July 29, 2021

A Highland Storybook: Friends and Neighbors

July 29, 2021

A Highland Storybook: Friends and Neighbors

A Highland Storybook: Friends and Neighbors

Finding the right rental property, especially for housing dear friends with specific needs, can be like searching for treasure at a roadside flea market (you know the ones). You might get lucky if your timing is right, but most likely, you will end up overpaying for something that has some poorly done repairs and smells kinda weird.  

For some, though, the hunt for the right place ends in their own backyard. When she could not find the perfect rental for her beloved neighbors to call home, one BrightBuilt client opted to build it herself. The decision was a simple one; she owned two abutting parcels of land across the street from the house that was no longer comfortable (drafty & uninsulated) or practical for her aging friends (it had super steep stairs). Just a stone’s throw away and sharing the same views of a nearby bay, the property provided the perfect opportunity for close friends to become even closer.

From the outset, sustainable design and minimizing disturbance to the site were a priority for the owner. Her roots in environmentalism run deep; she is the founder of an international non-profit focused on sustainable agriculture and community development, as well as the owner of another high-performance ADU she built for her mom. She is no stranger to the benefits of non-toxic building and fossil-fuel-free living.

The homesite’s restrictive topography also demanded a creative and compact approach to construction. The footprint for the new residence was severely limited by a small ravine on one side and angled property boundary on the other. By pursuing off-site construction, the impact to the site’s delicate ecology, as well as clutter and traffic in the finite buildable space, could be reduced.

The Highland offered a practical, affordable, and low-maintenance solution. The smallest module size - 18 feet by 45 feet - lent itself well to the narrow site and provided a comfortable yet manageable 810 square feet of living space. A two-bedroom, one-bathroom configuration was adapted to allow for effortless aging in place.

The hallway was widened to accommodate a wheelchair, as were doorways throughout the home. The footprint of the bathroom was expanded to create a wheelchair-friendly five-foot turning radius inside, and an ADA handicap-accessible shower stall was installed. An open living and kitchen area welcomes small gatherings, and a compact guest room sits ready for those who stay too late. In the primary suite, a walk-in closet and ample circulation space allow for easy accessibility.

The greatest allure of the Highland, however, was the flexibility afforded by the loft tucked in its eave. Though the space could function as a third bedroom or private nook, the new residents plan to use it for storage. With a lifetime of travel (and therefore trinkets and souvenirs!) under their belts, they desired the option to bring their most cherished belongings to their new home.  

Work on the interior of this dwelling is wrapping up and its new inhabitants are more than ready to make their move across the street. As they settle into their Highland, the project’s general contractor will finish the final exterior elements. Off the front entry, a screened porch will function as an extension of the living room and enjoy the best views of the nearby water. From there, a covered ramp will gently slope to a carport. A second entry with a coded door lock will round out the far end of the home, and allow future caregivers easy access to the space as needed. This separate entry also means that visitors can stealthily come and go without the risk of the residents’ two cats escaping from their soon-to-be favorite spot on the screened porch.

As with all BrightBuilt projects, this Highland is Net-Zero ready. The planned installation of photovoltaic panels will eventually bring it from ready to reality and turn low energy bills into no energy bills. Powered entirely by electricity, the structure will be fossil fuel free and requires a single heat pump to moderate the indoor climate.

Though its name suggests a temporary retreat, the Highland is just as ready to be a forever home. Our client knew it would offer the high performance she valued and low maintenance her friends needed. We are happy campers, and honored to have helped bring to life her vision of a healthy haven for two neighbors, two cats, and countless treasures from around the world.

If you are interested in more information about our new Sterling, head over to the informational page by clicking below!


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