When the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse approach, to where will you retreat? If this seems like a relevant question, it’s likely you’re the type who—for reasons too complex to get into here—enjoys imagining disaster scenarios. But it’s only fun if you survive the apocalypse, and that requires a well-fortified home base.
When it comes to major emergencies, conventional houses’ traditional nods toward protection—such as fences, security-alarm systems, and gated communities—are for chumps. If you plan to survive a wide-scale disaster, you’re going to need a shelter fit for holding off the beasts and roaming marauders, not to mention the coming of hell and/or high water.
It’s impossible for any one structure to be impenetrable to every potential crisis, so emergency-minded homebuilders and buyers have to pick some favorites and hope they choose correctly.
The best disaster-ready homes are the ones that cover as many dangerous scenarios as possible and allow for ongoing survival, such as self-sufficient structures capable of generating their own power, and growing or catching food. On the other end of things, bomb shelters and panic rooms are limited survival plans, in that you must be able to leave the structure and return to a livable outside world. If that’s not an option, once you exhaust the supplies, these spaces become literal dead ends. With that thought to warm your heart, click ahead to see houses with differing styles of disaster preparedness.
By Colleen KanePosted July 8, 2011
Location: Near Warsaw, Poland.
The Safe House converts from a house to a bunker in minutes. Although this walled-in home, depicted here and on the first slide, has been suggested elsewhere as a refuge in the event of a certain in vogue—and thus far, fictional—disaster scenario, a representative from the Polish architecture firm KWKPromes emphasizes its functionality and practicality. Robert Konieczny designed the contemporary concrete structure with retractable walls for a private client, with the intention of maximum safety.
Location: Winchester, Wis.
Let’s take a moment to list how many survival factors that this unique property on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has in its favor:
Oh, and the $18 million property consists of a grand lodge on a private island surrounded by private nature preserve. The home was designed by a German architect who built homes for some of Milwaukee’s beer barons. Also on the premises is a utility room for fish cleaning and a minnow holding tank, storage for boats and vehicles, a 1950s-era bomb shelter, and the all-important backup generator capable of powering everything on the island for more than a week. The island has a two-bedroom cabin to house a lucky few post-apocalypse hangers-on.
Location: Everywhere, but they seem to be especially popular in Los Angeles.
The safe room or panic room is like a modern answer to a fallout shelter, and are found in homes of the rich, famous and hated personalities. It’s typically a windowless space with a fortified door, communications equipment to call for help, and supplies.
With no less than 103 rooms, five swimming pools, and 250 tons of marble, including a heated marble driveway, the neoclassical mega-mansion Updown Court, pictured here, might be more likely to be the cause of the end of the world, rather than a refuge to ride it out. But it does offer a panic room that is probably big enough to host a dance party, and some other handy features for any emergency-minded buyer with $123 million to burn, including a 24-hour security lodge, an underground garage, a private helipad, and 58 acres of private woodland.
Location: Everywhere—though you’d never know it.
In recent years, decommissioned underground defense bunkers have enjoyed a renaissance as nontraditional homes. For some underground bunker-dwellers, updating their new homes is a DIY project. Others might buy a bunker right off the real-estate market, such as this one in Scotland or this one in England.
There’s even a company that specializes in selling missile bases called 20th Century Castles, with properties ranging from $260,000 to the one pictured here, which is $4.6 million. This Atlas F site is in upstate New York’s Adirondack State Park and includes an attractive 2,000-square-foot log home for those hopefully plentiful times when the owner does not need to hole up in the 2,300 square-foot underground living space. For the other times, it will be comforting to know there’s also an airstrip on-site, and the on-site power generator will come in handy.
Location: Everywhere, though earthships originated in Taos, N.M.
Even the most extensive stocks of canned goods eventually run out, and gas-powered generators are going to keep sucking gas. Therefore, off-grid houses, where the occupant can collect water, grow and catch food, and independently generate power, make an attractive prospect for the post-Apocalyptic lifestyle.
Earthship homes, made of recycled materials, are typically powered by an abundant resource, passive solar energy. They utilize collected rainwater and are located mostly underground, to naturally regulate the temperature, and are heavily insulated. The home depicted here is 5,400 square feet and is selling in New Mexico’s Greater World Earthship Communityfor $1.75 million. A 3,140-square-foot Earthship in Taos, N.M., is on the market for $495,000, including a wind turbine and 6,000 gallon water storage capacity.
Location: Santa Barbara, Calif.
Clients designing a home, particularly in areas prone to wildfires, would prefer to not have their homes burn down. (No one does, really.) But when striving to create a fireproof house, "there’s no magic bullet," Robin Donaldson of Shubin + Donaldson Architects told The Architect’s Newspaper. "We learned it takes a combination of factors to achieve a house that will survive," he said.
Donaldson should know, because his project The Riviera Residence was the only surviving structure of the 2008 Santa Barbara Tea Fire. Some of the design factors that contributed to it’s fire-safe state include flat roofs, use of fire-resistant materials, such as plaster, stone, and metal; and windows that are triple-laminated and glazed windows with metal frames along with copper-lined and edged eaves. The property’s landscape design, featuring fire-resistant plants and other plants vulnerable to fire located a safe distance from the house, is also credited with prevention of the spread of the fire.
Monolithic domes have a following, as evidenced by websites such as Monolithic.com, which states that these concrete domes are approved by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide "near-absolute protection and proven ability to survive tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, most manmade disasters, fire, termites and rot." They’re energy-efficient and cost-efficient super-buildings.
The Dome of a Home, pictured here, in Pensacola, Fla., survived a direct hit from Hurricane Katrina, and numerous other tropical storms and hurricanes. After storms, the dome home’s lack of fiberglass insulation, and use of non-absorbent sheetrock, eliminates the often more devastating post-storm problem of mold and mildew.
It worked for various Hobbits, and it works in reality. "Earth sheltering" uses a cover of earth for energy efficiency—the old "cool in summer, warm in winter" motivation that explains why people have lived fully or partially underground and in caves since ancient times. It’s not for everyone, but still appeals today to those with a desire to go off-grid or rely less on conventional utilities.
Bastrop, Texas-based R.C. Smoot Construction specializes in building earth-sheltered structures, such as the one pictured here in Missouri. Like the monolithic domes, Smoot’s dome-topped structures are made from concrete, and they are expected to last more than a century, and maybe much longer. The company claims its homes are resistant to earthquake, fire, intruders, and they offer protection from nuclear fallout.
Location: Most common in the Southeast and the Midwest's "Tornado Alley."
In-ground rooms known as storm cellars are the preferable alternative to a basement when seeking shelter from a twister or other severe storm, because they’re much safer from a collapsing house or rubble. The door is typically angled up, not flush to the ground, so any rubble is easier thrown off when people inside need to get out.
It’s an older concept, but they’re still necessary, as evidenced in May when a storm cellar saved the life of an Alabama couple during a tornado, while their neighbors perished. And so the properties of modern homes, including the Edmond, Okla., mansion pictured here, still feature storm cellars.
Location: Stinson Beach, Calif.
This home is located in a flood and seismic zone in Stinson Beach, Calif., and an article about it in Dwell magazine describes the structure as resistant to floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, even the rise of sea levels. By regulation, the house had to be elevated 12 feet and living space is restricted to 450 square feet (it’s 350 square feet). This design is distinguished from its neighbors on the beach, in that it relies on a "floating" concrete foundation, rather than using piers rooted deep in the ground. Architects Matthew Peek and Renata Ancona of Studio Peek Ancona designed it, including retractable flood walls, hoping to apply the lessons in other flood-and-storm-prone areas.