Helping Operation Finally Home

The home building industry has a potent opportunity to meet the housing needs of returning armed services heroes and their families and help them enjoy the American dream of homeownership. Builders, architects, remodelers, tradesmen, suppliers, interior designers and others in the construction industry can work together to design and provide homes. In doing so, they can give something back to America’s soldiers who have suffered harm in service to our country.

In recognition of this, the NAHB Design Committee partnered with the American Institute of Building Design (AIBD) and Operation Finally Home, an organization that helps veterans get their lives back on track and become productive members of their communities to conduct a live design competition at the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas. The competition focused on designing a home for one of America’s wounded veterans returning from war.

The Client:

The recipient is a married war veteran in her late twenties with a severe traumatic brain injury that causes night seizures, unsteadiness on her feet and constant exhaustion. She also suffers from posttraumatic stress syndrome and finds photography therapeutic. She has a service dog, a Chow. Because of her injuries, family members visit often to help out and could benefit from having a place to stay.

The Program:

The design required a 3-bedroom, single-family, detached home that was no more than 1,800 square feet. The home will be built by Operation Finally Home within the city limits of Clearwater, Fla. on a 50- by 100-foot lot that must include an oversized single-car garage similar to other homes built by Operation Finally Home. To meet the physical needs of the client, the home needed to include universal design features such as wide hallways and a large shower so that, in the future, a wheelchair could be maneuvered easily. In addition to the programmatic requirements, the design was to take into consideration life-cycle costs, create low maintenance needs and be placed on the lot in a way that increases energy efficiency. It also needed to fit into the context of surrounding neighborhoods, which are eclectic and made up of Mediterranean, Modern and Craftsman-style homes.

The Solutions:

Working with this set of parameters, four design teams from across the country had just nine hours to complete designs that addressed these requirements while incorporating the personality and needs of the client.


When the nine hours were up, proposals were presented to a panel of judges and posted in the exhibit hall for attendees to evaluate. In addition to a traditional judging panel, IBS attendees could choose who they thought created the best design by texting in their vote. Once text votes were tallied and after much debate and discussion among the judging panel of Karen Kassik-Michelsohn, Barry Glantz, William Warwick, Brian Lamb, the winner was Team 3, BSB Design from Des Moines, Iowa. The judges felt this design solution met the needs of the client best.

The winning team, Mike Crocker, Jerry Messman and David Copenhaver of BSB Design in Des Moines, Iowa, created a design that carefully considered the design of the interior and exterior spaces. In the rear of the home, the outdoor living area includes a pool for exercise and a pleasant seating area. In the front of the house, the designers provided additional outdoor living space with a front courtyard.OceTDS0485

Since the service dog is an integral part of the client’s life and a member of the family, the designers provided additional features to accommodate the pet’s needs including a dog wash in the garage and a dog run for exercising on the side of the house.

The judges’ comment on the design was that: “This house just has everything.” They specifically pointed out the oversized, dual height island that allows for both food preparation and comfortable dining. For the future, that island also can provide a dining surface accessible by wheelchair.

The first floor master suite provides easy access should the client’s condition deteriorate over time. The judges felt the flex space on the first floor in the front of the home provided options as an office, studio or additional bedroom for a visiting or live-in caregiver. The sitting room upstairs provides an efficient work space for the client’s digital photography hobby and a large wall space for a gallery feature. In addition, the judges indicated that the design team showed a thorough understanding of universal design by splitting the closet and bathroom in the master bedroom. Typically, bathrooms are very wet when someone is in a wheelchair and not a place for clothes and similar storage items. By separating the two functions, the water is isolated and the spaces much easier to manage.

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