prev next








Solving Economic & Environmental Challenges with Design: ADU

Location: United States

Status: Construction Documentation

Type: Prototype


An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a smaller, independent dwelling unit located on the same lot as the main residence. Although ADUs have long existed, they have recently garnered more attention as a potential solution to the affordable housing crisis through leveraging existing city infrastructure and preventing urban sprawl.

The proposed design minimizes the units’ environmental impact, making the ADU type—which typically carries a large carbon footprint—a sustainable housing solution. The prototype is the first ADU to receive an Energy Star rating. Roof-top solar panels generate energy to power the unit, strategically located windows maximize cross-ventilation, and the exterior walls support plantings. Sliding glass panels allow residents to open the house directly to a deck or garden, creating indoor-outdoor living environments.

Working closely with the biggest prefabrication company in the northern United States, SURBA & CAZA developed a customizable design scheme that uses existing production capabilities, supply chains, and customer-service infrastructure. These integrations mean that a customized home could be ordered online, delivered, and installed on-site within weeks. The two prototypes—a studio unit and a one-bedroom unit—can serve as a self-use office, an intergenerational home, or a rental investment.

Additional project contributors include: Xiao Tan, Queenie Xu, Yihang Yan