Thank You for Your Service; Designing a Home for a Wounded War Hero

The home building industry can help meet the housing needs of returning heroes who have courageously served our country, allowing them to enjoy the American dream of homeownership. For builders, architects, remodelers, tradespeople, suppliers, interior designers, and others in the industry, working together to provide a home is one way to give back to America’s warriors who have suffered harm in service to our country. It is one way to say thank you for their service.

At this year’s International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas, the NAHB Design Committee conducted a live design competition in conjunction with the American Institute of Building Design (AIBD) and Building Homes for Heroes, an organization that is strongly committed to supporting the brave men and women of the military who have returned home from the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan with severe wounds and disabilities. The challenge was to design a home for one of these wounded veterans.

The Client:

A veteran in his mid-twenties, the client is missing both legs and half of his pelvis and requires use of a wheelchair 100 percent of the time. He also has a traumatic brain injury that periodically affects his hearing. Because of his injuries, family members visit often to help out and may need a place to stay for a day or two. The client enjoys skydiving and would like to pursue a career with either the Department of Homeland Security, or the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division.

The Program:

Each team was asked to design a three-bedroom single-family detached home between 2,000 and 2,500 square feet, with a study and at least two baths. The home was to be built on a lot that would accommodate a home no wider than 50 feet. It needed to include a two-car garage wide enough for a customized van and ramp. The design was required to include universal design features that would not be obvious to the owner or houseguests. In addition to the programmatic requirements, the design was to take into consideration life-cycle costs, as well as be low maintenance and energy efficient. Contestants were informed that the home was to be sited in Northern Virginia, where surrounding neighborhoods include many different architectural styles such as Colonial, Shingle, Nantucket, Modern and Craftsman. More specific criteria included planning for an eight-inch exterior wall system, 10-foot ceilings, and a finished floor no more than 16 inches above grade. Building Homes for Heroes noted that, “Most home recipients don’t want a ‘handicapped house’.” The organization wanted this to be reflected in the way the universal design features were incorporated in the home.

The Solutions:

Working with this set of guidelines, three design teams from different parts of the country were given just nine hours to complete designs that satisfied these design requirements and incorporated the personal interests and specific needs of the client.

The Design Teams:

Three teams of architects took on the challenge of creating thoughtful designs for this disabled veteran’s unique needs. They included:

Team One – Collaborative Design Group & Rocky Mountain Plan Company, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Larry Gilland, AIBD, LEED AP, NCBDC, CSI, Bernie Kern, AIBD, Jennifer Dastur, IIDA, LEED AP

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Team Two – Godden Sudik Architects, Denver, Colo.

Gary Godden, AIA, Paul Brady, AIA, Doug Walter, AIA

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Team Three – Chuck Harrison Residential Design & KDH Residential Designs, LLC.

Chuck Harrison, AIBD, Kevin Holdridge, AIBD

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After hours of debate and discussion, the judging panel named Team 3—Chuck Harrison and Kevin Holdridge—the winners, saying their design solution best met the needs of the client and also fulfilled the programmatic requirements.



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