Backdoor Revolution-The Definitive Guide to ADU Development

Press Kit Page


Book Format

The book is 368 pages.  It is available in print in black and white. $25. 

It is also available as an eBook in color (iPad and Kindle formats). $15. 


Media Assets from the Book

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Questions and Answers about the book


What is this book about?

Backdoor Revolution-The Definitive Guide to ADU Development, is the most substantial work about accessory dwelling units. It's written for planners, ADU advocates, and homeowners who aspire to build ADUs.



Why do you think ADUs are going to become popular now?

ADUs are going to become very mainstream in the next 2-5 years in major US cities. Though ADUs have been around for quite some time, recent CA state legislation has helped popularize them.

As the ‘missing middle housing’ concept is popularized among planners and designers, ADUs are poised to present the most viable stepping-stone solution for cities that are experiencing a housing crisis, and exploring how to increasing housing opportunities within their single family residential zones.

The tiny house movement has popularized small housing since around 2013, and this also contributes to the consumer interest and appetite for ADUs. 


Who is the audience? What will readers get out of it?

Backdoor Revolution explicitly serves two distinct audiences by design. ADUs are currently a rare housing form, and it was important to get both professional readers (ie. city planners, advocates) and homeowner developers on the same page. 

This first half of book will serve as an in-depth, detailed guide to the process of designing and building an ADU. It covers costs, financing, permitting, ADU design, rental models, step-by-step guidance, and more. It is written primarily for homeowners who want to develop an ADU on their property.

The 2nd half of the book dives into larger issues that have kept ADUs from taking off in most US cities till now. It provides case studies and a synthesis of research about ADUs. It will help city planners and ADU advocates to increase the number of ADUs in their jurisdiction.

What are some special design considerations for ADUs?

ADUs are always accessory to a primary house. They're commonly urban infill. And, they're small and oftentimes bound by tight setback and height limitations. 

Those three features make ADU design specialized, and arguably more challenging than designing a conventional larger home. There is overlap with tiny house design, boat design, and small house design generally, but many of the concepts are intrinsic solely to ADUs. 

Backdoor Revolution has a chapter with 32 ADU-specific pieces of design advice.

For example, one concept that is often overlooked by those who wish to build an ADU is the need for long term storage: both interior and exterior. While it is convenient to simply not add in extra storage because it can take up precious square footage, it is critical to do so. Those who do not have sufficient storage ultimately regret it.

Bear in mind that instead of a single household, there are now two. Both households need to store bikes, canoes, luggage and other seasonal items.

If the garage is going to be converted to ADU, the owners should consider adding a shed. It may make sense to incorporate the shed into the site plan for the ADU, to ensure that there is good flow on the property. If the shed is going to have a concrete foundation, then it would make sense to take care of the excavation and concrete work at the same time as the ADU. This will cost more, so the homeowner will need to apply for a slightly larger loan. 

Building an ADU requires thinking three steps ahead. Backdoor Revolution will get homeowners thinking five steps ahead. This kind of advanced planning can really pay off, but it's impossible to plan like this without knowing what you're getting into.

Where does the name Backdoor Revolution come from?

Backdoor is actually a triple entendre.

  • Backdoor could be understood as a colloquial synonym for ADU entrances, since ADUs are designed to architectually accessory to the entrance of the primary house. 

  • Backdoor is a tech term that refers to a coding loophole that enables knowledgeable hackers to exploit a piece of software. Similarly, ADUs can be understood as a zoning code hack of single family residential zoning regulations, that knowledgable homeowner developers can utilize. This book equips homeowners with the skills to become these ADU developers.

  • The ADU movement is a grassroots housing revolution consisting of both informal and permitted ADUs. The ADU movement has already been percolating for decades, mostly in the form of informal ADUs. These informal ADUs have generally been developed under the radar, without permits, through the Backdoor. This book brings this informal housing phemonoma to light and contextualizes it. Formally permitted ADUs that are developed through the figurative regulatory front door are what is actually new. Permitted ADUs will become a significant new housing trend in many major US cities in the next few years as more cities embrace more flexible regulations. 


About the Author

The author, Kol Peterson is an ADU expert based in Portland, Oregon, who has helped catalyze the exponential growth of ADUs in Portland over the last decade through ADU advocacy, education, consulting, policy work, and entreprenuership. He is the owner of Caravan- The Tiny House Hotel, the first tiny house hotel in the world, and organizer of Portland’s popular ADU Tour.  He consults with homeowners about ADUs on their property, and teaches ADU classes for homeowners and for real estate agents. He edits and manages,,, and


Kol developed an ADU in 2011 that he lives in to this day with his wife. He has a masters degree in environmental planning from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Prior to his ADU work, Kol worked in the federal government for ten years in Washington, DC and Portland, Oregon. 


Contact the Author for any Media relations

Kol Peterson can be reached by email: