Auxiliary ADU addresses sustainability and collectivity on multiple scales - from the envelope to the urban context. It begins not with a single dwelling, but rather an adaptable prototype suitable for many sites throughout Houston. The project addresses issues of privacy and shared areas on a single lot, as well as the potential for new collective space across property lines as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) increase density.
Due to their sustainable potential to promote urban density, enhance affordability, and reduce energy use, ADUs are quickly becoming part of an international dialogue led by initiatives in cities such as Los Angeles, Portland and Vancouver1 on optimal strategies for lowering urban carbon footprints. Over their lifetime, it has been estimated that ADUs can cut CO2 emissions by as much as 150 metric tons, 40% more than medium sized high-insulation homes, or roughly the equivalent of 36 cars driving for a full year. In Houston, the ADU conversation is only just beginning, but it is clear that these units have excellent potential to enhance urban energy sustainability without sacrificing energy access and reliability while at the same time addressing the city’s lack of density and affordable housing. Yet there is still much work to be done to optimize ADU designs for Houston’s local residential environment as well as to incorporate energy production and storage systems that can help to make ADUs more sustainable.
The project — a collaboration between Rice Architecture Construct, led by Assistant Professor Andrew Colopy and Professor in the Practice Danny Samuels, and the Center for Environmental Studies — was awarded $50,000 in funding by Rice’s Energy and Environmental Initiative. The design is based on Kati Gullick (M.Arch. '21) and Madeleine Pelzel’s (B.Arch. '20) project from Andrew Colopy’s ARCH 601 Totalization Studio, which sought to develop net-positive energy ADU prototypes. AUXILIARY ADU aims to create a sense of community with existing neighbors and to prove the viability of accessory dwelling units as a model for both greater density and reduced energy use throughout Houston.


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