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Discussing tiny homes and ADUs with Billy Zion.

Will Cord


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Daniel Builders created a Facebook post of a detached accessary dwelling unit (ADU) on Nov 16th. The post took on a life of its own generated over 2,000 likes and that number is still growing as of Nov 22nd. Why all the interest in accessory dwelling units, and specifically this tiny home?


The Building Trust blog asked that question, as well as a few others to the architect, Billy Zion of Zion Architects. Billy designed the tiny home in this Facebook post. As you’ll see (or hear on the podcast) Zion Architects is an excellent place to start a custom build whether it’s an accessory dwelling unit, guest house, pool house, or tiny home.


Building Trust Blog (BTB): Thanks for sitting down to answer a few questions. To what do you attribute the popularity of tiny homes?


Billy Zion (BZ): A lot has to do with the anticipated cost of being lower than a traditional home. Less square footage equates to a lower cost. Also, it takes less time to build a small home compared to building something that’s a few thousand square feet. The idea of being built quicker is attractive to people and the opportunity to utilize it sooner is also attractive. The tiny home movement began with these homes being mobile, which allowed people to relocate when they wanted, meaning it provided the flexibility to travel and live in different places.


BTB: The one posted on the Daniel Builders Facebook page was a permanent structure, correct?


BZ: Yes, that one was built on a permanent foundation, but tiny homes are often built with a mobile feature.


BTB: You hear the names “ADU”, “guest house”, “pool house”, and “tiny home” being used interchangeably. Are there distinguishing features between them or are all those terms synonyms? If so, what are those distinguishing features?


BZ: In a way they are all synonyms because they all refer to a smaller dwelling than what we are accustomed to living in. The tiny home movement began as the smallest version of those three. A true tiny home is 500-600 square feet or less. A detached ADU and guest house are probably more synonymous with each other. They tend to be closer to 1,000 square feet. ADUs and guest houses still offer the same amenities of a normal home with a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, living space, etc. But as you get closer to that 1000 square feet size you really lose the mobility feature of a tiny home.


BTB: How many of these smaller dwellings have you designed?


BZ: This year I designed 4-5 different tiny homes and 3-4 detached ADUs. On average the tiny homes have been approximately 800 square feet and the detached ADUs, guest houses, and pool houses I’ve done tend to be 1000-1200 square feet.

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BTB: What are some of the challenges you encounter when designing and building these type of structures?


BZ: Fitting everything into these smaller structures presents a few challenges. When a client is transitioning from a 3000-4000 square foot home they may not totally understand the adjustment required. They need help visualizing and experiencing what a smaller space feels like, and they can be a challenge. 3-D and 2-D drawings help them visualize the new space they want. Also site adapting is a challenge. In other words, making sure the home is best suited for where it's going to be built. Every city and town will have their own zoning rules so working through zoning requirements is another challenge. Weather, grading, neighborhood associations all factor in as well. Design and features tend look great on paper and tend to get people excited but additional modifications will inevitably be necessary depending on location.


BTB: One of the challenges of building a detached ADU is designing it to match the home already existing on the property. Talk a little about that challenge.


BZ: That’s right. Most people want the structure to match their existing home, not always the case, but most of the time it is. Review boards and HOAs have requirements regarding this issue as well. You want the new structure to “fit” what is already there.


BTB: Daniel Builders is a licensed South Carolina builder, but the Facebook post generated interest from people living in other states. One gentleman from Arizona inquired about building there. We had to kindly decline. When it comes to you architectural work, what geographical limitations do you face?


BZ: As a licensed architect I am NCARB certified which means my license is reciprocal in any state in America, as well as Canada, Mexico and Australia.

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 BTB: Are you able to do all your work remotely? In other words, do everything from design a standpoint without meeting the client in person or doing a site visit?


BZ: Covid made remote designs more of the norm. I prefer doing a site visit if possible. So being completely detached is difficult, but not impossible.


BTB: The big question on everyone’s mind is how much do these small dwellings cost? How do you approach the cost issue when designing a tiny home or detached ADU?


BZ: First, the price hinges a lot on how many people will be living in the home and their ages. I also gauge what amenities the client wants. Do they want high end finishes? Clients typically come to us with a budget in mind. A lot of customization will go into the cabinetry given the size challenges. Price is really all over the map. I’d say the lower end is $100-$200 and the high end is $700K and up. Knowing the amenities and how many plan to live in the and then having a budget to work with is the best way to design a small dwelling.


BTB: What is the best way for someone to contact you?


BZ: The best way is going to the Daniel Builders web and complete a getting started form. Mention me, Billy Zion, when describing the small dwelling you want to design.


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Are you living in Greenville South Carolina or Anderson South Carolina and need more information about building a tiny home or an accessory dwelling unit? Speak with a Daniel Builders project guide by calling 864.506.5546 and discuss the best path forward for your custom renovation or get your renovation started here! 


Read more about home additions here, and accessory dwelling units (ADUs) here and here. Read more about how we proudly serve Greenville, South Carolina here and learn how to choose a reliable home renovation contractor here.

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We’d love to hear from you!  Whether you’re ready to start a major remodel, or simply learn more about our process, we’re ready to assist.
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