TEAM designs Northwood ADU for the backyard of a Michigan home

Fiber cement panels and stainless steel are among the low-maintenance materials used by architectural firm TEAM to create an accessory housing unit in Michigan.


The project, called Northwood ADU, is located in Ann Arbor and is one of the first secondary suites (ADUs) to be built under the city’s new zoning regulations.

Northwood ADU sits in the backyard of an Ann Arbor home

The two-story accommodation has a living room, dining room, kitchen and bathroom on the ground floor and a sleeping area above.

The project was designed by a group of architects and architectural designers who teach at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. The first letters of their names – Thom Moran, Ellie Abrons, Adam Fure and Meredith Miller – were used to form their company name, TEAM.

Stainless steel house in Ann Arbor
The building is made of fiber cement and stainless steel panels

The accommodation – built on a budget of $ 225,000 (£ 170,463) – is at the rear of a lot owned by Abrons and Fure. The land totals 8,276 square feet (769 square meters).

The couple live in the property’s main accommodation and plan to rent out the backyard structure, which measures 730 square feet (68 square meters).

Upstairs bedroom with glued laminated wood walls
The house has a sleeping area upstairs

“Although the size is limited by zoning regulations, the addition goes as far back as possible to the lot line and a public wooded area,” the team said.

L-shaped, the building has a square shape and a sloping roof. The team used low-maintenance and low-waste materials throughout the project.

Inside ADU in Ann Arbor with fiberboard walls
White walls and a concrete floor were used for the interior

The facades are clad with fiber cement panels and metal panels coated with Galvalume. In some areas, the team added stainless steel mesh that can accommodate greenery like climbing vines.

The walls are made of Insulated Structural Panels (SIPS) which form an airtight envelope. The building has a high R-value – 28 for the walls and 36 for the roof – indicating that it has good insulation.

White walls and concrete floor inside the steel house
The ceilings are made of glued laminated timber

The team took an innovative approach to the foundations of the house.

“This is the first building in Ann Arbor to use shallow, frost-protected foundation technology common in Scandinavia, which allows it to be built directly on the ground and reduces the need for site work to labor intensive, ”the team said.

Inside, the dwelling has an airy feel and features white walls, concrete floors and ceilings and a glued-laminated wood staircase.

“The experience of the space is broadened by reducing visual noise and expressing the volumetric interior of the SIPS shell when possible,” the team said.

Bedroom in a Michigan home with glulam walls
The house was designed to be rented out

The house has a hydronic underfloor heating system and a “mini-split” which allows an occupant to control the temperature in each room. The team also integrated a heat pump and an energy recovery ventilator.

The glazed openings bring in natural light and provide a connection with the outdoors.

“The windows are strategically located to maintain the privacy of the main house and connect the interior with the forest and the sky,” the team said.

Room with concrete floor
It is one of the many ADUs designed for space-poor neighborhoods

DSUs have emerged in North American cities facing a housing shortage and a lack of affordable housing.

Others include a colorful grandma’s apartment in Los Angeles by Bunch Design and an asymmetrical dwelling in Seattle by SHED.

The photograph is by Chris Miele.


Project credits:

File design and architect: T + E + A + M
Team: Reid Mauti, Delaney McCraney, Hannah Perrino, Thom Moran, Ellie Abrons, Adam Fure, Meredith Miller
Structural engineer: David Arnsdorf
Service provider: Manufacturer Design Build
Foundation: ByggHouse WarmForm
Facade: American Fiber Cement Corporation, Banker Wire, Luthy Metals
Windows: Andersen 400 series
Food: Cliq Studios


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