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ADUs at RI State House: See RISD designs of Accessory Dwelling Units. Hearing to follow.

On Thursday, January 25th, starting at 3pm, it will be ADU Day at the Rhode Island State House. Starting with an exhibit of designs created by RI School of Design student teams at a November charette, the day will include a public hearing on the ADU legislation at 4pm.

Accessory dwelling units (ADUs), such as backyard cottages or in-law suites, are often touted as a good housing option for older adults who want to age in place. In Rhode Island, some younger minds were recently focused on the benefits and designs of ADUs for a project that also helped educate state lawmakers about such housing options.

AARP teamed up with students from the Rhode Island School of Design for an ADU design competition. The students’ projects will be exhibited on Thursday at the State Library in the RI State House, and students are expected to speak about and show their designs. The event is free and open to the public, with refreshments to be served.

Here is a sampling of some of the designs to be viewed:

In November, RISD’s INTAR (Dept. of Interior Architecture) wrapped up their Charette initiative partnered with AARP-RI where students across the department worked together to design proposals for Accessory Dwelling Units. Top 3 awards were presented within this competition.

1st Place: Team 7 consisting of Holden Rappuhn, Vivian Wei, Alice Zhang, Mallorie Beckner, Kylee Hong, Ella Nadeau, Victoria Stotz, Xinyu Dong, Yukun Cui, and Trevor Gibson

“The fleX modular accessory dwelling unit taps into the benefits of prefabrication while maintaining a flexibility for diverse user groups. Designed for both short and long term stays, the structure can function as a guest room, rental unit, or living space for caretakers, older adults, or the next generation. Also designed with disability and accessibility in mind. Following ADA guidelines, the spaces maintain a 5’ turning radius, 32” high counters with space underneath, a uniform ramp with an incline ratio of 1:12, integrated hand ledges, and accessible layouts in the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. The fleX system is comprised of the core unit (460 sq ft with living room, kitchen, and bathroom) and deck space (180 sq ft) with the option to add up to 4 additional wings (260 sq ft with bedroom and/or office space).”

2nd Place: Team 3 consisting of Govind Uberoy, Ragesha Varma, David Li, Mo Zhou, Farnaz Dastranj, Zongda Wu, Qiyan He, Jaeyeon Shin, and Jiaxuan Xu

“Our concept unfolds from a single driving principle: Biophilic wellbeing with a light footprint. Biophilic elements nurture holistic well-being by boosting physical, mental, and social health, while fostering a sense of purpose and vitality in the later years of life. Our approach utilizes five patterns of biophillic design as outlined in a 2014 research report published by TerrapinBright-Green. Sightlines from every space ensure a constant visual connection with nature, while materials like cork and timber reinforce this connection. South facing glass walls allow dynamic and diffuse sunlight filtered through the canopies of trees to flood the space, while allowing a clear view of the surrounding habitat.

The interior architecture of our home prioritizes the well being of its occupants, whoever they may be adhering to universal design principles, large sliding doors and an open plan living area ensures hassle-free ease of movement while allowing other utilizations of the space. Occupants enjoy two separate graded entrances, one to a communal patio that connects them to the main house, and a more private entrance that also serves as an outdoor deck. A low-maintenance preserved moss wall on the North side acts as both a sound barrier for the occupants, and as a visual connection with nature for those in the patio of the main house.”

3rd Place: Team 1 consisting of Abby Haus, Cathy Fan, Candice Chen, Dalal Almazeedi, Martin Ma, Rita Wen, Bensu Girgin, DD Lin, and Harni Shah

“The space was designed keeping in mind five focal factors; accessibility, adaptability, sustainability, light and ventilation. The layout revolved around the concept of modularity keeping the bathroom as the core point and expanding the space following a grid. The design of a butterfly roof created a core that collected the rainwater for reuse. The length facing the southern sun was fixed with solar shingles to harvest enough energy to run the home. While the length facing the northern side had skylights to let light and air when needed. The Low E glass windows were placed as such to provide maximum light and cross ventilation.”

Those attending the design event need not attend the Housing Hearing to follow, or they may. Committee members are expected to be at the 3pm event. For those who have questions about ADUs and how they might work on their property, these designs will provide creative ideas.


Housing Hearing to follow

The House Committee on Municipal Government and Housing will then meet at 4:30pm, or at the rise of the House, in Room 101 on the first floor of the State House to hear seven bills related to zoning standards for accessory dwelling units, new construction, and property tax exemptions and credits.

§  2024-H 7062 — This bill, introduced by Rep. June S. Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol), would amend several sections of state zoning law to provide uniform zoning standards for ADUs with the aim of making it easier for homeowners to construct one on their property. on the second floor of the State House.


Speakman reintroduces bill to boost ADU development

Rep. June S. Speakman’s legislation on ADUs passed the House but not the Senate last year, but has been identified by as a high priority this year for House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi in the House’s effort to address the state’s housing crisis. Speaker Shekarchi is the bill’s top cosponsor.

The bill (2024-H 7062) would provide homeowners the right to develop an ADU within the existing footprint of their structures or on any lot larger than 20,000 square feet, provided that the design satisfies building code, size limits and infrastructure requirements.

The purpose of the bill is to encourage the development of rental units that are likely to be more affordable than many other apartments, and also to provide opportunities for homeowners with extra space to generate income that helps them maintain ownership of that property. 

“One of the drivers of our housing crisis is the low construction rate in Rhode Island. Our state has the lowest per-capita construction rate in the whole country. We need to be creative and be willing to allow construction of housing, particularly affordable, moderate and small units like ADUs,” said Chairwoman Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol). ADUs can allow seniors to age in place, close to their families. We should be encouraging development of ADUs, because they offer another housing option for Rhode Islanders and a relatively simple way to make more units available in the near term and help ease the housing crunch in Rhode Island.”

Supporters of the ADU Legislation

The AARP, the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, Rhode Island Housing, the American Planning Association Rhode Island Division, Grow Smart RI and Housing Network RI all support the bill. Co-sponsors, in addition to Speaker Shekarchi, are: House Majority Leader  Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett), Rep. Megan L. Cotter (D-Dist. 39, Exeter, Richmond, Hopkinton), Rep. Brianna E. Henries (D-Dist. 64, East Providence, Pawtucket), Rep. Susan R. Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Warren), Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Rep. Michelle E. McGaw (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton) and Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown).


Other bills to be heard at the Thursday hearing are:

§  2024-H 7063 — This bill, introduced by Rep. Tina Spears (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly), would mandate that all new construction of low- and moderate-income housing be built with universal accessibility design standards to provide greater accessibility for those with disabilities.

§  2024-H 4108 — This bill, introduced Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence), would prohibit waste services companies from emptying dumpsters located within 100 feet of a dwelling unit between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Written testimony must be submitted to the committee clerk, Dawn Huntley, at  [email protected]. Testimony must include your name, the bill number, and your viewpoint, whether for, against, or neither. Sign-up sheets for in-person testimony will be available in the hearing room.

The meeting will be televised live by Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox channel 61, on i3Broadband channel 15 and on Verizon channel 34. It will be live streamed at