Homes for Heroes: Design for the Unique Housing Needs of Military Families
By Tracy Vanairsdale
Designing homes for Alaska’s military and their families is always a true privilege for our team. Whether it’s single family homes, multi-family duplexes or triplexes, or shared housing such as single-enlisted dormitories, we understand the unique challenges all service members face. Finding solutions to those challenges leads to thoughtful design that supports the well-being and quality of life for those who serve. Creating spaces that are welcoming, safe, and functional is our ultimate goal.
Homes That Reduce the Stress of Moving
Military life often means frequent moves and there is plenty of research about moving as one of life’s most stressful events. We’ve heard stories from our own team members with military families about the challenges of moving entire households across the country. They’ve told us how after all the planning, packing, organizing, coordinating, and finally actually making the move to Fairbanks or Anchorage, walking into the unknowns of a new community and home can feel like a breaking point.
We believe in the power of design to transform those moments of anxiety into delight. Picture a welcoming front porch leading to a warm, inviting entryway with comfortable lighting and soothing colors, instantly melting away the stress. Imagine a functional floor plan that effortlessly connects spaces, creating a sense of togetherness for families. We aspire to bring these simple yet essential elements to life in our designs.
Flexibility and Alaska-Specific Design
Because military families come in all shapes and sizes, we design housing with flexible spaces to handle different arrangements of furniture and repurposing of rooms, ensuring a home can adapt to changing needs. Universally designed homes provide access and inclusivity for those of all ages and abilities. Even the smallest details, like window heights, outlet placements, and closets and pantries with ample storage, contribute to a home’s versatility. There are also unique characteristics of northern design that influence creating comfortable and functional homes for our service members.
In Alaska, homes need special features not commonly found in military housing outside of our state. For instance, an arctic entry to help keep the home clean and prevent icy blasts of air from entering the main living space during harsh winter months. A mudroom for the convenient removal and storage of coats, hats, and boots by several family members simultaneously. Black-out shades in sleeping areas for those adjusting to life in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Space in the garage for a freezer and Alaska-sized vehicles. Patios that invite families to enjoy their meals or simply relax in an outdoor environment.
Welcoming Spaces Both Indoors and Out
Solar orientation that optimizes natural daylighting is another design priority. Daylight enhances comfort and is proven to increase feelings of well-being among a home’s occupants, critical during Alaska’s darkest months. Wall colors can infuse life into the spaces, creating a friendly environment, while subtle accent colors add warmth. Attention to details like these helps ease the transition and reduce the stress of adjusting to a new living environment.
Let’s not forget outdoor spaces that bring people together and help build community. Neighborhoods can be connected with walkable pathways, and central play areas or picnic shelters give residents the opportunity to meet one another and develop friendships and social networks. These features promote healthy outdoor activity and strong communities, essential to making military bases and posts feel like home.
Designing homes for Alaska’s military families is more than architecture. It’s about creating spaces that honor the dedication and sacrifice of every service member and their family, offering comfort, functionality, and a sense of belonging. We are honored to play a part and strive to make every housing design reflect the gratitude we feel.