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Building the Ultimate Safe House

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the don't-forget-the-toilet-paper dept.

Security 289

Hugh Pickens writes "Candace Jackson writes that an increasing number of home builders and buyers are looking for a new kind of security: homes equipped to handle everything from hurricanes, tornadoes and hybrid superstorms like this week's Sandy, to man-made threats ranging from home invasion to nuclear war. Fueling the rise of these often-fortresslike homes are new technologies and building materials—which builders say will ultimately be used on a more widespread basis in storm- and earthquake-threatened areas. For example, Alys Beach, a 158-acre luxury seaside community on Florida's Gulf Coast, has earned the designation of Fortified...for safer living® homes and is designed to withstand strong winds. The roofs have two coats of limestone and exterior walls have 8 inches of concrete, reinforced every 32 inches for 'bunkerlike' safety, according to marketing materials. Other builders are producing highly hurricane-proof residences that are circular in shape with 'radial engineering' wherein roof and floor trusses link back to the home's center like spokes on a wheel, helping to dissipate gale forces around the structure. Deltec, a North Carolina–based builder, says it has never lost a circular home to hurricanes in over 40 years of construction. But Doug Buck says some 'extreme' building techniques don't make financial sense. 'You get to a point of diminishing returns,' says Buck. 'You're going to spend so much that honestly, it would make more sense to let it blow down and rebuild it.''

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Illegal (4, Interesting)

mrmeval (662166) | about 2 years ago | (#41863735)

It is illegal in some jurisdictions to build fortified homes. Many of the techniques listed would fall under that category. This is for the protection of the police and safety workers of course.

Re:Illegal (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863791)

It's illegal, for financial reasons.

When you have a house made of prefabs, it means that every 50 years you have to tear it down and rebuild. During that time, the land can change hands, the zoning can change as well. Which means people stand to make a lot of money buying and selling.

Then there's the fact, that, if you build a house indended to have a long lifespan, maintenance will be lower, making it much more cheaper in the long run, in essence, for an individual, it would be a bad investment, for a family though, it's something that will pass from generation to generation.

Re:Illegal (-1, Troll)

mumblestheclown (569987) | about 2 years ago | (#41864033)

you must be the gothiest goth on the whole block, deep thinker.

Re:Illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863793)

Do you have a citation? I believe an Oklahoma city has an ordinance against retrofitting a reinforced door (making it harder for police to kick in drug house doors.)

Re:Illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863897)

But that also would provide a benefit to criminals wanting to break into your house. Why not do the infeasible thing and just let citizens fortify their homes but give police officers a key to their house?

Re:Illegal (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863937)

You would really trust the government with a key to your house?

Re:Illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41864175)

Because when your house is on fire, you want the fire department to be able to enter as quickly as possible. Instead of finding the key to your house somewhere at the station, among hundreds of others, an axe works nicely as a universal door opener.

Re:Illegal (4, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | about 2 years ago | (#41864227)

Because when your house is on fire, you want the fire department to be able to enter as quickly as possible. Instead of finding the key to your house somewhere at the station, among hundreds of others, an axe works nicely as a universal door opener.

When my house is made of steel and concrete, it's not on fire. Especially with sprinkler systems to drown carpet/drapes fires.

Re:Illegal (3, Interesting)

JJJJust (908929) | about 2 years ago | (#41864245)

Well then, thank god for the Knox Box so they can just get the key from right beside the door... []

Re:Illegal (1)

ZombieThoughts (1735956) | about 2 years ago | (#41864371)

Mod parent up. A Knox Box does sound like a workable solution. Read the part about its use tripping your security system.

Re:Illegal (5, Insightful)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41863931)

Naturally, sponsored by a republican [] , the same kind that are against government regulation

Re:Illegal (5, Interesting)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | about 2 years ago | (#41864229)

Now, that's one stupid law.

Jeff Cooper (famous to some, infamous to others, "Huh?" to most) had an interesting take on home invasions. He believed that the only thing you really needed during a home invasion was time. Literally just a few seconds warning gives you time to react properly and save lives. He used to teach something along the lines of "Your home is going to be invaded through the front door by a murderous gang. Your family, including your toddler grandchildren, is spread about the house. You have two choices. First option - you have the finest, custom-built .45 ever conceived by the mind of man built by the finest 'smith in the world with cost as no object on your belt. Second option - you have a functional but generally piece of crap .32 somewhere in your pocket and ten seconds warning. Which do you choose?"

The obvious answer is to take the warning time. To that end, he had a very simple entry to his home. It was a long (about 30 feet), narrow courtyard with a heavy, cast-iron gate at the end. Visitors had to ring the bell. He would look through the peephole and if things seemed OK, step outside the door. If he didn't know you, it would be up to you to explain why you were there. If he wanted to let you in, the gate was unlocked by a lever back at the front door.

In short, if you wanted to home-invade that guy, you'd have to break down a heavy gate (providing warning) and traverse a hallway without cover (aka, a completely merciless killing zone) before you could even reach his front door.

I thought his solution was elegant and cheap. It required only a couple of adobe walls leading out from the door to his house, an iron arbor "ceiling" for the outdoor room (from which decorative plants hung), and a sturdy gate with a very simply unlocking mechanism that was, essentialy, just a doorknob that extended back 30 feet to the front door.

If I had a place in the country, I'd consider this a very reasonable way to build an entry. I like entry courtyards, anyway.

But the law you cite would (arguably, depending on circumstances) make such a design illegal.

Stupid, stupid law.

Re:Illegal (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41864317)

It shouldn't be long now, before you will have to hand a copy of your keys to the cops, or risk being charged with obstruction and resisting arrest.

Rather bunkers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863745)


Teletubbies! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863747)

I always thought the teletubbies' house looked pretty hurricane proof.

dramatic design hype (2)

harvey the nerd (582806) | about 2 years ago | (#41863749)

You don't need a nuclear bunker design to weather even a 180 mph hurricane. Less dramatic design techniques have been around a while.

Re:dramatic design hype (1)

Nyder (754090) | about 2 years ago | (#41863765)

You don't need a nuclear bunker design to weather even a 180 mph hurricane. Less dramatic design techniques have been around a while.

I think they call them cellars...

Re:dramatic design hype (2)

Zemran (3101) | about 2 years ago | (#41863903)

Cellars are a really bad idea in the event of flooding...

Re:dramatic design hype (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | about 2 years ago | (#41864003)

Which gets back to why it is an exercise in diminishing returns; site selection becomes more important, then site fortification, then building fortification. Anything like this should likely be done in layers: no damage/impact from 20-year events, cosmetic damage and minor loss of functional use for portions of the building for 100-year events, and something adequate to provide shelter and comfort when prepared for 500-year events. Think Pentagon with the rings; outermost is sacrificial in this context.

Backup power is a similar issue-- to withstand 7 days of utility outage a house might want 300 gallons of diesel. But, that diesel needs to be used within 3 months to avoid the need of polishing. So, you need to use about 100 gallons per month in your car to rotate through it. That is pretty much fuel to have around the house.

Re:dramatic design hype (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41864101)

Which is why you get your power usage down to a level where you can survive with your own solar and wind, and some batteries...

Re:dramatic design hype (4, Interesting)

Migraineman (632203) | about 2 years ago | (#41864249)

Most people don't comprehend the "layers" concept. We lost power for three solid days. I've got a 2kW inverter and four Group 31 deep-cycle batteries to power the fridge and sump pump. They will hold me for 48-hours with realistic power management. We have a 200A alternator on the garden tractor that will recharge a battery in under an hour. We used about two gallons of gasoline keeping the electricity available.

We heated two rooms (kitchen and living room) with firewood and the fireplace. We abandoned the entire second floor of the house. We purchased several suitcases of water prior to the storm's arrival (can't run the well pump with the current setup - a liability I *will* resolve.) The pantry was stocked with canned goods (i.e. baked beans, etc) that could be eaten right out of the can. We have two extra propane tanks for the gas grill. We sacrificed our normal behavior during the crisis, and had zero expectation that "business as usual" would return until well after power was restored.

If you're going to build a "survivable" residence, it needs to have a small core that's extremely energy/resource efficient. Simply adding armor to the outside might be an easy sell from the builder's perspective, but it's only one piece of the survive-the-crisis puzzle. As evidenced by the problems in NYC right now, as soon as the storm passes, your supply lines become an even bigger issue.

Re:dramatic design hype (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41863947)

I think they call them cellars...

How do you put a whole house into a cellar?

Re:dramatic design hype (3, Interesting)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#41863971)

like this [] . Yeah, humans basically figured out this problem in the Stone Age.

Re:dramatic design hype (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41864187)

Awesome. I only knew Skara Brae as a town from Ultima Online, I had no idea about the real version. Thanks.

Re:dramatic design hype (2)

louden obscure (766926) | about 2 years ago | (#41863999)

you start with a deeper hole...

Re:dramatic design hype (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#41864361)

How do you put a whole house into a cellar?

To be sure Seumas, you had the feckin' plans upside down, so you did.

Re:dramatic design hype (3, Interesting)

smpoole7 (1467717) | about 2 years ago | (#41863975)

> I think they call them cellars...

When the tornadoes came through Alabama on April 27th, 2011, I know of at least two cases where people died in nice, deep cellars. In once case, the storm that tracked through Phil Campbell, AL actually picked up a vehicle and dropped it on a family, killing everyone.

Unless you reinforce the "roof" (typically the first floor of the home) over the cellar, or take other steps to ensure that things can't fall in on you (and this includes debris from a catastrophic collapse of the house itself), a basement won't necessarily protect you from an F4 or F5 "monster" tornado.

Around here, most folks seem to prefer the separate buried shelters. They have to run in the rain and wind to get into it, but they prefer that to trusting an "interior room" or a basement.

Re:dramatic design hype (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 2 years ago | (#41863997)

Cellars fill with water.

Re:dramatic design hype (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863811)

the point is not just to survive, Mr. Know-it-all. The point, if you read a little, is to have the house survive as well.

p.s. you're a moron.

p.p.s. your parents hate you.

Re:dramatic design hype (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863895)

but your mother doesn't hate me, or at least she didn't last night when I was doing her doggy style. Those boobs were swinging up over her shoulders, I was banging so hard.

Vaastu Temple withstands 150mph (1, Funny)

lkcl (517947) | about 2 years ago | (#41863921)

there's a type of vedic architecture principles called "vaastu", the other word used is sthapatyaveda - it's thousands of years old. a temple built according to "vaastu" architecture principles has withstood tornados and wind speeds of 150mph. i believe golden mean ratio is used extensively, integrated into over *1,000* measurements of the building's dimensions and proportions.

the exact effect this sort of integrated mathematical design has on the weather is just astonishing. that california brush fire in 2003 swept across a series of plots built according to sthapatyaveda: i heard that the only homes which were damaged were those where the people who "broke the rules" by putting in a swimming pool had the fence singed. []

think about it, though: these people attribute "desire" to the "weather", but i believe there's a much more rational explanation: the extensive use of golden mean ratio in the proportions of the building setting up resonance patterns in the wind as the brush fire approached, causing pockets of air surrounding the building, against which the general direction of the fire *literally* had no quotes choice quotes but to change direction. i think it will be the same thing with that temple in india - the one that withstood 150mph winds.

of course, these days, for anyone in the building trade to quotes believe quotes that this is even remotely possible would require supercomputers and fluid dynamics analysis, none of which i believe any modern building company would of course be even slightly interested in doing, because they couldn't claim it was "their technology" with "their patents" on it. muuch better to make buster-bunker style buildings of course :)

Re:Vaastu Temple withstands 150mph (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41863991)

think about it, though: these people attribute "desire" to the "weather", but i believe there's a much more rational explanation: the extensive use of golden mean ratio in the proportions of the building setting up resonance patterns in the wind as the brush fire approached, causing pockets of air surrounding the building, against which the general direction of the fire *literally* had no quotes choice quotes but to change direction. i think it will be the same thing with that temple in india - the one that withstood 150mph winds.

I'm still not buying that house, unless it also sharpens dull razor blades and keeps fruit fresh.

Re:Vaastu Temple withstands 150mph (1)

lkcl (517947) | about 2 years ago | (#41864053)

think about it, though: these people attribute "desire" to the "weather", but i believe there's a much more rational explanation: the extensive use of golden mean ratio in the proportions of the building setting up resonance patterns in the wind as the brush fire approached, causing pockets of air surrounding the building, against which the general direction of the fire *literally* had no quotes choice quotes but to change direction. i think it will be the same thing with that temple in india - the one that withstood 150mph winds.

I'm still not buying that house, unless it also sharpens dull razor blades and keeps fruit fresh.

:) you can't: they're happy living in it, and are extremely unlikely to sell - ever. i believe you're thinking of pyramids, or perhaps voodoo magic. this is about mathematics creating standing waves in the wind that can actually turn it away. if you've seen "standing waves" on a storm wall, you'll know what this is about. now take that to 3 dimensions: it's the exact same principle.

sthapatyaveda is aslo about making a conscious choice to live a radically healthier lifestyle. it can be tough as hell to make that kind of committment: you can't just take any old house and convert it (you can, but it's nowhere near as effective). you have to pick good land and so on, and do a *complete* from-scratch build. that level of committment from people and the benefits it has on their health, not to mention being extremely proud and happy that they did something like that, it means you're very very unlikely to ever "buy that house".

Re:Vaastu Temple withstands 150mph (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41864409)

this is about mathematics creating standing waves in the wind that can actually turn it away.

You can't do that without transferring the momentum onto the object doing the "turning away". That's a simple law of conservation of momentum. You have a mass of air going in one direction and then you have the same mass of air going in a different direction. You have to exert force by something to achieve that, standing waves or not. And as per Newton's third law, the structure is still going to be stressed by the dynamic pressure, only in your case, the building will be forced into oscillations. Big win there, that's even "better".

The best safe house (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863777)

Is friends far away and the means to get to where they life.

Your fortified home needs land around it (4, Insightful)

Peter Simpson (112887) | about 2 years ago | (#41863779)

The home may survive, but if it's beachfront, you may find the distance from your bunker to the waves is a lot less when you emerge after the hurricane.

Re:Your fortified home needs land around it (2, Interesting)

lkcl (517947) | about 2 years ago | (#41863955)

The home may survive, but if it's beachfront, you may find the distance from your bunker to the waves is a lot less when you emerge after the hurricane.

yeah. i mention sthapatyaveda in another post, but the "rules" for sthapatyaveda include never putting a building in a valley, or under a cliff, or within 1 mile of any kind of large body of water. there are about 30 "rules" for choosing a site, and, when you look at them and actually think about them, they actually make a hell of a lot of sense. the one "don't pick a plot that's been abandoned by nature i.e. has no animals or birds on it" is just... well... we know that animals have more instinctive sense than humans! "don't pick a plot that has a strange smell or has unclear air" is blindingly obvious, but so many people overrule that for other considerations, and then wonder why they get sick!

as a race we can be pretty stupid, to be honest, about the kinds of things we put up with for the most... irrational reasons.

Or... go old school (5, Interesting)

MangoCats (2757129) | about 2 years ago | (#41863801)

Go old school and build a concrete dome [] . These are nothing new, very strong, and energy efficient.

Re:Or... go old school (2)

DogDude (805747) | about 2 years ago | (#41864005)

... and have a resale value of $0.

Re:Or... go old school (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about 2 years ago | (#41864021)

Alternatively, build your house with a waterproofed cellar which can hold all your valuables, then build the above-ground section Japanese style - light and cheap. If a hurricane comes along it trashes the top section which you then rebuild for £20k, repeat until you've reached the cost of a fortified bunker (probably several times your lifespan).

Re:Or... go old school (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41864261)

light and cheap.

Which will be incredibly expensive to keep warm/cool.

We'd be better off by being as energy efficient as possible.
Heating (and cooling) gobbles up about a third of all energy used.

When its done properly its possible to cut down energy consumption of new buildings by 80-95% compared to traditional buildings.
And upgrading existing buildings is something you should atleast get some calculations on.
The investment might actually pay off within 6-10 years depending on the current state of the building.
If you intend to live there for a few decades (especially for retirement?) its going to add up into a big sum of money.

Re:Or... go old school (4, Informative)

barefoot_professor (2655607) | about 2 years ago | (#41864093)

A monolithic dome [] has been on my to do list for awhile now . . .

Re:Or... go old school (2)

dugjohnson (920519) | about 2 years ago | (#41864201)

Backing up barefoot_professor on this. Monolithic domes can stand up to almost anything and are reasonably priced to construct. Now that I am living within an hour of the factory, I am thinking about taking one of their courses in dome construction...or may just buy some land and have them put one up. The only do you hide the dust bunnys in the corner?

Re:Or... go old school (4, Interesting)

Dyolf Knip (165446) | about 2 years ago | (#41864369)

You basically cannot overstate just how indestructible these things are. I visited one in Atlanta and the owner said that just a few months earlier an 18" wide tree had fallen over onto the house. This would have caused tremendous damage to any regular house, but this dome shrugged it off almost entirely, with the stump of a limb poking a 6" hole through the wall. There's that beach dome in Pensacola that survived repeated direct strikes of powerful hurricanes back in '04-'05 that just leveled every surrounding structure. The only damage it took was things like the main stairs washing away, which they were designed to do anyway. There's a story about a guy who bought a piece of land with a monolithic dome barn on it and hired a contractor to demolish it. Took the guy a solid week of whaling on it with a wrecking ball before it came down. There was a cheap knockoff version of a monolithic dome (no rebar) in Oklahoma that took a _direct_ hit by a tornado. Terribly damaged, but the structure is still intact. Lastly of course is the dome in Baghdad that served as a government office building. During the US invasion back in '03, they dropped a 5000 lb bomb on it. The bomb punched through and destroyed everything inside, but the building is still standing.

Re:Or... go old school (2)

Radtastic (671622) | about 2 years ago | (#41864291)

I don't have points or I'd mod up the professor. Monolithic domes are noted to be very energy efficient, and can withstand natural disasters quite well - earthquake / fire / wind. Plus they look cool :)

Re:Or... go old school (3, Interesting)

hot soldering iron (800102) | about 2 years ago | (#41864253)

You could also contact Monolithic Domes in Italy, TX. They practice what they preach, using concrete and steel domes for their factory buildings. They took a direct hit from an F3 tornado. They had the employees pull their cars inside, and no one even had chipped paint. They've made real strides in recent years to make their buildings blend in more with the surrounding architectures. They don't have to look like a 60's hippy commune.

I really don't understand why everyone is effectively saying, "fortified homes kill puppies!!" You guys LIKE running in the middle of the night to a shelter? Or waking up to find that a post came through the wall and killed your teen-aged daughter? I've always thought people who built little crackerbox houses were idiots. I know of AT LEAST one town in Kansas that had everyone still alive living in shipping containers for over a year because a tornado scraped the town off the earth, and they are just now finishing up infrastructure repairs to Joplin, MO after the tornado strike that ate a hospital and gutted the city. Before anyone says, "Well, they probably came off better financially after all the aid came in", I can definitively say that's crap. What aid money is out there is stretched to the limit with all the natural disasters happening, so you may not get any. When big disasters happen, it can ruin an insurance company to the point that they close their doors, and then no one gets paid. Besides, how much money would it take to let someone kill your little boy? Or your wife? Or you? How much are these lives worth to you?

I grew up in Tornado Alley in NE Texas. Our home was 1800 square feet with laminated floor beams on a full, reinforced basement on a hilltop. We eventually moved, selling the home to my uncle and his family. It's still a fortress, and helping members of the family sleep well when the tornado sirens go off.

Common sense not common. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863809)

You're going to spend so much that honestly, it would make more sense to let it blow down and rebuild it.'

Or simply not live in those environments.

Re:Common sense not common. (1)

Richy_T (111409) | about 2 years ago | (#41863919)

Don't forget to put a little aside to replace your wife and/or kids who were killed in the collapsing structure. And get some reincarnation insurance as well.

overkill... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863819)

Apparently by simply not building a square house you can weather pretty intense weather.

Um... (4, Insightful)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 2 years ago | (#41863825)

'You're going to spend so much that honestly, it would make more sense to let it blow down and rebuild it.''

Naturally, a bean-counter and an actual occupant might have different thoughts about that... :p

Re:Um... (2)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about 2 years ago | (#41864041)

I'd imagine insurance companies would be quite happy with it. Try insuring a cheap little car versus a Veyron, you'll soon find out which they consider to be the greater financial risk to them. Imagine if everyone in New Orleans lived in tents, albeit fairly luxurious ones...they'd all be back to normal by now (probably within weeks of Katrina in fact), instead there are still whole areas of condemned buildings which can't be economically repaired or rebuilt, years later.

Re:Um... (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 years ago | (#41864079)

Implicit in the "let it blow down" approach is that you are not in it.

This is what I am thinking a couple days ago watching the news reports of angry people in Staten Island complaining about the lack of assistance because their neighborhood looks like a war zone: why are you there? At least with Katrina I could see that a lot of the people who stayed didn't own a car, which also means they may not have money for a hotel room. But in the pictures of Staten Island I am seeing yachts piled up on porsches. And then 24-48 hours later (yesterday), the cavalry did arrive, and food, water, and ice are being handed out. So again my question, why ride out the storm or be the first back into the devastation afterwards, unless you are equipped to do so? Just cool your jets and get out of the way for a few days.

Re:Um... (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 2 years ago | (#41864107)

You saw images of yachts and Porsches piled up and automatically assume that meant that people who would have been able to easily leave chose not to. See the flaw in your reasoning? :)

Re:Um... (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 2 years ago | (#41864115)

Let me rephrase: not everyone who stayed behind necessarily had much of a choice, images in the media notwithstanding...

Re:Um... (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 years ago | (#41864375)

Not yet. Spell it out for me. Even a tiny home on Staten Island costs over $300,000.

They'll take.. (2)

meglon (1001833) | about 2 years ago | (#41863827)

... my refurbished nuclear missile silo behind 2000lb steel doors over my cold, dead, zombie, body!!

Re:They'll take.. (4, Interesting)

Greyfox (87712) | about 2 years ago | (#41863909)

They've been selling a lot of those to private citizens lately. IIRC they usually go for a couple million and they pull out all the interesting stuff, but you still get a couple of miles of underground tunnels designed to withstand a nuclear blast. The original generators were designed to run a year without contact from the outside world and there was room for a year's worth of food storage, too. Just put your own generators and fuel tanks in, restock the food supplies and you could hole up for damn near anything. Maybe even a civilization-devastating asteroid impact, as long as it's not a direct impact where you live.

Re:They'll take.. (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 years ago | (#41864029)

I wouldn't hole up in anything with less than four exits.

Re:They'll take.. (2)

Nimey (114278) | about 2 years ago | (#41864199)

I toured a decommissioned Minuteman control silo at Whiteman AFB fifteen years ago. One of the things they showed us was the emergency-exit tunnel, provided in case the facility took a hit and the main elevator was knocked out. As it was described to us, it was a stump that ended in the surrounding dirt, with a shovel provided so the crew could dig their way out.

I'd expect the average civilianized silo to have at least one of those, and probably more than one.

Re:They'll take.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41864223)

I wouldn't hole up in anything with less than four exits.

See? Minecraft *is* educational.

Post Diaster (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863831)

Such a structure needs to provide for the 10 - 30 days. So some sort of constant energy supply for heat, cooking, electric at basic comfort levels should be part of the design. The design should also be unobtrusive or there will be a lot of people begging at your door after a disaster.

Re:Post Diaster (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about 2 years ago | (#41864061)

Your 2ft thick reinforced concrete door?

The thing is, these buildings are being constructed for people who utterly rely on society - the waiters, the banks, the nanny, the tailor, the doctors. Sure, they'll last 30 days, but have they remembered to pack a big first aid kit and learned some medical basics? Do they know how to darn socks? Fix boots? Forage for and preserve food? Fix a car engine?

This is a classic example of a man who needs fish and buys a freezer instead of a net.

Re:Post Diaster (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41864117)

so you make sure there's room in the bunker for the servants too

Find a good architect (3, Informative)

baffled (1034554) | about 2 years ago | (#41863833)

Reinforced concrete easily beats wood-frame in strength, fire, and flood-induced mold-resistance. Find a specialist to use GFRP concrete reinforcement if you want it to last centuries. Insulate with foam for water resistance, or mineral wool if you can find a contractor for it. Look at composite or metal form deck roofing for concrete strength above your head, too. You probably want a commercial contractor if you're going all out. Find an architect that knows what they're doing. For windows, you'll want them with a minimal length in at least one dimension - short in width or height, to be secure in hurricane conditions. Even then, you'd need a specialty product if you want to resist a 2x4 flying edge-first into the window. And of course, you need high ground, a well, and a generator.

Re:Find a good architect (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#41863855)

Ah yes, a well. Which is going to be contaminated in any serious flood.

I have a well over 120 feet deep that goes through a clap cap (well, I rent a home with...) but it's still under surface influence.

You will need a large water tank.

Re:Find a good architect (1)

baffled (1034554) | about 2 years ago | (#41864059)

Good point. You can pay extra to have a deep well drilled, and you can also look at integrating a rain-water harvesting system with a large storage tank.

Re:Find a good architect (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 years ago | (#41863899)

Your window problem would be solved with steel shutters. The well should be sealed and high off the ground to prevent flood water from draining into it. The problem however, is all of your neighbors with un-protected wells into the same Aquifer. So you'll need to live rural, away from other people. Rather than High ground, I'd just not live anywhere near the coast. It's a nice place to visit but not a good place to keep all your stuff.

Re:Find a good architect (1)

Dereck1701 (1922824) | about 2 years ago | (#41864027)

"if you want it to last centuries"

Standard "reinforced concrete" will not last for centuries. The fortifications in Europe are proof of that, steel rusts INSIDE the concrete (especially in coastal areas) and eventually shatters it. Unless you stabilize the metal for the long term (power coat?, paint?, special alloys?) it will be falling apart within 70 years. As far as the windows I'd simply use standard ones and put on some good old fashioned storm shutters (made out of steal of course). Besides those cautions a concrete home is a pretty good idea, even if it is flooded, if designed correctly it can be gutted and brought up to new condition in days or weeks, not months or years.

Re:Find a good architect (1)

baffled (1034554) | about 2 years ago | (#41864377)

Note the full quote was "use GFRP concrete reinforcement if you want it to last centuries"

That is, use fiberglass reinforcement bars, not steel. Hence, no expanding accumulation of rust to crack apart your concrete.

Brick houses? (3, Insightful)

xaxa (988988) | about 2 years ago | (#41864197)

Are there any European-style brick houses in New England (or anywhere else) with extreme weather? (More extreme than Europe.) Are they robust enough?

Every house I've ever lived in has been built from two layers of brick, with either an air gap (older) or fibreglass (you call it mineral wool then?) or similar between, for insulation. I live in England, so we don't need shutters, but they're normal in some places -- generally for temperature control rather than protection. A tiled roof might not do very well in a hurricane. Some small changes (strong shutters, better-attached roof) and you're almost there...

TV reports of a house fire in Europe generally show a house with soot marks above some windows, and possibly a burnt and partially collapsed roof. They have to burn for a *long* time for walls to collapse. Flood damage means replacing all the ground-floor carpets and making sure the space under the house is dry, to avoid damp/mould. Wind damage usually means replacing a missing roof tile, but we don't get wind like America.

(For that matter, how are the big buildings in Manhattan? They're brick or concrete and presumably don't have shutters.)

Re:Brick houses? (1)

xaxa (988988) | about 2 years ago | (#41864217)

(Oh, and I didn't mention: my parent's brick house is 106 years old, one I rented in London was ~120, another ~80. As far as I know, the only maintenance necessary to the walls is to repoint the brickwork -- i.e. replace any cement that's crumbled from between the bricks. My parents did it when the house was about 100 years old, and it should be another 100 years before it needs doing again...)

Just buy an army surplus tank or armored carrier (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#41863853)

Park it in the backyard, or in the front yard, if you want to annoy the neighbors. Ride out the calamity in there. If civilization is still around, you will survive when you crawl out. If not, you probably won't want to bother to stay around much longer anyway. As the summary suggests, you might just as well plan to build a new house. Or, how about moving to somewhere with a safer climate to begin with . . . ?

Oh, and make sure your tank has Reactive Armor.

Re:Just buy an army surplus tank or armored carrie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863969)

And don't forget to get yourself a kangaroo boyfriend.

Live forever or die trying (5, Insightful)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 2 years ago | (#41864019)

Or, how about moving to somewhere with a safer climate to begin with ?

Geologically and climatologically safe places are almost always boring, empty and low-value.

Fertile soil means flood-plains, which means floods. (Hell even deserts flood every few decades.) Too flat and you can add tornadoes. Forests and parks means fire risk, trees falling in storms, etc. Good views of the sea means storms, up to and including hurricanes, along with coastal erosion. Good views inland usually means hills and mountains, which means landslides, probably earthquakes. Rivers and valleys means floods, landslides, and wild-fire funnelling. Then you've got ice storms if you're too far north, blackouts from too many air-conditioners if you are too far south, resulting in heat-deaths. (Northern hemisphere).

And, even if you pick well, you've only got a few decades of in-your-lifetime awareness of weather events to go on. A century or so if you make an effort to go into the records. That still leaves you fucked if you get a once-in-a-century (-or-three) event. Or if climate changes and makes your previously low risk site suddenly higher risk.

And that's just nature. Then you've got people. Home invasion, riots, arson, government falling, invasion, zombies...

Re:Live forever or die trying (1)

Wizard Drongo (712526) | about 2 years ago | (#41864367)

Only a century of weather? Huh?

OK, so I can't tell you average mean temperatures etc. going way back, but any sizeable storm or notable weather event (river that never freezes freezing due to really bad winter etc.) is recorded where I live going back at least until the 1600's, and before that, there are records containing reference to freak occurrences, so I know that volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes & tornadoes are quite rare here (ie. less than once per few hundred years, with the exception of the hurricanes, they're about once every 50 years)...

Not everywhere is midwest USA where westerners have only known it for a hundred + years...

Don't forget the terrorists and media pirates! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863857)

Now everybody do the propaganda.
And sing along to the age of paranoia.

Welcome to a new kind of tension.
All across the alien nation.
Where everything isn't meant to be okay.
Television dreams of tomorrow.
We're not the ones who're meant to follow.
For that's enough to argue.

Don't want to be an American idiot.
One nation controlled by the media.
Information age of hysteria.
It's calling out to idiot America.

Location location location (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 2 years ago | (#41863871)

If you have a choice of where you live, staying away from the coast, and not near an active seismic zone, and not next to a river can help.
(also some areas are less prone to tornados too.

I think if Obama is reelected there may be more missile silos up for sale too.

Makes you feel all warm and safe... (2)

Zemran (3101) | about 2 years ago | (#41863881)

... and then you catch a deadly tropical virus off one of the cashiers at Costco and die in agony as your insides turn to liquid.

My neighbor built homes like this in Florida... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863891)

He told me how they used reinforced concrete (iirc, rebar laced/laden), & the wildest part that got me, was they didn't use bolts to anchor the wall frames, but rather some sort of straps (personally, I'd have used BOTH, but money talk$).

(This was done in the interests of withstanding tropical storms...)

* Operating from memory on this, but that's what I recall from the conversation...

What "blows my mind", is this: I've been to Europe & saw castles that have stood for 2-3 thousand years, & touched their mortar. Guess what? It's STILL solid as the day it cured & dried... tells me a lot, right there - they didn't "skimp" on using the right amount of lime in it (vs. overdoing the sand part to save a buck).

The homes I saw in Poland were amazing too - they aren't little "wooden toothpick boxes", but instead, built almost SOLELY of cinder blocks filled with stones & concrete - then, they are overlaid with foam insuluation from the outside ontop of that, then a coating of some sort of veneer (cement type).

I walked around and unlike homes in the U.S., where the floors 'shudder' when I walk (I weigh ~ 220 lbs)? These homes were SOLID AS A ROCK - no perceptible movement @ all, even in the UPPER floors!

They are just built, better... better than most homes I've seen in the USA, including mine.


P.S.=> He's been a "journeyman" carpenter in the unions for 18++ yrs. now...

... apk

Re:My neighbor built homes like this in Florida... (1)

Richy_T (111409) | about 2 years ago | (#41863939)

Even brick homes in the US tend to be wooden framed and just faced in brick. The house I grew up in in the UK was brick all through even on the interior walls and the exterior walls were two layers of brick with a cavity. American mentality seems to be "quick, cheap and don't worry about 50 years down the road".

Man, have you got THAT right... apk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41864025)

Right - I grew up in a home built on the SAME principal: Dual Brick walls with a 2 ft. thick "air-gap" for insulation. The home was built right after the Civil War & is EXACTLY 100 yrs. older than I am. It was, to put it simply, pretty amazing (the folks that bought it from my father afterwards even took it farther, improving it, for the last 33++ yrs. now).

* You've got 1 thing right - in the USA? The "Holy Dollar" speaks, & these "tract-building" contractors are NOTORIOUS for "ripping off" their own staffs too (hell, one guy I know? His brother is a MULTI-MILLIONAIRE from it, & he owes his own BROTHER $4,000 still, for almost a 1/2 a decade (that I know of @ least), now...)


P.S.=> I can see doing that approach for cars though... why? Well, when I was a younger guy, & not too "economically saavy" as to how "the real world works"? I asked my father (a 45++ yr. tool & dye maker + engineer/designer) this question:

"Dad, how come the USA's car makers can't build something as durable as a Mercedes?" (which has MILLION MILE engines & cars out there & more mind you)...

He said: "Son, we EASILY could - but then, I'd be giving you my car, & you'd end up giving that same car to YOUR boy & who KNOWS how long that'd go on if the vehicle's well-maintained... the problem? How would they sell more cars, & keep people working + paying taxes?"

Made sense - product obsolescence & all that!

However, I can't see APPLYING THAT line of though to homes (the single largest things folks typically buy in a lifetime)...

Imo @ least - homes SHOULD be built well as possible!

Yes, there is cost involved IF you don't "do it yourself" - BIG cost!

My late grandfather & father built my late grandma's home & it was BUILT RIGHT - but, they did it, themselves & it's built like those homes in Poland I saw - it'll stand more than 150 yrs. is my guess, WITH EASE...

They built it themselves, I saw it going on when I was like 2-3 yrs. old, "hanging out" while the men worked (Yes, I still remember it, & I was trying to be "one of the men working", lol).

They ended up saving on the "ripoff factor" that contractors would otherwise HIT you with, IF/WHEN you cannot do it yourself of course)...

... apk

Brick (4, Insightful)

Lord Lode (1290856) | about 2 years ago | (#41863905)

Using brick instead of wood may help some. Nothing high tech about that.

Re:Brick (5, Funny)

gewalker (57809) | about 2 years ago | (#41863925)

I know some pigs that recommend brick over wood or straw in their ability to withstand winds gusts.

Re:Brick (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41864109)

I grew up in an area where hurricanes are simply known as winter. All the houses are made of brick and seldom suffer damage. The American fetish with expensive stick houses is really amazing.

Re:Brick (2)

Provocateur (133110) | about 2 years ago | (#41864143)

The American fetish with expensive stick houses is really amazing.

Indeed, and when I drive around in hurricane-prone Florida, I swear their most protective coating for hurricanes is that thin layer they call insurance.

Re:Brick (1)

Nimey (114278) | about 2 years ago | (#41864205)

Bricks are shit for earthquake resistance. I don't believe it's legal to build with brick in some earthquake-prone areas now.

Re:Brick (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41864215)

Depends, actually. Brick isn't a great choice in tremor-prone areas. Either as support walls or veneer, it tends to 'rain' fairly easily. You get a pretty hazardous flow of bricks sideways.

I liked brick a lot back east where I grew up, but out here on the west coast I much prefer a stud-frame on a reinforced concrete foundation.

'Nothing high tech'? Um, sure... I worked in renovations into the 1990s and have kept an interest. We're still learning lots about best practices. But if you like to think it's all low-tech from your armchair, carry on. You probably use a lot of car analogies too.

Onestep Wall (2)

LetterRip (30937) | about 2 years ago | (#41863951)

I used to work for a startup company that created an amazing new block design, lays up like standard masonry and has the beauty of masonry. []

Has an integrated cavity that is filled with concrete and rebar, so is ridiculously strong. And the insulation seals it against water penetration (not as well as the original design which had more internal plastic, but in the water penetration testing it stood up to hurricane force driven water without leakage.)

Also has great sound insulation, has thermal mass to the inside which drops heating and cooling costs significantly, and maintenance is fairly inexpensive.

Not sure what choice you'd use for windows, I recall seeing some that were quite amazing 10 years ago, when I last looked, but I'm sure the market has devised some even cooler stuff since.

Three little pigs and a wolf (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | about 2 years ago | (#41863959)

This really reminds me of the three little pigs and who's house survived the huffs and puffs of the wolf. I am pretty sure his house was not built out of wood. He was probably also the rich pig in the family ;)

The problem with many homes is poor location, poor choice of construction material and poor choice of architecture. We need to respect the potential fury of Mother Nature when she decides its time to remind everyone of her presence, and build accordingly.

The first thing you do is not build your house on a spit, something which is very volatile in terms of land. Neither should you build on flood plains. If you know there is some chance of hurricanes, then concrete is going to be the better building material. We can see in Japan the buildings that survived the tsunami were all built out of concrete or on higher ground. We also learnt in Thailand that you are better off putting mangroves than house on a beach front. In terms of architecture stilted homes make more sense, in flood prone areas since they will be above the flood level and therefore the damage, if any, will be much reduced.

One construction approach I had thought about as a compromise would be in a typically wooden house, was a raised concrete core, where people cold hide and keep the most precious possessions. The idea being even with damage to the outer structure, they would be above the food level and within a structure that stands a better chance of survival.

All that said, I believe we should be regulating building and insurance to discourage people building the wrong type of housing in the wrong geography, since in the end the tax payer pays every time.

Re:Three little pigs and a wolf (1)

u38cg (607297) | about 2 years ago | (#41864089)

Re your last sentence, the problem is not that insurance is regulated, it's the reverse. If people couldn't get insurance for areas that are guaranteed to flood or get blown over regularly, they might think twice about living there. Instead, the government compels insurers to cover them anyway.

Re:Three little pigs and a wolf (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41864129)

Yup, idiotic building codes are to blame for much of the trouble.

Bricks (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863989)

Use them you american weirdos.

Re:Bricks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41864311)

they don't have money to build brick housings!

#irc.trooltalk.c0m (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41864001)

Hugh Pickens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41864013)

This guy should almost work for Slashdot. Have you noticed the enormous effort that he puts to writing submissions?

Water/lava-tight basement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41864113)

That with a normal house above it should be fine for anyone, even if Apophis comes back to try enslave humanity again.

Just make sure you have the materials to build a Stargate in an emergency.

cheaper to keep her (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 years ago | (#41864159)

The most effective and cost-effective thing you can do to protect yourself in the case of some disaster (natural or man-made), is to be a useful and well-regarded member of your community, your neighborhood, your block and to look out for the people around you.

You might lay out hundreds of thousands on the sturdiest house possible and get run over by a beer truck on your way to the corner store. Or maybe no disaster ever occurs and you've spent all that money needlessly.

But being an integral part of a community and making sure your neighbors are doing well will not only keep you in good stead in case of an emergency, but will pay dividends even when there is no catastrophe.

Did nobody read the story of the Three Little Pigs? Don't you remember how the little piggy who built the sturdy brick house ended up getting jacked in the back of the head by the other piggies when he went to the corner store to pick up snacks and he ended up dying in the street because everybody hated that selfish sonofabitch?

The lesson being, if you really want to be happy and prosperous, take care of those around you and stop thinking only about yourself.

hell yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41864263)

As someone still without power after five days that's all I've been thinking about. Its very cold this morning and I'm going to have to go out and find a charge soon. Next place I live will have solar power for sure.

Ignorant (1)

koan (80826) | about 2 years ago | (#41864325)

"it would make more sense to let it blow down and rebuild it.''

When is that ever the sensible thing to do? You pay the money so you don't have to rebuild so your family and things are safe, plus what if there is nothing left to rebuild with?

I'll take the indestructible fortress over planning to "rebuild".

Round house: been done (1)

TheGavster (774657) | about 2 years ago | (#41864363)

A circular house that transfers load to a central pillar has been done: []

It's pretty awesome, but you pretty much have to go custom for all of your furniture, counters, bathroom appliances, etc.

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