What is the ADU permit and design process in the City of Chicago?

Additional Dwelling Units or ADUs offer property owners a way to create new in-law apartments and/or income sources. Where to begin?

1. Are you in one of the five ADU pilot areas?

North Side including Andersonville and North Center
Northwest Side including Logan Square and Wicker Park
West Side including Garfield Park and Lawndale
South Side including Chatham and Chicago Lawn
Southeast Side including Hegewisch and the East Side

2. For a basement or an attic ADU, your structure needs to be at least 20 years old.

3. You need to be located in an RM, RS or an RT zoning district. Neither RS-1 (single family zoning) nor commercial zoning qualifies. You can check the zoning map City of Chicago Zoning Map. The #zoningmap is a remarkable accomplishment and is a great resource. Worth a look if you have never seen it. #chicagozoning #chicagobuildingcode

4. ADUs must be constructed on properties that have existing, legal residential units. Coach houses, which are new units created in a detached building in the backyard, are distinct from conversion units, which are new units constructed in an existing principal residential building that is at least 20 years old, typically in attic or basement space.The number of ADUs allowed depends on the number of existing legal units on a property.

For properties with 1 to 4 units, the property owner can add one coach house unit to any property, or one conversion unit to properties that are at least 20 years old.

For properties with 5 or more units, coach houses are not permitted, but the property owner can create up to 33 percent more units as conversion units #@properties #compass

5. For properties with two or more conversion units, every other unit must be legally restricted affordable at 60 percent Area Median Income (AMI) for 30 years after its construction. Properties with two or three conversion units must have one affordable unit, properties with four or five conversion units must have two affordable units, and so on.

6. No additional parking is required for newly created ADUs

No existing on-site parking can be removed to create ADUs without administrative adjustments or other zoning relief

No short-term leases or vacation rentals, such as Airbnb, are permitted in ADUs

Coach houses may cover no more than 60 percent of a property’s required rear setback and may contain no more than 700 square feet of living space

No elements of a coach house can exceed 22 feet in overall height above grade

ADUs are exempt from minimum lot area per unit rules

In the North and Northwest zones, vacant lots can have coach houses constructed before a principal residence, but this is not permitted elsewhere

In the West, South and Southeast zones, buildings with one to three units must be owner-occupied in order to add a conversion unit

In the West, South and Southeast zones, buildings must be owner-occupied in order to add a coach house

In the West, South and Southeast zones, only two ADU permits will be issued per block per year

7. #ADU applications must be accompanied by a plans created and stamped by a licensed architect. Contact us for more details!


How far north did the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 spread?

When you walk around Lincoln Park you can sense the history. I once heard that the Great Chicago Fire burned out at Fullerton. Lincoln Park was sparsely developed and, according to legend, there are three extant houses that escaped the inferno. My daughter and I went for a walk down Cleveland St (called something else in 1871) and there was a couple decorating their front yard for Halloween. The woman invited my daughter to help and I asked the husband if their house, the southern more one of the two in the photo, was one of the survivors.

“Yes, it was.” He said and he invited me to look at the south exterior wall along the driveway.

“We know these two houses were built during the Lincoln Administration.” We approached a two story scaffold.

“We began re-siding the house and pull off three layers.”

He pulled up the tarp.

There was cheap late-night TV remodeler vinyl, Fred Flintstone asphalt and then the last layer... cedar covered thick with lead paint. But below was the smell of fire... The sheathing was charred as if it burned for shou sugi ban, the art of Japanese preserving wood with fire. Of course the first Japanese building designed by Japanese architects and built by Japanese craftsmen outside of Japan was in Chicago but not until 30 years later.

“When we pulled this off, the smell of burnt wood soot was fresh and sharp in the recesses of your nose. The lore tells that the fire stopped at Fullerton Ave, then called Asylum Road.

Encyclopedia of Chicago

Like I said sometimes all you need to do is take a walk around and an adventure awaits. #chicagofire #greatchicagofire #chicagofire1871 #lincolnparkcentralassociation


The stunning beauty of an Adolf Loos interior

Adolf Loos is best known for his maxim “Ornament is a crime.” What does that mean? Answers are to be found in the rich, luxurious but understated beauty expressed in his interiors projects. This dining room in Pilsen is stunning. Loos employs the natural horizontal grain of stone and the unadorned varnished wood slabs to delight the diner and animate the room. This was in place of the standard contemporary plaster ornament and heavy trim pieces. Loos still loves whimsy and specifies swan-shaped candle holders to the left and right of the mirror. The mirror is inset between the lush, but uncarved, marble pillars–being above the diner’s eye level– expands the space horizontally. The reflected light adds a seductive bling to the room making it warm and opulent. The golden “egg baskets” pendants sheen (I looked it up and I can use “sheen” as a verb–my inner diction nerd is very excited!) and add to the spectacle. Loos is fabulous fun! #adolfloos #ornnamentisacrime #architecture #decoration #materiality #architecturaleffects


Two compelling examples of Schindler’s Work

Schindler’s largest building was on the lake on Chicago’s north side, but Schindler’s most interesting buildings are small–right-sized–and in Los Angeles. Here are two of three spec 2 bedroom houses he designed in 1939 in Inglewood, California. We love the furniture and how it plays off against the architecture. Schindler employs roman brick, Wright’s favorite, in a more relaxed manner. Are you a fan of Schindler? We love his work. To us it is FL Wright with room to be yourself. #rudolphschindler #ADU #ChicagoADU #AdditionalDwellingUnit #ChicagoAdditionalDwellingUnit


The Brillance and Simplicity of Ikea Engineering

Want to rotate your art pieces in your living room? Need a system that will not put holes in your walls? One solution is a picture rail. What are the ready made options? We looked and discovered one that was really good and a mere $15 for a meter of length.

Like all Ikea products this one has a name that only can be described as a Viking town pronounced by a Muppet. “Mosslanda” is C shaped and comes in two lengths. Check it out.
#IKEA #MOSSLANDA