Here are some of the terms commonly used to describe major remodels and accessory dwellings.

Design Proposal

A design proposal is a document provided by a professional designer that specifies what services they will provide. This typically includes:

  • They number of meetings they expect to have with you during design.
  • The number of design concepts and revisions they propose (typically 3-5 concepts is very common).
  • Whether you will be filling out city paperwork and forms or if they will/
  • The time required to coordinate other professional services such as a surveyor, structural engineer or soils engineer.
  • Their hourly rate and the hourly rate of their junior staff or draftsperson.
  • The degree of specifics they will provide for materials and appliances and other finish lists.
  • The amount of support they will provide during construction. This can range from no support to weekly project meetings and written reports.

Many design proposals include just the designer fees and not the mandatory consultant, city planning, and permit fees required to get the project approved. All New Avenue proposals include every mandatory fee so that there are no surprises or hidden costs down the road.

Additional Service or Add Service

If a designer requires more time to perform “additional services” that are not part of their original scope of work then they can ask for you to approve additional services for an additional fee. (i.e., designing a gazebo or landscaping plan or going to meetings to review your project with that pesky neighbor who has too much time on their hands)

Universal Design

This is the concept that good design should better accommodate everyone from a lower railing for a young child to no stairs for someone with mobility challenges or a wheelchair. ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act or wheelchair accessibility are the most involved degree of universal design while much less intense or noticeable feature such as grab bars that looks like towel bars or door handles instead or door knobs are minimal steps. It is universal because it is universally better - for example, single floor living may be essential for someone in a wheelchair but it is quite nice no matter who you are. Just ask any parent who is lugging their kid’s laundry up and down three flights of stairs.

Net Zero

The idea that your home can produce as much energy as it consumes. This does not necessarily mean making do with less. It is typically achieved with solar energy coupled with higher quality construction especially in regards to insulation.

Program Development

A homeowner’s “Program” is the definition of your goals, needs and budget. It should consider your planned use of the space, your family, your neighborhood and all aspects of who you are and what your goals and ideas are. This information guides the designer as they create an ideal home for you.

Schematic Design

Schematic design is typically the site plan, floor plan and elevations. Elevations are the perspectives of a house as if you were standing in front of a wall or home and looking directly at it. You can have exterior elevations, which are the most fundamental design look of your home, or you can have interior elevations such as your kitchen cabinet plans or the view of a wall with a fireplace and built in cabinets.

Planning or Zoning Permits

There are typically two permits required for a new accessory dwelling the first is a planning permit and the second is a building permit. Planning Department applies the zoning rules and grants planning permits that allow the type of use (i.e., a single family home, a duplex a restaurant or a gas station etc.…) There are several types of planning permits such as a simple certificate saying that no special review is required or an Administrative Use Permit that may cost several thousand dollars. A variance would also be granted by the planning department in the very rare case that one is needed.


Zoning codes and building permit codes are very complex and city officials have discretion to “interpret” or “re-interpret” the code. This can make your project much easier or more difficult and it is essential for the owner, or design professional to review your design ideas directly with a city planner.

As-built Drawings

Measuring and drawing of an existing home’s interior and/or exterior spaces. These are used to inform the designer as they design your remodel or addition.

Parking requirements

Accessory Dwellings almost always come with a certain parking requirement. There are exceptions and the laws around parking change regularly.

Construction Documents

Construction Documents are typically six to ten pages of technical drawings that measure 24” x 36” when printed. They consist of both the floor plans and elevations that were created in schematic design but are mostly “details” which are close up technical drawings of everything the contractor needs to know to build the home. This includes everything from the size of the rebar in the foundation and the density of the concrete to the insulation in the walls and how many nails or what types of steel hangers will hold the roof joists together.

  • Permit Set: This is the bare minimum amount of information needed to get a building permit from the city. The designer will leave many details to you and the contractor to figure out. This is common but causes headaches, as you have to figure out details as the carpenters are on site cutting wood and re-doing work.
  • Bid Set: This is a detailed set of drawings that has all of the information a contractor needs to provide a fixed price bid and then build the entire home.

Building Permits

The building department grants Building Permits and they are based on the construction documents. You typically pay a “plan check fee” for the city to review the construction documents and then you also pay a “permit issuance fee” to actually buy the permit from the city.

Impact Fees

Fees that are assessed based on the impact your new home is anticipated to have on the community. Typical fees include road, sewer, school and park fees. Most projects have little to no impact fees however some cities have a dozen fees or more. You have to call each city agency such as the school district, the water district, and the wastewater plant to confirm if they have a fee and what that fee might be. This can be a very unpleasant surprise if you don’t do your research early in the design process.

Design Development

The specification of the materials, fixtures and appliances in your home.

Finish Schedules

Often done in Microsoft Excel or Word, these are lists of the materials, products, paint colors and appliances you will use in each room of your home.

Construction Administration

Typically performed by the designer, this includes observing the construction and clarifying and design questions the contractor may have.

Construction Agreement

The agreement between homeowner and a general contractor. The best practice is to sign a fixed price contract that includes a project schedule, names every page in the construction documents and has a detailed budget naming all materials and work to be performed.

Change Order

A request by a contractor to either add or remove a portion of work from the construction budget. Many custom homes will have 20 change orders and can still end on budget however, be wary, unscrupulous contractors use change orders to inflate the costs and all too often they are proposed as simple ideas that clients don’t realize are going to increase the cost until after the work is done.

Right-size or Downsize

Improving your home to better meet your needs. This may involve making your home much larger, adding an accessory dwelling.

Multigenerational Living

Anything other than the traditional parent and child in a home and no one else. This takes many shapes and sizes and often times it involves a baby boomer sharing their home with a child or grandchild.

Accessory Dwelling Unit or "ADU"

Any new home or apartment added to a single family home. This includes additions, a remodel of existing space such as an attic, bedroom, lower lever or garage, or a separate independent home such as a backyard cottage, casita, or guesthouse.

Short Term Rental

Renting a room or an accessory dwelling or your home from one day to many months. Popular sites are and


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