Studio Luz Architecture and Urban Design


Designing A Modern ADU For A Historic Single-Family Residence

By funkhaus

The Eliot residence is located on a historic street in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, a dynamic and diverse community that many artists, activists, and local business owners call home. The family that had purchased this single family residence had just transitioned from apartment living to owning a home, and asked Studio Luz to design an affordable ADU — an accessory dwelling unit — that could be used for additional rental income.

ADUs offer an alternative path toward more widely available affordable housing and wealth building for families in the greater Boston area, and we at Studio Luz find it important to explore. In the case of many properties, including the Eliot residence, that wealth is built through the ADU providing a stream of income. If an ADU is rented to a tenant, that passive income can help a family cover expenses, like a mortgage, or allow for them to save their assets. If reserved for a family member, like an aging parent, the family can avoid the costs associated with assisted living.

The SLA team on this project — consisting of Hansy Better Barraza, Anthony J. Piermarini, Neil Legband, and Drew Manahan — took on the challenge of working with the existing features of the house while respecting the historical context of Eliot Street. To do so, there was consideration of finding a balance between respecting the historical monument square by blending the front entrance with its context while also providing a vibrant modern facade aesthetic to reflect the diversity of its neighbors.

After Studio Luz had completed our design work, the project came to life with collaboration from Surveying Engineer Don Ross, Structural Engineer Structures Workshop, Inc., custom fabrication from Trimount Ironworks, and General Contractor Aldor Corporation.The resulting residential construction was a modest and modern 1180 square feet home attached to the existing single family residence. Prioritizing sustainability in its design, this ADU uses photovoltaic solar and wind source electrical services, energy recovery for lighting and appliances, and water collection for outdoor irrigation. 

Not only does this unit boast features that save resources and work to protect the environment, the ADU as a whole also adds to the value of the property. Though building an ADU on a property does require an initial investment, these units often increase the value of the property on which the unit sits. This added value, plus the elements of sustainability, historical preservation, and innovative wealth-building, made this ADU the perfect addition to the Eliot residence.