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Age-Friendly Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Competition

A Competition to Expand the Collection of Age-Friendly ADU Plans

Competition Overview
Submittal Requirements
Scoring Criteria
Download Competiton Guide


Anyone who’s eligible to submit for a single-family homein the City of Omaha, is eligible to submit for this program

We encourage submissions from younger and emerging architects, women, and minority-owned businesses (WMBE), and firms who can conduct business in languages other than English.


Winning plans will be

  1. eligible to be included in Omaha’s Fast-Track program.

  2. featured on this website with a
    to the designer(s)

  3. be honored at an event hosted by AARP NE

  4. Cash prizes for 1st, 2nd, 3rd place


All designs must meet all local buildings codes, the city will work with designers who want to seek building code relaxation. Any questions, contact


We do not expect every submission to maximize each criterion. Instead, we encourage designs that thoughtfully balance the criteria with an overall goal of increasing the production of ADUs that support aging-in-place. For additional guidance on creating an age friendly ADU, consult Better Living Design's Age Friendly ADU Design Criteria, and Guidance Document.

Design for aging-in-place by incorporating age-friendly features. We seek submissions that exemplify age-friendly design. The size and use of these dwellings will require that they be single story, and reachable via a graded entry. We also encourage plans that include universal design features and are adaptable over time. Diverse family and household types. Accommodate the needs of older adults, caregivers, and renters.

Incorporate green building features, like stormwater management, passive heating and cooling, and sustainable materials. Support new construction and delivery methods, such as panelized, modular, or pre-fab homes. Encourage designs that are lower-cost to construct and maintain making them financially accessible to households with the widest possible range of incomes.

Provide a design that is likely to meet development standards on most lots and appropriate for various lot conditions, including lots with and without an alley, sloping sites, corner lots, and narrow lots. Consider compatibility with the existing development patterns and architectural context within Omaha’s residential neighborhoods. Design proposals could be adaptable to architectural contexts through a variety of stylistic options specific to eras of development or designed explicitly for compatibility within specific neighborhoods. Consider also how ADU designs or configurations can reflect the diverse needs and experiences of Omaha residents. Consider the relationship of the main house and neighboring lots through design, configuration, profile, and window placement.


The growing population of older adults in Omaha, NE, and across the US is putting a squeeze on the supply of housing for older adults. Unfortunately, many of these older residents are aging in homes that were not designed for them to live in safely or independently. The homes may also be larger than they need and may require maintenance that older adults are no longer able to handle themselves. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are an affordable but underutilized housing option that might be the answer for many older adults. This alternative housing option is much less costly than a standard-sized home or a care setting. Ranging up to 1000 square feet, these small complete dwellings offer affordability and ease of care. If designed appropriately, with universal and age-friendly features, accessory dwellings can also allow safe and independent living for many years. AARP's 2023 Accessory Dwelling Unit Design Competition hopes to provide examples of age-friendly accessory dwellings to inspire and guide the creation of accessory dwellings for older adults. AARP Nebraska is sponsoring the 2023 An ADU for U Accessory Dwelling Unit Design Competition. They have contracted with the RL Mace Universal Design Institute to collaborate with the City of Omaha Planning Department to create and promote plans for age-friendly ADUs.

      Ultimately, this project aims to:

  • Improve the housing options for older adults.

  • Increase the supply of ADUs suitable for aging-in-place.

  • Provide an affordable and healthier alternative to living in too large,
    hard to maintain,
    non age friendly homes, as well as senior housing facilities.

  • Allow seniors to remain in their communities as they age.


1. Architects, designers, contractors/builders and design-build partnerships are invited to submit detached ADU (DADU) designs suitable for aging-in-place, that meet the criteria described here. 2. A jury will review submissions and select the winners. 3. Those designers will then be eligible to have their designs reviewed by the City of Omaha for inclusion in the ADU Fast-Track collection. 4. The selected designs will also be displayed on the UDI hub page with links to the designer’s web page and AARP Nebraska will be hosting an event for the winners. 5. Fast Track pre-approved ADU plans can skip building permit reviews, but site plan reviews are still required. Changes to pre-approved plans will trigger standardreviews and permit fees. City is evaluating their pre-approval process. Compensation for designs if these become part of Fast-track program: Pre-approved plans are intended to offer a simplified and lower-cost opportunity to create a DADU. To use a pre-approved plan, a homeowner/builder/developer will pay a royalty, set by the designer, for the use of their plan. Homeowners can then hire the designer, who retains the copyright to and liability for the pre-approved plan, to prepare the site plan, obtain a building permit, and/or to construct the DADU. If a homeowner instead wishes to use other professionals or complete work themselves, the designer can require a liability release that the homeowner must sign to use the plan.


1. Submissions need to be in PDF format (see Competition Guide for details). 2. Name of firm(s) or individual(s) submitting a design. 3. Project Name 4. Narrative describing how the plan fulfills the design criteria. This can be accomplished via call-outs on the drawings and/or with a separate document. 5. The maximum square footage of the ADU is 750 square feet of conditioned space. 6. Plans submitted of constructed ADUs can provide photos of constructed ADUs. 7. Multiple submissions are allowed. Separate PDF files should be submitted for each submission. modifications to plan. 8. ADU Application and Disclaimer (legal paperwork releasing AARP/City/Competition hosts from liability related to designs) 9. All designs must meet all local buildings codes, the city will work with designers who want to seek building code relaxation.

Architecture drawing sets should be to design development level of detail. Drawings must be „scalable with the scale clearly specified and graphically depicted.

Dimensioned Floor Plans
(1/4" scale) indicating

  • Room sizes

  • Door widths

  • Cabinet and fixture locations

  • Interior maneuvering space (can be shown using furniture placement)

  • Slopes

Exterior Elevations (4) (1⁄4" scale)
with exterior features called out

Dimensioned Interior Elevations
(1⁄2" scale) (kitchen and bath):

  • Outlets

  • Switches/controls

  • Shower/tub mix valve

  • Cabinets

  • Worksurface/ counter 

  • Window sill heights

  • Appliance and fixture locations

Interior and Exterior Finishes
This may be included in the narrative or on the drawing.

Product Information Describe the high function characteristics and why they were chosen. This may be included in the narrative or on the drawing.

  • Kitchen appliances and fixtures

  • Bath fixtures

  • Laundry appliances

  • Door/Window types

  • Cabinetry

  • Hardware

  • Controls

Optional drawings: Exterior and Interior Renderings, Details, Sections, Virtual tour, Plan Alternatives (3 max) Plan alternates - You may include design options within the context of the standard plan. These could include plan reversals, alternate rooflines, or other similar alternatives without significant structural changes. All alternate plans should comply with the regulations of the City of Omaha.


Manne Cook
Director of Urban Planning & Design at Spark CDI

Manuel Cook, also known as Manne, is a visionary creative entrepreneur committed to crafting dynamic urban spaces and enhancing the quality of our built environments. With nearly ten years of expertise collaborating with federal, state, local, and grassroots organizations, his refined skill set encompasses city planning, urban design, community development, placemaking, cartography, and real estate development. Manne specializes in strategically designing and implementing projects and initiatives that leverage a community’s assets, art, history, and culture. By doing so, he fosters the creation of vibrant, people-centric environments that prioritize health, healing and wellbeing.

Scott Dobbe
Executive Director of Omaha by Design

Scott is an architect and advocate for people-centered design. A native of Kearney, Nebraska, Scott began his architectural career in Chicago with industry vanguards Perkins&Will and HOK. Returning to his home state in 2011, he grew professionally with DLR Group, emerging as the firm’s youngest Regional Design Leader. In 2018, Scott left architectural practice to focus on guiding his home city’s urban growth and development as Executive Director of the nonprofit Omaha by Design. Scott received his undergraduate degree from the University of Nebraska College of Architecture, and Master of Architecture from Ohio State University. He is a graduate of Leadership Omaha, recipient of the Midlands Business Journal 40 Under 40 Award, and Chair of the City of Omaha Landmarks Heritage Preservation Commission.

Mike Helgerson
Executive Director of Metropolitan Area Planning Agency

Michael Helgerson is Executive Director at the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA)—the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Omaha-Council Bluffs region. As Executive Director, Michael oversees agency operations and MAPA's roles as Council of Governments (COG), Economic Development District (EDD), and MPO. Mike recently led the development of MAPA’s 2050 Long Range Transportation Plan, a regional effort undertaken in partnership with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s ConnectGO initiative. Mike received his Bachelor’s of Science in Community & Regional Planning from Iowa State University in Ames, IA, and his Master’s of Public Administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He lives in Omaha with his wife, Lauren, and four children.

Adrian Hernandez
Senior Vice President of Dundee Bank

Adrian Hernandez is Senior Vice President of Dundee Bank. He has served on the board of directors since 2017. Adrian currently leads the bank’s Lending, Treasury Services, and Retail Banking teams. He earned his BSBA (2002) and MPA (2013) from the University of Nebraska Omaha. He is a 2012 Graduate of the Graduate Schools of Banking at Colorado.

Karna Loewenstein
AARP Nebraska Livable Communities Volunteer

A native Nebraskan with a long career in higher education, Karna most recently served as the Outreach and Communications Manager for the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA) the Metropolitan Planning organization (MPO) for the Omaha-Council Bluffs region. Prior to that assignment she led the Heartland 2050 Regional Vision at MAPA, Heartland 2050 is an overarching vision for the metro region, based on purposefully probing the fundamental building blocks to community vibrancy. Karna earned two degrees from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Undergraduate in Marketing Education and Masters in Adult Education. Since her retirement in August 2022, she has served as a volunteer on special projects for AARP Nebraska’s Livable Communities initiative.

Jed Moulton
Manager of Urban Design & Preservation at the Omaha Planning Department

Jed Moulton manages the Urban Design and Historic Preservation programs for the City of Omaha. Prior to joining the City in 2007 he practiced architecture for 16 years in Seattle, Wa and Omaha, NE. His primary professional focus is to elevate the quality urban environments by incorporating the principles of Design and Preservation into the practice of Planning. Jed graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with degrees in Architecture and Fine Arts.

Leslie Smith
Executive Director of the Omaha Municipal Land Bank

Leslie Smith, a native Mississippian, serves as the Executive Director for the Omaha Municipal Land Bank, where she leads the organization’s efforts to create pathways for stimulating the local economy by addressing systemic vacancy issues at its core. Prior to joining the OMLB team, she worked for Truist Bank where she analyzed CRA and Fair Lending performance data to develop inclusive lending mortgage strategies that positively impact inclusive lending activities throughout Truist’s digital footprint. Smith brings to Omaha, former land banking experience as launched many of the foundational programs of the Blight Authority Memphis, Inc. (BAM), a quasi-governmental nonprofit that became a full-scale operational landbank serving the city of Memphis under her leadership. With a passion for improving all residents’ quality of life regardless of their zip code, Smith looks to bring her national network, cross-sector expertise, and collective experience to drive momentum while addressing vacant and abandoned properties at the root.

Jeff Spiehs
Senior Planner at Lamp Rynearson

Stay tuned for bio.

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The RL Mace Universal Design Institute is a non-profit organization based in North Carolina dedicated to promoting the concept and practice of accessible and universal design. The Institute's work manifests the belief that all new environments and products, to the greatest extent possible, should and can be usable by everyone regardless of age, ability, or circumstance.

As the Institute's sister initiative, Better Living Design is changing the way homes and home products are designed, built, and remodeled to better meet the needs of everyone at every life stage. 


© 2023 RL Mace Universal Design Institute & Better Living Design. All rights reserved.

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