ADU Design Book Showcases Small Homes with Big Possibilities


The Planning and Development Department has published a free, online book of Accessory Dwelling Unit designs submitted by contestants to the ADU|HOU Design Competition

Touted as, “a practical and creative collection of small homes with big possibilities,” the online book features 26 Accessory Dwelling Unit schematic designs from aspiring architecture students and architecture firms from Houston and around the country.  The book showcases imaginative interpretations of Accessory Dwelling Units in a variety of styles, sizes and construction materials with flexibility to complement and fit within single-family lots. The designs range from single and two-story detached units to garage apartments, ADUs built with shipping containers and more. Many of the submissions were designed with resilience, sustainability and affordability as a guiding principle and inspiration. 

Funded by a 2021 AARP Community Challenge grant, the Accessory Dwelling Unit book, the ADU|HOU Design Competition and ADU workshops are related to ongoing discussions of the Livable Places Action Committee, which is creating opportunities within Houston’s development standards that encourage housing variety and affordability. 


The grand prize-winning design, “Double House,” will be further developed to create a set of construction plans made freely available to the public. The winners – Rice Architecture students Adam Berman and Siobhan Finlay – will complete the construction plans as part of their coursework in the spring semester. 

Winning design, submitted by the Rice Architecture team

Homeowners will be able to use these plans to build an ADU on a single-family residential lot where deed restrictions allow. The construction-ready plans will go through preliminary plan review and will comply with the City’s current building code and development standards. 

“This book gives homeowners a glimpse into the possibilities for ADUs in Houston and serves as a resource for anyone interested in exploring secondary housing options for years to come,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “We thank the many talented designers who participated in the competition and we thank AARP for their generous support.”

The Planning and Development Department has held ongoing public discussions about Accessory Dwelling Units since May 2021 through the Livable Places Action Committee meetings, virtual workshops and an online survey which garnered 1,200 responses. 

“This book is not only a valuable tool for Houston, but it also contributes to conversations taking place in cities across our nation,” said Planning and Development Director Margaret Wallace Brown. “Many Americans are facing an increasingly difficult housing environment and cities are seeking supportive solutions. Accessory Dwelling Units are an affordable, equitable and versatile option to accommodate population growth and provide homes that meet the needs of our entire community.”  

To view the book, workshop videos, articles and other ADU resources, visit