Sustainable Ideas for San Diego ADUS, Granny Flats, & Casitas in 2023


Reduce energy consumption and save money!


Looking for ways to reduce your energy consumption when building an ADU, granny flat, or casita on your San Diego property? Look no further! We’ve got you covered with all the important information.


Passive house design or net-zero design

A newer term to the construction industry, passive or net-zero homes create more energy than they use. These homes could be off-grid and still function perfectly. As you are planning your ADU, consider using a passive house design.

Having a casita on your property will require additional energy. Not only will passive house design help eliminate higher bills (and we all know energy is not cheap here in California), it may even get you tax breaks or discounted energy bills on the rest of your property.

Things like solar power and energy storage play a part in passive house design. Other important features to consider in net-zero energy ADUs are the insulation and doors & windows being installed.

Building a net-zero ADU may take a bit more planning and investment up front, but it will more than pay for itself in the long run.


Solar panels

Here in the greater San Diego area, we live in one of the most ideal places to take advantage of solar-powered energy. For a building as small as an ADU or casita, you are probably going to be able to completely power it using several solar panels. 

If you are interested in learning more about solar power regulations and energy buy-back here in California, make sure you take some time to understand the new rulings that came into effect in April with the introduction of NEM 3.0.


Energy storage

If you are installing solar panels, you’ll definitely want to consider adding an energy storage system to go with it. There are a number of home energy storage systems on the market, including that one made by that guy who bought the company formerly known as Twitter.

Storing the energy your home produces is very similar to having a backup generator, but it’s electrically powered instead of gas-powered. Not only are they a more sustainable energy source than gas, but they also can be more cost-effective both upfront and in the long run, as you don’t have to purchase fuel for them.

Not to mention they’re quicker to install. And significantly quieter. In fact, the only thing they aren’t better at is long-term energy powering solutions, because they don’t store as much energy as a generator can continuously produce.


Accessibility is sustainability

Design your ADU or granny flat now as something that will last a human lifetime as far as use-ability. Plan for things like grab bars or wheelchair clearance. Do everything you reasonably can to avoid future remodels. Avoiding future home improvement projects is the most sustainable thing you can do when building a casita. 


Sustainable landscaping and native plants

We don’t have a lot of water to spare here in California, so designing the landscape around your casita with native plants that don’t require a lot of irrigation is key. A non-traditional, non-grass lawn yard is the best way to have a sustainable landscape.

Native plants (plants found growing in the wild in your area) love the temperature and climate of the area they are in. You don’t have to do much for these plants in order to help them thrive. They also grow their roots much deeper than non-native plants, which is helpful in avoiding things like landslides (not that you experience many of those in your San Diego backyard).

And guess what – San Diego may even compensate you for removing your turf lawn.

You can also plan your landscaping in a way that will collect rainwater (because we have so much of that in San Diego – an average of 10 whole inches per year!) and allow you to use it as a source of irrigation for your yard.

And using recycled materials such as concrete or natural stone to create a pathway in your yard is extra bonus sustainability! 


Standard California Permitting Requirements

All that said, California has tons of items that are now required to be tacked onto projects as part of getting them permitted, and we embrace them. They include:

  • Mandatory recycling and reporting of a certain percentage of waste on projects
  • Low flow plumbing fixtures and restrictions on the number of fixtures in a shower
  • Solar panels on certain new structures
  • Title 24 energy requirements such as high efficacy lighting, motion and moisture sensors on certain fixtures such as exhaust fans and lighting
  • The most stringent requirements for energy efficient windows and doors in the nation
  • Increased insulation depending on climate zones, cool roofing, radiant barriers, concrete flooring, HERS testing, etc.

This has been a lot of information about making your ADU/granny flat/casita a more sustainable building. If you have any questions about the feasibility of these ideas or are ready to get started designing your San Diego ADU, please reach out to us. We’d love to talk to you about your project.