Technical Design E-Guide for ADUs

Technical Design E-Guide for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)


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The ADU E-Guide is now available for preorder! 

This technical design guide is for architects and designers who are creating accessory dwelling units (ADUs). It provides clear action-oriented guidance and recommendations for building assembly detailing, product specifications, HVAC and hot water systems, and code compliance strategies. It will give you confidence to make better decisions and make it easier for you and your team to create efficient, comfortable, healthy, and durable ADUs.

Front page of ADU E-Guide
Click on the cover to view a teaser of the ADU E-Guide


The guide was developed by the architects and engineers at Beyond Efficiency (the creators of BuildingGenius), who believe that good housing should be attainable for everyone. The guide provides a common-sense approach to technical ADU design that is grounded in passive design principles, all-electric systems, and procurable products. It balances the ideals of efficiency and earth-friendly strategies with cost and constructability.

Buying the E-Guide

The ADU E-Guide is $395, which includes six months of a Professional Membership to BuildingGenius ($29/mo value). BuildingGenius features themed discussion groups on challenging technical topics, supplementing the content in the ADU E-Guide. In these forums you can interact with other professionals, including the Beyond Efficiency team, to dig into th­e specifics of your project and enable you to make the right decisions with confidence.

Explore the BuildingGenius ADU!

This schematic shows key technical design topics of an ADU. The E-Guide addresses each component in depth including "smart practices", code requirements, high quality details, HVAC diagrams, and more to support and accelerate the decisions on your ADU projects.

ADU E-Guide navigation home

The strategies and details outlined in the e-guide are complemented by product listings, educational resources, and discussion forums in BuildingGenius. Together, they provide a dynamic and holistic solution that will help advance your ADU design in a fraction of the time.

Have questions about the E-Guide?

Read the FAQs to learn more!

How will this E-Guide help me?
  1. Save time navigating complex and confusing codes, designing details, and researching products and best practices
  2. Save sanity with curated tools and resources, including guidance on using them
  3. Receive recommendations, opinions, first-hand experience and validation on design decisions from professional peers 
  4. Help close knowledge gaps and enhance interactions between the homeowner and design team
How does this guide compare to individualized consulting?

While nothing can fully replace custom consulting, our goal with the E-Guide is to get you 80% of the way there at a fraction of the cost.

Clients typically come to us with a variation of the same few challenges when it comes to designing ADUs such as fitting HVAC equipment into tight spaces, creating an efficient envelope while keeping construction costs reasonable, and answering the question "does this design meet Title 24?" This E-Guide distills knowledge from experienced professionals into a practical guideline that helps address these challenges.

Note that you’ll still need to develop the building permit submittal set, including Title 24 compliance documentation specific to your project. 

When will my climate zone be addressed?

We are developing custom guides for each of California's 16 building climate zones and will then tackle IECC climate zone (applicable nationally). Planned release dates for the initial climate zone versions:

  • CA CZ 3 (Alameda County, San Francisco, Santa Cruz) - February 29, 2024
  • CA CZ 4 (Santa Clara & East Monterey-San Luis Obispo Counties) - March 28, 2024
  • CA CZ 12 (Contra Costa & Solano Counties, Sacramento) - March 28, 2024
  • CA CZ 6, 8 & 9 (Los Angeles basin) - April 25, 2024
  • CA CZ 7 (San Diego) - May 30, 2024

NOTE: If you're an early purchaser of the E-Guide but work in a different region, preorder the first release for climate zone 3 now and receive your preferred climate zone version for FREE when it’s ready!

What climate zone am I in?

If you're in California, here's a handy interactive climate zone map created by California Energy Commission—just type in your zip code or zoom in on the map to find out what zone your project is in. 

If you're outside of California, use the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) climate zones. 

Why ADUs?

ADUs are one of the most important tools cities have to address the housing shortages in their communities. ADUs: 

  • Increase housing supply while mitigating demand for publicly subsidized projects
  • Reduce displacement of community members 
  • Provide financial security to homeowners 

The purpose of this guide is to give you confidence to make better decisions and make it easier for you and your team to create efficient, comfortable, healthy and durable ADUs.