What is the first step in the ADU permit application process in the City of Chicago?

The first porthole you will encounter is 


You will need to contact your alderman and the neighbor on either side of your residence with an affadavit via certified letter with a receipt that is returned by mail to you. For many, this can be the most difficult part of the process as many City of Chicago residents are not home when the postal carrier rings the bell. We have had our clients meet the postal carrier on their route and then contact their (friendly) neighbor via text message so they would meet the carrier and sign the required return card. Once the US Postal service returns the card, you can upload the return receipts and your are ready to submit your application!!!! Here’s the link of to what the City of Chicago is looking for:   

ADU Document including an example of the affadavits

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us for more details! #aduChicago #CityofChicagoADU #CityofChicagoZoning #AdditionalDwellingUnits #Andersonville #WickerPark #Chatham #NorthCenter

Why is architect-led construction administration essential for a job?

We recently had the displeasure of seeing an old, trusted contractor screw up a job and be fired by our client. The irony is that the contractor introduced us to the client.

The contractor first delayed then did an incomplete, substandard framing job for the gutted two flat near Garfield Park in Chicago. Somehow the contractor submitted a payment to the bank and was paid for work he did not do or work that needs to be redone. What happened? I don’t know but we the architect were not hired to provide construction administration services. Yes, we charge $150 an hour, but that’s a small fraction of the amount of money that client has lost. The client’s bank should NEVER NEVER have approved a $30,000 payout for structural 2x4 walls that were not directly attached to the subfloor or doubled 2x4 headers that had shims between the two 2x4s. WTF?

Somehow we were not included in the discussion on whether or not the work conformed to the specfications. I assume the bank had someone involved to approve the payment  but I do not know because the client did not share the contract with me. This contractor had completed many conforming jobs before and I do not know his state of mind or what happened but I do know that he NEVER should have been paid. Adding insult to injury, he placed a lien on the building when he was terminated for cause.

The lesson is to hire an architect for 4 or 8 hours of time at milestones in construction to verify that the work is conforming and built to code. That’s around $1000. $1000 is a lot less than hiring a $500 an hour attorney to claw back $30,000 that never should have been awarded. Construction administration saves the client money and time!

Contact us for more sound advice.

AIA Construction Administration

#AIAconstructionadministration #thisoldhouse #construction #constructionishell #constructionlawsuit #203kloan #constructionadministration #chicagoarchitect #renovationarchitect #renovationarchitectchicago #constructionquality

How do you want to cook in your kitchen?

One of the first questions we ask our clients is

“How do you want to live?”


Here are three examples of before and after...

1) Our client owned a small Victorian with a lot of small rooms. (3) The kitchen was separated from the dining room by a structural wall. She wanted a new kitchen from which she could enterain while simultaneously talking to her guests. (1) So we designed a steel transfer beam (we do our own structural calculations and this makes our process more efficient) and created a link to a new bar and the dining room table beyond(2). The kitchen itself was modest (5) and came in under budget but I think the way we created a new space was a tremendous improvement in the functionality of the house.

2) This was a 1949 ranch house on a ravine in Highland Park. (8) The house has its original kitchen and we created something new and contemporary. (6 and 7) My original design replaced the backsplash with a sheet of vision glass from the countertop to the underside of cabinets. Next time!

3) The last kitchen is one that we really like because we turned a closed, dark space (9) into a inside/outside space where cooking becomes an experience. (10, 11, 12)

Do you have a kitchen you want to better align with how you live? #kitchendesign #lincolnparkcentral #goldcoastneighbors #marthastewartliving #marthastewart #dwell #lincolnparkchicago #lakeviewchicago #hydeparkchicago #logansquare #logansquarechicago #avondalechicago #northcenterchicago #bomanville #bronzeville #houseaddition #finehomebuilding #dwell #dwellmagazine #brickwork #marvinwindows #masonrywork #lincolncentralassociation #benjaminmoore #highlandpark #oakpark #goldcoastneighborhood #archipendium #atproperties #evanstonhomes #kitchendesign #kitchenremodel #luxehome #chicagomagazine#logansquarechicago 

Contact us

What is a construction change directive? a change order? We will answer this question in a series of posts...

Almost every construction project has changes. Sometimes the client changes his or her mind. Sometimes, there are unforseen conditions. (Change orders are not necessarily bad. Sometimes, it’s a subtraction from the contract amount.) This is not the same as incomplete drawings or a contractor who claims conditions differ from what he or she agreed to do. It’s productive to use AIA documents because of the extensive legal case history that exists. The document is then updated on a regular basis to make sure it is productive and effective. The AIA contracts committee oversees this endeavor and is a diverse bunch representing owners, contractors and architects to make sure it is fair.

Cause and Impacts on a Project

Best Practices

Architect’s standard of care

So what do you do?

In a tripartite structure, the client has a contract individually with the architect and the contractor. NEVER, NEVER use a contractor’s contract without understanding what your rights and obligations are. First, speak to an attorney and take his advice before moving forward. Second, remember that there is a honeymoon period on every project and your relationship with the contractor may change. Also, the obligations with the contract documents need to be spelled out. For instance with renovation work, we recommend a cost plus arrangment with the contractor so the risk of being overcharged is minimized. There will ALWAYS be unforseen conditions and a cost plus contract with transparency is one way to mitigage this and keep delays to a minimum. Delays in construction cost money and that’s why the cheapest bid with the wrong type of compensation system can be more costly that a cost plus agreement. (Part 1)

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!