My wife grew up in Oklahoma and has many friends and relatives there. So when the tornados recently started blasting through her old neck of the woods, we were getting minute-by-minute updates from folks on the ground via text messages and Facebook. Luckily nobody we know was hurt, but there were many close calls. For example her Great Aunt’s home was just 1/10 of a mile from a huge one that blasted through their town. Our prayers go out for all those that lost loved ones.
Events like this get me thinking and asking questions like – what can we do with the homes we build to reduce the loss of life & property due to the weather? The simple answer seems to be to move below ground.
I know living like a hobbit doesn’t appeal to everyone and comes with it’s own challenges, but it also solves a lot of problems. This small house design is my first stab at what a Shelter House might looks like.
In this context a Shelter House is just that – a home that doubles as a shelter. This small home design is just over 500 square feet and laid out like a one bedroom apartment. It has the usual spaces… a bedroom, bathroom, laundry closet, kitchen, and living room. But it also has a clerestory atrium tower that brings natural light in from above and provides a place to grow plants indoors. Other shelter features include a concrete & steel blast door and windows tough enough to withstand wind speeds in the triple digits.
The windows would be long narrow slits and I imagine that they would use built-up layers of thick polycarbonate sandwiched between steel frames that are anchored to the concrete walls. The walls would be core-filled reinforced concrete block with a layer of closed-cell foam sprayed on the exterior to help seal out moisture and reduce condensation.
The bedroom would be tucked deep into the hill the house is built under, and at a 90-degree angle from the main living space. This would give the bedroom even more protection from flying objects – even in the event of a nuclear blast. Yep… a natural side effect of this design is protection something as devastating as nuclear war.
The cost to build a house like this should be relative low too. Concrete blocks are cheap, about a dollar a piece. Concrete and rebar is relatively cheap too. In future posts, as this design evolves, I’ll post estimates on the cost to build a small Shelter House in case anyone wants to pursue such a project themselves.
To see how a block shelter is built read this article on How-to Build a Fallout Shelter.