Rhino Steel Buildings Blog

A Boomerang Apartment to Protect Parent Privacy

What to Do When Adult Children Crowd Back into Your Empty Nest

Just as building an in-law apartment creates a safe haven for an aging parent, constructing a boomerang apartment puts needed space— and privacy— between parents and a returning adult child.

Why Kids Boomerang

Young adults, who lived on their own for a time but then move back in with their parents, are known as “boomerang kids.”

Boomerang Apartmetns for Young AdultsAn incredible 57 million Americans now live in multi-generational situations with elderly parents, grown children, or grandchildren gathering into an increasingly crowded home.

The reasons for the return to the nest vary, but economic hardship tops the list.

• 20% of young Americans in their 20s and 30s now live with their parents.

• Skyrocketing college costs leave many graduates burdened by sizable student’s loans.

• 45% of 25-year-olds carry large debts.

• Downsizing, outsourcing, and stock market downturns have reduced employment opportunities for many young people.

• A college degree no longer guarantees a bright future with greater earning power. Today’s graduates earn substantially less than their predecessors do.

• The diminishing buying power of the dollar creates greater pressure on those with lower-waged, entry-level jobs.

• 60% of all young adults in the U.S. have accepted some financial help from their parents.

• Far fewer young adults marry in their 20s than in previous generations. Some of those who married later divorced, with one or both of the spouses returning to live with parents for a time.

Coping with Multi-generational Living Arrangements

Parents who have adjusted to their “empty nests,” and started independent lives often find it challenging to share space with their grown children. Young adults, who have lived for some time on their own, also experience difficulty returning to the … Read more »

Building a Green Granny Pad

A Parent Pad that Saves Money— and Natural Resources

Create a cozy, convenient, eco-friendly dwelling for an aging parent by building a green granny pad.

Green Granny PadsMost people construct these compact backyard bungalows for seniors as a secondary dwelling on an adult child’s property. However, some families build a more manageable, downsized home for mom or dad on the parent’s property. Then the adult child and family move into the parent’s existing home.

Choosing to “double up” households on one property provides many advantages:

• Proximity keeps families emotionally closer and more involved in each other’s lives.

• Caregivers spend less time worrying— and less time commuting— when caring for parents.

• Separate dwellings on the same property allow multigenerational interaction— yet with privacy for both households.

• Both seniors and their grown children stress less about what would happen in an emergency.

Steel Buildings Are Green Buildings infographicBuilding a smaller second home saves money, too.

Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) like a granny pad add value to the property. Families save thousands of dollars over paying for expensive in-home caregivers or shelling out exorbitant sums to senior care facilities.

Environmentally Friendly Construction

Once the decision to build an in-law cottage (also called a granny pad, a granny pod, an in-law apartment, a mother-in-law suite, or an elder cottage) is made, choosing how to build the structure comes next. (NOTE: First check with local building authorities for guidelines and restrictions in your area for ADUs.)

Deciding to build a “green” structure with sustainable, renewable resources not only makes sense for the planet, but also for the … Read more »

Maximizing Air Quality in an Elder Cottage

The Inside Story on Building Healthy Homes for Seniors

Building a safe, healthy elder cottage for an aging senior includes restricting indoor air pollutants. In fact, any new construction project should strive to create the cleanest inside air possible.

The average adult breathes in about 3,000 gallons of air every day. The more polluted the air— and the longer the exposure— the greater the risk of health consequences.

IAQ and the ElderlyStudies show Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors. Elderly people— those often most susceptible to indoor air pollution— spend even more time inside.

That can be a serious problem.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air can be two to five times more polluted that the surrounding outside air. In new construction, indoor air is sometimes 100 times more polluted than outdoors.

The World Health Organization (WHO) concludes a pollutant is 1,000 times more likely to infiltrate a person’s lungs if released indoors than outdoors.

Why the discrepancy?

In an effort to reduce waste, “green” buildings aim for greater energy efficiency. Today’s best environmental friendly buildings are more airtight and better insulated than buildings in bygone days. That’s the good news.

That’s also the bad news.

A tighter building envelope reduces the air exchange between indoor air and outdoor air. Consequently, indoor air quality (IAQ) suffers, as pollutants in the structure multiply.

New construction often includes wood products, paints, adhesives, sealants, ceiling tiles, wall coverings, cabinets, draperies, furniture, carpets and floor coverings, and other building materials which outgas volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the interior. The first year after building produces … Read more »

A Senior-Safe In-Law Apartment- Part 2

37 Tips for Designing the Perfect “Granny Flat”

Part 1 of this series on building an in-law apartment in your own backyard covered the first 21 tips for a seniors-friendly home. Here are the remaining 16 tips for planning and building a safe granny pad.

In-Law Apartment Design Checklist continues…

TIP 22: Choose slip-resistant flooring materials, with non-glare surfaces. Carpet should be firm. Install low, dense padding for floor surfaces.

In-Law Apt 2TIP 23: Install overhead kitchen cabinets about 3” lower than typical. Use lower cabinets with pullout sliding compartments or lazy Susans for simplified access. Glass-front cabinets make finding items easier for seniors.

TIP 24: Occupants with vision problems may find a contrasting stripe around countertops makes it easier to distinguish the edge.

TIP 25: Buy energy-efficient appliances.

TIP 26: Choose flat-topped electric ranges with front controls for safer cooking. Be sure the range includes a light to indicate when the surface is hot.

TIP 27: Ovens doors should swing to the side for greater safety.

TIP 28: Use a cabinet top microwave, or a lower-than average wall-mount unit.

TIP 29: Choose a side-by-side refrigerator for easy access.

TIP 30: Front-loading washers and clothes dryers are more manageable for the elderly. Raise the units 12” or more from the floor to increase accessibility. Stackable washer/dryer units also work well.

TIP 31: Too much white in the bathroom makes it difficult for people with macular degeneration or other vision problems to discern objects. Light, but contrasting colors on walls and floors help them navigate better. Some adults with dementia also … Read more »

A Senior-Safe In-Law Apartment- Part 1

37 Tips for Designing the Perfect “Granny Flat”

When constructing a backyard “in-law apartment” for an aging parent, planning is paramount. Just throwing up a small house on your property will not get the job done.

Even mature adults who are physically active today may require safety adjustments to their home in the future. Incorporating senior-friendly features into the building now can save expensive remodeling later.

In-Law Apartment Design Checklist

In-Law Apartment 1TIP 1: This warning cannot be overemphasized: DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Before you plan anything, check with your local building permit department for zoning, restrictions, regulations, guidelines, and easements for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in your area.

Examine your property title for ADU constraints. Be sure your homeowners association does not prohibit or limit ADUs on your property.

TIP 2: Choose an overall size for the in-law apartment, based on the senior’s needs, the space available on the property, and your building budget. Elder cottages average about 800-1,000 square feet. However, larger in-law homes of 1,200-1,500 square feet may better fit the needs of a senior couple.

Design the ADU as a single story structure, with a one level floor plan.

In planning, also keep in mind the alternative uses for the structure in the future.

For example, if you plan to rent the ADU as an apartment later on, you may want to increase the building space. However, if you plan to convert the structure into a home office down the line, a smaller ADU may be better.

TIP 3: Keep power sources to the in-law dwelling separate from your main house. That way if you ever decide to rent the home, you can easily keep the utilities separate. It also allows you … Read more »