Columbia City Backyard Cottage

Architect: Sheri Newbold, live-work-play

Location: Columbia City, Seattle, WA

Scope: Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit (DADU)

Sustainability: Built Green 4-Star

The DADU is a building by many names: backyard cottage, mother-in-law unit or carriage house are also widely used. This backyard cottage in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood was recently built by Model Remodel and designed by live-work-play as an extension of the existing bungalow home, though a separate structure entirely. The owners intend to use the dual-purpose space as a home office and extra storage, and have found new use for their backyard space with the fun, blue dwelling. Receiving a Built Green 4-star certification means the property is not only functional, but it’s highly sustainable too!

Detached Accessory Dwelling Units are small structures next to, most-often behind, the existing home on a lot. They can be used for a variety of purposes including: guest house, rental property, yoga or art studio, hobby space, and more. DADUs are a great way to supplement living space without creating a traditional home addition. Since they’re separate from the main property, they have more flexibility and opportunity for evolution as the owner’s needs change. In 2001, Seattle legalized the addition of these small properties on residentially zoned lots, making this couple one of the many homeowners taking advantage of the change.

Though more common today, Seattle backyard cottages are held to a strict list of DADU requirements that must be considered during design and building:
– Maximum size of 800 sq. ft.
– Must have a dedicated off-street parking spot
– The property owner must occupy either the home or the backyard cottage as a permanent and main residence for more than 6 months out of the year
– Entrance placement restrictions

With these considerations in mind, designer Sheri Newbold created a plan that met these requirements and satisfied the multi-functional needs of the clients. The upstairs space is designed to be a home office, but may also serve as a guest house as needed. As the larger space, it is cantilevered to give it a treehouse atmosphere. Juxtaposed with the exterior stairs and deck, the upper level is partially shaded by the lot’s large cherry tree. This natural element, along with smartly placed landscaping, gives the space a natural environment that is too often missing from modern backyard cottages. Putting the stairs on the exterior of the building was a thoughtful way to save precious interior square footage. Contrarily, the lower level serves as extra storage and is open and accessible by the adjacent driveway.

In order to receive a Built Green 4-Star certification, the property had to meet a lengthy list of requirements during a third-party inspection. Some of these requirements include:
– Using low toxic/low VOC paint on all major surfaces
– Achieve 20% improvement over the Washington State Energy code
– Landscape with plants appropriate for site topography and soil types, emphasizing use of plants with low watering requirements
– Practice waste prevention and recycling and buy recycled products
– Achieve a minimum recycling rate of 50% of waste by weight

Careful consideration was paid to use lasting, durable, high-performance materials such as: Boral TrueExterior siding and trim, dense-packed cellulose R-21 insulation, and standing seem metal roofing. During the building process, our team recycled 1.84 tons—yes tons!—of material that was a natural result of demolition and building. Recycled materials included: wood, cardboard, cement board, plastics and treated lumber. They were dropped off periodically at Drywall Recycling Services in Georgetown, which is a recycling facility we work closely with on many of our projects. The building crew was diligent to protect trees during construction and the clients worked to create a thoughtful and grass-free landscaping solution for the surrounding lot after construction.

We’re thrilled with the outcome of this DADU, its Built Green certification, and another successfully completed project with live-work-play.

Photos: Cindy Apple Photography


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