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How One Designer Changed ADU Construction, Saving Builders Thousands

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How One Designer Changed ADU Construction, Saving Builders Thousands


March 23, 2021
Architectural house plans
Photo: Maksym Dykha

One East Los Angeles native-turned-landlord became frustrated with the struggle to create smart yet low-cost housing solutions and turned to accessory dwelling units as a solution. With a working class background and professional expertise in architecture and design, Alexis Navarro strived to design and build low-cost, attractive, and quality living spaces for his tenants and the people of L.A. The city launched the ADU/Standard Plan Program earlier this month, which offers homeowners and builders access to approved ADU building plans, allowing for faster and less expensive permitting. ADU construction can upwards of $350,000, but Navarro’s system totals up to less than $100,000, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Enter Navarro, who has worked as a team member for the Getty Center with famed architect Richard Meier and who believes he has beaten the city at its own game: His ADU also simplifies design and building and manages to come in at less than $100,000 while providing a living room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom in 536 meticulously planned square feet.

In experimenting with everyday construction, Navarro reminds us that good design doesn’t have to be expensive.

“I wanted to get that post-and-beam feel without post-and-beam construction, which is more expensive,” he says. “I used conventional two-by-four wood construction, which is a game-changer.”

ADUs, which account for 22% of newly permitted housing units, are not just about density in the physical sense, said architect John Southern, principal of the architecture and design firm Urban Operations and adjunct professor at the USC School of Architecture, but affordability and equity in the face of NIMBYism.

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