offices or guest suites, among other uses. 


Gorman Architecture is currently working on two projects that fall under the ADU umbrella. One is intended to be used primarily as an Office, with the ability to house guests. I suggested we take the prefabricated route because there are so many great options with appealing contemporary design. There are potential savings both in the timeline as well as construction cost as compared to full design from the ground up. This offering is from a very interesting new player here in the US – MY CABIN.

Meanwhile, Gorman Architecture also working on a garage conversion in the Logan neighborhood of DC. The existing lot includes a rowhouse plus a separate 1½ story garage. It will require a new, raised roof to create the final (1) bedroom, two story living space. DC is ahead of the curve regarding accessory zoning issues, but this project is in a historic district, which will provide its own set of hurdles and constraints.

You can see the proposed walk-thru below:


Zoning adjustments including lot coverage, height limits and number of unrelated people will inevitably be needed to pave the way for greater flexibility in the realm of property use moving forward, particularly in suburban areas. Depending on which state or town, that process will take time and likely meet resistance. But it is becoming increasingly clear as more people age-in-place, and housing costs continue to rise, that providing property owners with more flexibility can provide a benefit to both them and the greater community.   

Gorman Architecture seeks to provide design solutions that meet and exceed clients’ expectations, now and for years to come.