I am writing this post because this happens to be the topic of my Methods case study assignment.

We as humans have care, sympathy, and goodwill in our heart. There are a lot of initiatives which come out of this kind of feelings. The Wounded Warrior home project is one of it. It is a collaborative effort taken by Clark Realty, IDEO, and Michael Graves and Associates, to build accessible and comfortable homes for the wounded soldiers. To get a glimpse of the project, look at the video below.

The wounded warrior home project is a great initiative which is undertaken for the betterment of the lives of the wounded warriors. It shows a very humanist approach how can we apply design for the good of humanity. As it has so much positive associated with it, I will need your help to build the critique on it and if I speak a lot positive about it I may miss some negative aspects of it. I will need your help for finding those. By this I don’t really mean that there can be any negative aspects, but no design is perfect. There always is space for betterment.

Clarke Realty partners with the US Army to build homes for soldiers. They had a vision to build homes for wounded warriors which can help them to return to their normal lives. They partnered with IDEO and Michael Graves and Associates to carefully understand the physical, mental and emotional needs of the soldiers, and give them homes which will make their life more comfortable. IDEO did user research in form of contextual inquiries by interviewing and observing 10 civilians and 20 injured service members, and about a dozen of experts in the field to understand the needs of the people who will stay in these homes. These are not only the warriors, but also their families living there which made them realize that there is not just one wounded warrior and a specific set of problems and challenges, they are very complex and interrelated. Based on this they found out seven dualities which which can inform a design for a life worth living for them. Those are,

  • Well-Defined, Undefined Spaces
  • Mobile Roots
  • Inside Out, Outside In
  • Visible and Invisible Security
  • Social Privacy
  • Uniquely Normal
  • Old Self, New Self

you can read about those dualities and the project here.

These homes have a lot of features like RFID reader for the front door for people with dexterity issues so that they don’t need to play with keys, storage and charging space for wheelchair/ prosthetic limbs, the kitchen sink that lowers itself, better accessible bathrooms, 12 thermostat to tailor the temperature in each room for people that have trouble regulating their temperature, sustainable energy efficient appliance, rooms and corridors that are easy to navigate and corners for wheelchairs to easily turn. There are also markings on the floor which guide people with brain injuries. The ambient light is designed to get as much natural light as possible not giving the homes a hospital like appearance. A question which strikes me is can living in a home like this constantly remind you of your disabilities? For example, all those markings on the floor, wont they remind the people living inside that he/she is not normal and their way of life is altered. What is good, to make them realize that their life is altered and they have to adjust to it, or to make things such that they, whenever possible, should forget about their disabilities? What approach can you see in this particular design?

The designers have well thought of these homes to be accessible and they say that they have made this home as a prototype which can be used to inform the design homes for the elderly and special people. Although, it seems that though these can make their life better, how many of such people, which don’t have any funding, can afford to purchase such homes? They designers say that they didn’t want to take an incremental approach, instead they wanted to build entire new homes. Why didn’t they thought of completely changing their old homes, with which the warriors have lot of memories associated? They do explain the problems with the old homes that the old homes lack space and not suitable for people with wheel chairs, but isn’t there any scope? Won’t this approach be more efficient and economical to implement?

The people living in this houses will indeed feel very nice in this homes. They are getting all the thing very accessible and there is no compromise in their comfort. Their physical, mental, and emotional needs are well taken care of. Few of the people visiting this homes say that anyone would like to stay in homes like this. The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research is funding a five-year longitudinal study of the two prototype homes by the University of Buffalo’s Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access. The intent is for these homes to act as living laboratories in order to generate feedback and answers to questions such as: How customizable should each unique space within a home be? How might kitchens and social spaces be leveraged by different members of a wounded warrior household? Clark Realty will use this insights from the families living these homes to inform future developments making it an evolving and agile development process. This can be a really good approach to get insights about the actual use of the homes and can definitely inform further design, but this can also make the people living inside the homes feel like mere subjects for research and that, at some point of time, make them feel like being used because of their disablement.

In conclusion, it indeed is a very great project and idea to come of with something for making lives of wounded warriors better, but what approaches of research are rational? What else do you think can be done in a better way? If you were to design these homes, what would have been your take?