Gary Sinise Foundation Grants Veteran Specially Adapted Custom Smart Home

R.I.S.E. Program Dedicates Smart Home to Corporal Christian Brown
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The living room of Corporal Christian Brown's new smart home

Corporal Christian Brown enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 2009 and served 15 months in Afghanistan on his first tour of duty. A year after his return home, Brown was called back to Afghanistan as a squad leader. Brown led 163 combat missions and was promoted to Corporal during his deployment. While leading his squad on foot through the city of Kajaki, Corporal Brown stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED), sustaining severe internal injuries and the loss of both legs. After almost a month in a drug-induced coma, Corporal Brown persisted through countless surgeries and physical rehabilitation, ultimately returning home to live in Tennessee.

The Gary Sinise Foundation learned about Corporal Brown’s service and selected him as a recipient of a specially adapted smart home through the organization’s Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment (R.I.S.E.) Program. With help from corporate sponsors likeCore Brands, a Nortek company, the foundation was able to greatly assist Brown’s lifestyle, helping him regain his independence.

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An example of the control panels installed throughout the home

According to the director of operations for the R.I.S.E. program Scott Schaeperkoetter, “The ultimate goal was to give Christian as much independence as possible. The unique design and flow of the home allows Christian to maneuver around his home with ease.” All of the hallways and main areas of the home are designed to be a minimum of five feet wide, allowing Brown to move around the home in his wheelchair.

The master bathroom and bedroom were also designed for ease of use. “Christian’s master suite was specially adapted to meet his needs,” sad Judith Otter, executive director of the Gary Sinise Foundation. “The oversized bedroom means that Christian can easily navigate his room; the master bathroom is also generous in size, so that Christian can safely use all aspects. As Christian will be living alone, safety and the guarantee of independence were extremely important considerations in this project.”

Beyond the home’s layout, an AV and automation system was installed around anELAN Entertainment and Control System designed and installed by Electronic Environments of Memphis, TN. Through the ELAN system, Brown can, from one location, operate the home’s PulseWorx lighting, thermostat, Q Motion window shades, security cameras and video recorder from Nortek Security & Control, automated door locks, and a Holovison doorstation integrated with ELAN Intercom. “The ELAN system is very easy to use,” said Tim Bell, owner of Electronic Environments. “I only showed Christian the ELAN system’s features once, and he was ready to operate the home!”

To protect the system, a Panamax M4315-PRO power management system with BlueBOLT technology was installed into the rack. This is not only to protect the system from power surges, but it also allows Bell and his team to monitor all connected equipment remotely. “We install power management systems into all of our projects,” Bell added. “With a system this extensive, it’s important to protect the investment to make sure everything continues to operate, even through bad weather.” 

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Another view of the home's living room

The installed technology was carefully designed and integrated to enhance the quality of Brown’s daily life. With a six-zone multi-room audio controller, Brown can listen to his music library through Niles and Sunfire speakers and subwoofers throughout his entire home, including his new in-home woodworking shop. “We wanted to create a home that allowed Christian to pursue his passions,” Schaeperkoetter continued. “His new home features a dedicated woodworking shop so that Christian can easily pursue his hobbies in an area that provides maximum mobility and comfort. Since hunting and fishing are a major part of Christian’s life, he also uses this shop to make duck calls, which he then sells.”

Although there are many costs associated with building a specially adapted custom smart home, the organization’s sponsors have helped reduce the overall costs, according to Otter. This allows the organization to maximize the impact of donations and build additional homes for wounded heroes and their families.

“My favorite part of this entire project was being able to hand over the iPad to Christian and seeing the excitement on his face,” Bell added. “I know that this home automation system is going to better his life and make daily tasks much easier.”

The Gary Sinise Foundation honored Corporal Christian Brown’s bravery and service to the United States during a home dedication ceremony held on April 21, 2016 in Munford, Tennessee.

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