Richard Castaldo's new home, custom-built by the Colorado Home Builders Foundation, incorporates a few non-standard items. A high-tech electronics system, including the latest network and telephone outlets, cable modem connections, infrared controls and automated digital plumbing control augment, the standard handicapped-accessible features such as zero-step entrances and wide passage hallways.
Castaldo, an 18-year-old who was permanently restricted to life in a wheelchair after being shot during the Columbine tragedy, received the home from the Builders Foundation. Time Direct, a Colorado-based design firm, installed the completely automated, voice-controlled home environment as a charitable donation. The firm received the 2000 Mark of Excellence Award for Best Specialty Home from the Home Automation Association for their design.
Castaldo isn't the only one receiving a new home, either. International charitable association Habitat for Humanity built another home in Lakewood, Colo. as a memorial for John Tomlin, a student who lost his life during the shooting at Columbine. The memorial home now houses the Cruz family of six, who previously resided in a two-bedroom apartment. The memorial home was sponsored by Chevrolet after representatives at the company heard that Tomlin's favorite pastime was driving his truck.
"This worthwhile project was an opportunity to pay tribute to the Tomlin family, students and friends of Columbine as well as provide an opportunity to a family who deserves better conditions in which to live and raise a family," said Tanya Hayes, spokesperson for Chevrolet.
Habitat for Humanity homes are built by volunteers with monetary and material donations. Homes are either built or rehabilitated with the help of the homeowner-to-be families and local builders and remodelers. The average Habitat house costs $37,600. The homes are sold to partner families at no profit, financed with no-interest loans.
Most Habitat for Humanity-built homes are designed for simplicity and affordability, generally using wood frame construction with Gypsum board interior walls, vinyl siding and asphalt shingle roofs. But not all habitat homes are the same. Often, builders and manufacturers use the donated homes as outlets for creativity with material usage or design, as illustrated by the Castaldo voice activated design.