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Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are small dwelling right on the same property—or attached to—your regular single-family house. ADUs go by a lot of names: accessory apartments, secondary suites, in-law units, and granny flats. Their uses also vary, ranging from creative and meditative spaces to full tiny homes made for sustainable living. While this novel idea fell out of favor in the middle of the 20th century, it is making a gradual but steady comeback today, especially in dense communities and neighborhoods where finding a new home can be a challenge. In San Francisco, homeowners have been allowed to build ADUs since 2016.
This article presents the five best accessory dwelling unit builders in San Francisco and the East Bay area. These contractors create these modern city housing solutions through close collaborations with homeowners, providing clients assistance from permitting and design to building and commissioning.
Canyon Design Build
3630 Park Blvd., Oakland, CA 94610
With more than 50 years in business and thousands of projects under its belt, East Bay remodeling company Canyon Design Build has established itself as one of San Francisco’s top builders and remodelers. This design-build company has numerous successful projects on its resume: kitchen remodels, bath remodels, room additions, and whole-house remodels. Its expertise extends to green remodeling, creating rental units within existing spaces, in-law units, basement conversions, seismic retrofits, modular home installation, and site work development.
The firm is also a recognized green building advocate. The US Green Building Council has recognized its work with LEED Platinum Certifications, including a 1915 Craftsman bungalow—dubbed the ‘greenest little house in America’ in 2012– and a historic Moraga barn. Magazines such as Dwell, Metropolitan Home, and California Home and Design have also featured the firm’s work.
One of its strong suits is creating ADUs. From attached ADUs like a sunroom and deck to large ones reaching a thousand square feet that can house a guest house, office, and private gym, Canyon Design Build delivers. Featured here is one of its more unique ADUs—an art studio situated in the hills of Moraga. Industrial aesthetics and green design tactics are evident in this one-of-a-kind creation that aims to give the artist homeowner the best light and space to pursue her passion.
Design Draw Build
2866 Webster St., Oakland, CA 94609
Design Draw Build Inc (DDB) is an architect-led design-build company serving the San Francisco East Bay area. It has a fully-integrated team of highly adaptable architects and contractors. Its small size enables DDB to pay close attention to the needs and desires of each client and reply with excellent results. Its expertise is also as diverse as its team: projects range from custom residences and historic renovations to education centers and healthcare buildings.
The firm is led by principal Tyler Kobick. A licensed contractor and architect, Tyler’s construction experience includes building rural medical clinics in El Salvador and designing structures for Bonnaroo and Outside Lands. Recently, he spoke on a panel at the East Bay AIA about ADUs. His expertise proved vital in the panel discussion covering the ADU process including planning, design, permitting, building, and finance.
Design Draw Build is one of the few firms in the Bay Area that effectively addresses the increasing demand for ADUs. In 2019, the firm produced a research paper on behalf of the AIA that examined the bureaucratic and financial systems that affect ADU development. The paper made recommendations for improving the process and making ADU development more feasible for homeowners. The firm can build any type of ADU: rentals, in-law units, detached, additions, and downsizing. This detached ADU is in design development. The sleek free-standing two-bedroom ADU will feature multiple wood finishes and strong dark lines.
2952 Sacramento St., Berkeley, CA 94702
Established in 1987 as Honey Do Repair, HDR Remodeling has become one of the premier remodeling companies in the greater East Bay Area. Its three-decade tenure in the industry is marked by rankings in Remodeling Magazine and by national and regional accolades from the NARI and the Chrysalis Awards. The CBC, CNBC, Berkeley Times, and San Jose Mercury News have also highlighted the firm.
Clients praise the full-service residential design-build remodeling contractor for its professional team, high level of customer service, and high-quality projects. HDR re-imagines kitchens, bathrooms, and even whole houses, providing the perfect blend of form and function for every unique client. It also does garage and basement conversions, accessory dwelling units (ADU), and backyard cottages.
One of its notable ADU projects is an award-winning collaboration with local architect Carrie Shores. The tiny home is a one-bedroom cottage designed for aging-in-place, low maintenance, and low environmental impact. It features green building strategies, a galley kitchen, and a future green roof. HDR won accolades for this project including a 2019 Contractor of the Year Award from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, a 2019 Regional Chrysalis Award, and a 2018 Remmies Award.
1212 Glen Ave., Berkeley, CA 94708
Berkeley-based McDunn ADUs is a general contractor that specializes in new construction of custom accessory dwelling units in the San Francisco East Bay Area. It has completed nearly two dozen ADUs ranging from multi-bedroom tiny homes and aging-in-place cottages to open-concept studio spaces and garage conversions.
Principal-owner Dan McDunn has been in the residential construction scene for two decades, and his experience ranges from production homebuilding for a Fortune 500 builder to luxury condominium construction as a small developer. In 2001, he started McDunn Construction and has built and remodeled beautiful homes across the area as well as commercial spaces. He transitioned to focusing on ADUs in 2017 and has built custom dwellings fitted for every need and desire of the client.
In 2019, one of McDunn’s projects won the Bay Area Remodeling Award for Best Detached Residential Structure from NARI. A collaboration with Larson Shores Architecture, the single-story backyard cottage was built so a grandmother can live with her children and grandchildren but still maintain independence. Large skylights, a vaulted ceiling, and a welcoming patio are just some of its notable features.
1428 Stannage Ave., Berkeley, CA 94702
Extensive experience and flexibility in project types make Oliver Builders a go-to contractor for many residents of Berkeley and the San Francisco East Bay area. Principal and owner Severin Oliver’s has more than three decades of experience and vast know-how as a builder, project manager, and businessman. He has also assembled an expert team that can handle any type of residential project, from new homes to extensive second story additions to beautiful kitchens and bathrooms.
Local expertise is what Oliver Builders proudly relies on. The firm is prepared for the challenges that arise in remodeling custom properties in an earthquake-prone area. The firm has also proven adept at integrating the latest technology in building. Fine woodwork, custom staircases, and high-end finishes define the company’s work.
The company is well-versed in building and creating ADUs in various styles and types. Featured here below you’ll find an artist’s studio in Berkeley. Oliver Builder built a simple, serene space: perfect for the creation and display of the homeowner’s art.
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