Vet’s ‘smart home’ almost ready

NEWPORT TWP.-The custom smart house of Kyle Hockenberry has started to take shape.

Hockenberry is a 2010 Frontier High School graduate who lost both legs above the knee and his left arm above the elbow in a 2011 blast from an improvised explosive device while on foot patrol for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.

The house is being constructed by Building for America’s Bravest, a program of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

Hockenberry said there have been a few snags during construction in the winter months.

“We ran into a lot of different problems,” he said. “It’s just been little different things, like getting material here. It hasn’t been anything too major. The (winter) weather’s been a huge factor. For a while (the house) didn’t have heat or anything and it was in the negatives for a while.”

Hockenberry said work has been progressing quite a bit since the start of warmer weather.

“All the paint’s on the walls, the first layer,” he said. “They’ve got all the lights hung up and they have power.”

Robyn Spataro, interior designer for Copper Leaf Interior Design Studio, said work has been progressing pretty quickly.

“It’s been coming along great,” she said. “It’s moving as smoothly as it possibly can.”

Copper Leaf has helped with materials, flooring and countertops and even helped plan the plumbing.

“We worked with the (Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers) Foundation to make sure the grab bars, faucets and sinks are where (Hockenberry) can reach,” Spataro said. “(The stove) can be lowered so he can cook as well. There are definitely some specialty items in the house.”

In fact, Frank Siller, chairman of the foundation, said the items in the smart house are pivotal, including an elevator, moving stove top and a microwave in a drawer.

“What we do in all these homes is we put in features that can be worked off of a remote control, an iPad or some switch,” Siller said. “(The stove is) at a normal height to you and me, but if Kyle is in his wheelchair, he can go make something on the stove without asking for help. The kitchen cabinets do the same thing. The shelves come down and he’ll be able to get a plate, pot or pan down to make whatever. It’s a very important thing so he doesn’t have to ask for help.”

Siller said it was great to be able to help someone like Hockenberry.

“He deserves it,” he said. “He’s paid a big price for his country and his community rallied in such a beautiful way.”

Hockenberry said it was hard to speculate when the work would actually be finished on the house.

“We’re saying the end of May, if everything goes as planned,” he said, adding that every time he goes to the house something noticeable has been done to it.

He and his wife, Ashley, are really looking forward to being able to move in.

“We’ve been waiting for a while,” he said. “It’s been frustrating, but we’re both really excited…It’s been a long time coming; it’s been a year and about a month since they broke ground.”

Hockenberry said the house is huge, but will eventually be filled up.

“It’s a 6,600 square foot house,” he said. “It’s too big almost for us…We’re probably going to have kids eventually, so it’ll be nice to have the space.”