Last week I attended a panel at the National Building Museum on the Wounded Warrior Home Project at Fort Belvoir, Va. I’d been intrigued by earlier stories on the two Michael Graves-designed prototype homes for injured veterans, and was curious to see how they’d progressed.
Graves, FAIA, spoke on the panel, and I was impressed by his easygoing manner and his obvious passion for the project. His own experience with disability (Graves is partially paralyzed) informed the designs, as did many conversations with veterans suffering from injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We wanted to make a house that was very normal,” he said. “One that didn’t scream, ‘A disabled person lives here.’” The two homes are now built and occupied, and their appealing designs indicate that Graves and his team have met that goal.
The buildings’ accommodations for disabilities are subtle and sensitive. Windows extend closer to the floor than usual, allowing residents in a wheelchair to easily take in natural light and views. Five-foot-wide corridors allow for easy turns, and bathrooms feature linear drains, which eliminate the need for shower curbs. Residents recovering from burns often have trouble controlling their body temperature, so the HVAC systems are divided into several different zones for heating and cooling customization.
Panelist Casey Nolan of Clark Realty Capital, one of the Wounded Warrior Home Project’s partners, said a major aim of the program is to raise awareness. “There’s a huge need for better accessible housing out there,” he said. “Not only for service members, but also for the aging population we have today.”