I purchased my home with an ADU zoned lot in March 2017. From day one, I started researching building an ADU. In August 2018 I engaged an architect to complete a feasibility study which was an important first step. By October 2019 after over two years of research, I finally had a deep enough understanding of the complicated Denver ADU regulations to hire an architect.
Step #1: Feasibility Study
I engaged architect Will Martin, owner of StudiObvio, for a feasibility study to understand what I could build on my lot. This process was foundational for me to understand the basic size and layout of my ADU in the beginning. This gave me a concrete understanding of my end goal and always kept me motivated to push forward. A feasibility study costs $1500 and ideally is done during the buying process so you can make an educated decision when purchasing.
Step #2: Interview Architects
Who you choose to build your ADU project is extremely important. There are many different architects with different specializations. I narrowed my search for an architect to only those architects who are experienced in building accessory dwelling units. ADUs come with a whole lot of special architectural considerations including bulk plain requirements, 75% on the second level, and special considerations for the water and sewer. I interviewed three architects before making a final decision.
Will Martin – StudiObvio
I initially talked to Will because he did the awesome feasibility study for me. Unfortunately after many conversations with them, I simply could not afford their fees. They were charging around $25,000 for the design and supervision during construction of the ADU. I also didn’t choose to work with Will because of his work schedule did not accommodate my ADU design within my timeframe.
Carrie Baron Architect, LLC
I also spoke with an architect Carrie Baron Architect, LLC. She has built several ADUs in Denver and I’ve actually seen many of her designs in-person after construction. Carie is a very lovely person and I feel like she would be great to work with because she’s a great listener and has the right experience with this type of project. Her design fees were affordable.
John Schwarz, SimpleHomes
I eventually decided to use my friends at SimpleHomes to design the ADU. SimpleHomes is owned by David Schultz, the owner of L&D Construction who has led a public education campaign for Denver homeowners to understand this complex building form. They have built 30+ ADUs in Denver and are well-versed with ADU Construction and design. I decided to use Simple Homes to design the ADU because the technology they use during the design process is integrated into the programs necessary for the structure to be built in a factory efficiently. SimpleHomes architect John Schwarz designs the building plans in 3D for visualization of scale, material, and colors. Once finalized, the design can be plugged into their system to program the design in the factory to build it exactly to your plan in the factory just north of downtown Denver. A big factor in the decision to use SimpleHomes was their wonderful Sales Manager & Broker, Sarah Senderhauf who provided counsel for many years and helped me understand the ADU building process.
Paul Minor, Blackstone Architecture, Inc.
Hindsight is always 20/20 and it is worth mentioning here that I really regret not picking an architect based on their building style. I wanted a traditional look with elements of the very popular farmhouse style. My architect and I had very different styles and that became a problem during the design process. Make sure to read my next blog chronicling the design process with SimpleHomes that includes a review of my experience and the lessons I learned. I took a photo of a home Paul designed and I kept trying to get my architect to recreate that style. I ended up going back to the home many times and eventually ran into the owner and he told me the architects name. I highly recommend vetting your architect’s style first and foremost