Backyard ADUs of Whately wins Small Home Hero Award

  • Staff of Backyard ADUs, a Whately-based business that was recently awarded Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity’s Small Home Hero Award, work on an accessory dwelling unit in Whately. Contributed photo

  • Staff of Backyard ADUs, a Whately-based business that was recently awarded Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity’s Small Home Hero Award, work on an accessory dwelling unit in Whately. Contributed photo

Staff Writer
Published: 2/17/2021 2:49:17 PM

WHATELY — Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity has selected Backyard ADUs of Western Massachusetts as its 2020 Small Home Hero Award winner.

“It’s really neat to be recognized,” said Chris Lee, head of design and development at Backyard ADUs. “It shows that all of the work we’ve been doing is appreciated and making a difference.”

Lee said the company was founded by himself and business partner Kevin Schnell in October of 2019.

“It started as helping just build higher-quality rental units, and quickly evolved to helping families live closer together and making new construction more affordable,” he explained. “And also, making people feel like they can actually build a house.”

Primarily, they’ve developed in-law suites as detached homes, he said, also called accessory dwelling units (ADUs).

“We’re growing rapidly,” he said. “We started just serving the Pioneer Valley and now we’re doing projects throughout the Berkshires.”

The company, which has locations in Maine and at 33 Laurel Mountain Road in Whately, recently completed a project in Easthampton and expects to finish up ADUs in Whately and Florence in the next few weeks.

According to a Habitat for Humanity press release, Backyard ADUs has advocated for small lot zoning since its inception, and built its first homes using energy-efficient modular construction, all while changing the landscape of the Pioneer Valley around small homes and alternative land ownership structures.

“(The award) also motivates us to work even harder to make sure we continue to earn it moving forward into future years,” Lee said.

The Small Home Hero Award is an annual award that recognizes a local organization, business or individual who is making use of innovative techniques to increase access to homeownership through the building, financing, design and/or zoning for small homes. According to the release, the award is an initiative of Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity’s Big Enough Project, funded by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. The project aims to revolutionize how we think about homeownership in Franklin and Hampshire counties by advocating for and building simple, durable and affordable small homes.

Backyard ADUs actively advocates for long-term changes to zoning, puts downward pressure on the cost of quality housing and simplifies new home construction so it’s accessible to everyone, the release explains. Habitat for Humanity’s Small Home Advisory Committee, which selects a winner each year, believes that Backyard ADUs exemplifies the kind of change the Big Enough Project hopes to inspire.

“In general, the goal is to make quality construction more approachable for people, and to amek it easier for people to downside,” Lee said.

To learn more about the Small Home Hero Award and the Big Enough Project, visit pvhabitat.org/big-enough. A video recognizing Backyard ADUs can be viewed at bit.ly/3rmKSOl.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne




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