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Age-Friendly Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Competition

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


september 2023


The growing population of older adults across the US, North Carolina, and in Raleigh, 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. Averaging 800 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. Raleigh has recently passed ADU-friendly development ordinances and, in 2022 held a design competition for ADUs which produced a series of excellent ADU designs. AARP's 2023 Accessory Dwelling Unit Design Competition hopes to add to this collection by providing examples of age-friendly detached accessory dwelling units (DADUs) to inspire and guide the creation of accessory dwellings for older adults. The accessory dwelling unit (ADU) text change was adopted by the Raleigh City Council on July 7, 2020. As a result of this text change, ADUs are allowed in the following zoning districts: R-1, R-2, R-4, R-6, R-10, RX, OX, NX, DX, and CX. AARP North Carolina is sponsoring the 2023 An ADU for U Accessory Dwelling Unit Design Competition that will create and promote plans for age-friendly ADUs. They have contracted with the RL Mace Universal Design Institute to collaborate with the City of Raleigh to run the competition.


Architects, builders, designers, contractors, design-build partnerships practicing in North Carolina are invited to submit detached ADU (DADU) designs suitable for aging-in-place, that meet the criteria. Preference will go to those working in the Triangle and Triad regions.

Younger and emerging architects, women- and minority-owned business (WMBE), and firms who can conduct business in languages other than English are doubly encouraged to apply.


Winning plans will be

  1. eligible to be included in Raleigh’s online ADU design gallery.

  2. eligible to apply for inclusion in Raleigh's fast-track program.

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

Selection Criteria

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 a handful of winning entries. 3. The designers of the winning entries will then be eligible to have their designs reviewed by the City of Raleigh for inclusion in the ADU fast-track gallery. 4. The selected designs will be also be displayed on the UDI hub page with links to the designer’s web page.

Submittal Requirements

1. Submissions need to be in PDF format (See Competition Guide for full 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. Plans submitted of constructed ADUs can provide photos of constructed ADUs. 6. Multiple submissions are allowed. Separate PDF files should be submitted for each submission. All designs must meet State Residential Building Code and Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) standards or Equiv.

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

  • Slopes

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

Dimensioned Interior Elevations
(Kitchen and Bath)(1⁄2" scale) 

  • 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 Raleigh. 

Raleigh Fast Track Program


All designs must meet NC State Residential Building Code and Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) standards.

More about Raleigh's fast track program.

More information about building an
ADU in Raleigh can be found he

      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 for seniors to downsize and remain in their communities as they age.

  • Allow for extending senior care by family members.


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 Raleigh’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 Raleigh's residents. Consider the relationship of the main house and neighboring lots through design, configuration, profile, and window placement.


Audrey Galloway
Manager, Outreach and Federal Advocacy

Stay tuned for bio.

Douglas Kline PhD, MBA
AARP Member Volunteer
Real Estate Broker with Keller Williams Raleigh

Douglas (Doug) Kline has turned his hobby and passion for real estate into his third career. Doug began in the software industry as a developer and held roles as technical lead, system architect, and project manager. He next spent 25 years as a business professor, most recently as the Progress Energy/Gordon Hurlburt Distinguished Professor of Information Systems at UNC Wilmington. As a professor, Doug taught a variety of courses in software development, database, and analytics. He won grants, earned teaching and writing awards, directed a masters program, and chaired nearly 30 masters degree theses. Throughout his academic career, he continued to consult for software companies, helping them improve the performance of their software through database tuning. As a lifelong hobby, Doug acquires, renovates, manages, and exchanges investment real estate. A special project for his mother involved buying a small nearby home and renovating it for accessibility. Modifications to walls, entryways, bathrooms and the kitchen allowed her to maintain her independence and quality of life. Doug is a member of the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and the Triangle Real Estate Investors Association (TREIA). He volunteers with the North Carolina AARP through advocacy and speaking to groups about making homes more adaptable to the changing needs of various stages of life. Doug lives and works in downtown Raleigh as a broker for Keller Williams Raleigh. He has two daughters and enjoys traveling with his wife of 33 years.

Randall Lanou
Partner | Company Lead

Lanou founded BuildSense in 1999. He brings his design, building, and problem-solving skills to bear at BuildSense, a design + build company that creates high-performance homes. He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at North Carolina State University College of Design where he has taught architectural design studios and seminars since 1998. He founded and continues to lead the NC State Design+Build Studio. Lanou holds a masters’ degree in architecture from North Carolina State University. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial design from the University of Illinois. Lanou is a LEED accredited professional and a NAHB Master Certified Green Professional, he is a licensed North Carolina Building Contractor, he is an ENERGY STAR Building Partner, and he is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, the Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange, and Chatham Counties (2015 President), and the Rotary Club (2014-2015 and 2022-2023 President). BuildSense built the first Builder’s Challenge home certified in North Carolina and they built the first home certified in North Carolina using the NAHB Guidelines (predecessor to the National Green Building Standard). BuildSense projects are featured in local and national press, including News and Observer’s Home of the Month, Architectural Record, Fine Homebuilding, and HGTV’s Beyond The Box.

Kat Reach
Hope Renovations
Director of Construction Operations

Kat is a licensed NC general contractor who has been working in the trades for more than 15 years. Kat grew up learning the ins and outs of construction from her dad, and worked various commercial and residential construction jobs before returning to school for her Masters in Social Work. Kat worked in housing & homelessness after grad school before joining Hope Renovations in the summer of 2020.

Mark Valetta
Resources for Seniors, Inc.
Director of Housing and Home Improvement

Mark is the current Director of Housing & Home Improvement at Resources for Seniors in Raleigh North Carolina. Serving there, he administers eleven federal, state, county and municipal programs, assisting low to moderate income seniors and those with disabilities. Mark was introduced to construction while attending Appalachian State University, receiving a double major in Political Science and Psychology. Over 45 plus years he participated in general construction, volunteers for National and international construction disaster relief trips with Baptist on Mission, worked in the commercial glass and glazing sales industry, held a North Carolina commercial general contractors license, and continues to maintain a license as a North Carolina licensed home inspector. For the last 12 years his attention has been directed at improving the lives of seniors and clients with disabilities. Never having imagined that his two college degrees would come full circle, Psychology has proven invaluable in working with our clients in need and Political Science has been found to be exactly a skillset required when dealing with government grant programs. While working with our clients we see firsthand, on a daily basis, the housing challenges experienced by an ever-growing aging population. Resources for Seniors, Inc Mission Statement is: “To provide home and community-based services so that disabled and senior adults can maximize their independence for as long as possible while remaining in their homes. We are committed to excellence in service and care for individuals, families and their communities.”

Anna Wirth
Flock Design + Architecture
Architect and Owner

​Anna is a native eastern North Carolinian but has called many cities home. Her work and studies have taken her from Beijing to London to Chicago and have given her a unique perspective on the role of architects and designers as global citizens. Anna has been a maker her entire life, a registered architect for over 13 years, and a designer for over 17 years. ​As an architect, she worked with the award-winning firms of Ellen Cassilly Architect, Inc, Freelon, Inc, Clearscapes, PA, and von Weise Associates to help create residential, commercial, and institutional solutions for her communities at home and abroad. ​She has provided mentorship with Chicago’s Architects in Schools, SAIC Next cc’s Green Cities, London’s Open House, Territory Urban Design Team,and has participated in educational outreach events with the Ragdale Foundation, Triangle AIA, and Chicago’s Open House. As a maker, she has worked as a master carpenter for the American Dance Festival, set carpenter for Man Bites Dog and Archipelago Theaters, and as a design/build practitioner for Portland's Side Yard Farm. With a bit of rigor and luck, Anna has also been able to balance her work as designer with her work as a baker in the much lauded Pearl, Scratch, and La Farm bakeries. Anna brings her love of slow food and community and the lessons of intentionality that she has learned as a baker and as a builder and teacher to her client conversations and design work.

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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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