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Building the Ultimate Safe House 289

Posted by timothy
from the don't-forget-the-toilet-paper dept.
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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Building the Ultimate Safe House

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  • Illegal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrmeval (662166) <mrmeval@NOSPam.gmail.com> on Saturday November 03, 2012 @08:30AM (#41863735) Journal

    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 (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2012 @08:42AM (#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.

    • by xenobyte (446878) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @12:30PM (#41865059)

      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.

      The police? - So you're saying that a drug dealer would be breaking the law if he fortified his home? - Yes, that will truly be a big problem as he's obviously a law-abiding citizen to begin with. Seriously?

      It is the same stupid reasoning we see again and again: Let make it illegal so we can keep it out of the hands of the criminals because they really care about the law, being criminals to begin with... Doh!

      Let people fortify their homes. Any fortification can be broken so if the police need to make a raid they need to do the right thing to enter, not the usual.

      Here's a reverse example from real life. A company specializing in handling large amounts of cash for major retail businesses was located in a fortified industrial building they shared with a package distributor. Their own part had impenetrable steel doors, thick walls etc. but some very clever thieves knew that the wall inside the building between the two companies was not reinforced. So one day they smashed through the gate to the package distributor, through the gate to the inside of the building and on through the wall to the money company. There they helped themselves to everything and made away with many millions. The thieves have since been caught but the money is gone...

      The morale of the above story is that even the most professional people will leave gaps in the security, and if you really want to enter there's always a way. Maybe you need to crash through the living room wall or down through the roof - but there is a way.

      The castle builders of the middle ages were among the best in physical security and some castles withstood many centuries of attacks, but none has ever not been penetrated at the end. They were all defeated, often through an inside job, a sneak penetration or similar. Most had escape tunnels that could also be used for supplies in case of a long siege, and if they were revealed by the attackers, a few men could enter and kill or kidnap some key people from the castle, and then the game would be up and the castle defeated.

    • by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @03:13PM (#41866537) Homepage Journal

      Screw them. The only reason they would be entering my house would be if they were committing an illegal act and they would have bigger problems. I shoot intruders on the spot.

      Why should i make it easy for them to violate my rights?

  • by harvey the nerd (582806) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @08:33AM (#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.
    • by Nyder (754090) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @08:34AM (#41863765) Journal

      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...

      • by Zemran (3101) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:08AM (#41863903) Homepage Journal

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

        • by aaarrrgggh (9205) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:36AM (#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.

          • by Migraineman (632203) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @10:27AM (#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.
            • by Lumpy (12016) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @01:58PM (#41865807) Homepage

              Why buy water? why not buy 5-6 5 gallon food grade clean buckets and fill them yourself, saves a lot of money and gives you far more water. go fancy and the the 7 gallon pails with a spigot at the bottom from your local beer brewing store. I would rather have the pails as I can get my water supply set from a faucet 1 hour before the world ends instead of having to fight my neighbors who are in panic mode at the store.

              Also a kerosene heater is also safe to use inside with venting. better choice for those that don't have a fireplace. 1, 5 gallon can of kerosene can heat the living space for over 1 week if used properly. And kerosene stores for years without degrading.

              Lastly, CASH is important to have in your pantry. About $200-$500 in all small bills. NYC residents are discovering that ATM machines and credit card terminals dont work and cash is king.

      • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:24AM (#41863947)

        I think they call them cellars...

        How do you put a whole house into a cellar?

      • by smpoole7 (1467717) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:30AM (#41863975) Homepage

        > 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.

        • by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @03:18PM (#41866587) Homepage Journal

          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.

          Tunnels that connect these to your basement are not all that hard to add. You can then quickly and safely head to it from the house. Of course you still want another way out in case your house does totally collapse, so you are not trapped in the shelter.

      • by Joce640k (829181) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:34AM (#41863997) Homepage

        Cellars fill with water.

    • by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:13AM (#41863921) Homepage

      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. http://www.wereldvrede.nl/sthapatyavedafantastic.htm [wereldvrede.nl]

      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 :)

      • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:32AM (#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.

        • by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:48AM (#41864053) Homepage

          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".

  • by Peter Simpson (112887) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @08:38AM (#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.
    • by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:26AM (#41863955) Homepage

      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 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MangoCats (2757129) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @08:43AM (#41863801)

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

    • by DogDude (805747) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:37AM (#41864005) Homepage
      ... and have a resale value of $0.
    • by History's Coming To (1059484) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:41AM (#41864021) Journal
      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).
    • by barefoot_professor (2655607) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:59AM (#41864093)
      A monolithic dome [monolithic.com] has been on my to do list for awhile now . . .
      • by dugjohnson (920519) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @10:18AM (#41864201) Homepage
        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 problem...how do you hide the dust bunnys in the corner?
        • by Dyolf Knip (165446) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @10:45AM (#41864369) Homepage

          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.

      • by Radtastic (671622) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @10:34AM (#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 :)
    • by hot soldering iron (800102) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @10:28AM (#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.

  • Um... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Type44Q (1233630) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @08:47AM (#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

    • by History's Coming To (1059484) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:45AM (#41864041) Journal
      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.
    • by timeOday (582209) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:54AM (#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.

  • by meglon (1001833) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @08:48AM (#41863827)
    ... my refurbished nuclear missile silo behind 2000lb steel doors over my cold, dead, zombie, body!!
    • Re:They'll take.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Greyfox (87712) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:11AM (#41863909) Homepage Journal
      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.
  • by baffled (1034554) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @08:49AM (#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.

    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday November 03, 2012 @08:53AM (#41863855) Homepage Journal

      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.

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:07AM (#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.
    • Brick houses? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by xaxa (988988) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @10:16AM (#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.)

      • by xaxa (988988) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @10:21AM (#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...)

      • by baffled (1034554) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @10:57AM (#41864437)

        I misspoke - meant rockwool, not mineralwool, though it seems some consider the terms interchangeable. Rockwool is unaffected by moisture unlike fiberglass, and it also has higher heat resistance. I wouldn't place fiberglass in that gap due to the potential for moisture intrusion.

        Brick is similar to concrete in its durability and fire-resistance, but reinforced concrete is much stronger than brick. Concrete also doesn't require any maintenance, unlike mortared brick/block. Brick also doesn't require forms or concrete trucks to install.

  • 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.

    • by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:41AM (#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...

      • 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...

        • by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @12:58PM (#41865301)

          As the shouty coward says, I meant the understanding most people have about their local area from common experience and easily accessed non-specialist records.

          Or to put it in a more suitably snarky way: Go on then, smart-ass, tell me. Did you actually do that research before you moved there?

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

          That's actually my point. The reason certain areas were settled was because they had deep harbours (tectonically active, prone to storms), rivers (major flooding), minerals/coal from mountains (tectonically active, plus landslides in storms), forests for lumber (wildfires, disease), or fertile soil (any of the above). There's a reason so many people in the world live near volcanoes (usually the most fertile soil in the area).

          The places that were interesting or useful are the same places that are risky.

          I doubt there are many places in the US that have a large enough population for jobs/opportunities, but low climate/geographic risk, and have records going back far enough to prove it, purely because those places were the last places to be settled.

          • And *my* point was that not everywhere is in America; I said mid-western USA since I'm guessing the east coast and even california etc. have records going back at least 200 years. But I live in Scotland. I know what the weather was like, in broad terms, 1000 years ago. There are battle accounts of a nearby battlefield between the Gaels and the Norse, proclaiming how it was extraordinarily cold for the time of year, as it was May and there was still a bitter frost.

            Not everywhere is in the US, not everywhere thinks 100 years is a long time.

            Where I am, aside from a lot of rain which brings with it a minor flooding element (but actually, not major, just a case of bad drainage), the climate/geophysics are very stable here. No earthquakes over a 2 on the richter scale, no volcanoes for 1000 miles, no tornadoes recorded of more than F-0, we have an occasional bad winter but it rarely blizzards (at least where I am), and rarely (once every 10 years or so) drops below -10C, so it's liveable. And that's stable over the last millenia or so. Sure, temperatures took a dive during the so-called mini-ice age in the 1600's to 1800's, and the recovery from that has often been used as evidence of climate change. Not sure it is, but it's interesting Loch Lomond used to freeze every winter, enough that you could drive a car on it in the 1960's, and has not even froze over since the late 80's, so clearly some change happening...
            That aside, we're pretty stable, and I can see that going back at least 1000 years.

  • by rossdee (243626) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:01AM (#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.

    • by westlake (615356) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @11:35AM (#41864663)

      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.

      The big city and the well-paying job tends to found where where trade, transport and communication is easy and affordable.

      The Erie Canal linked an ambitious and prosperous New York City to the Great Lakes and the Midwest. New Orleans had the Mississippi, the Missouri and Ohio to draw upon.

      If your interests lie in grain and cattle and you will likely be thinking about settling the Great Plains. The miner heads for the mountains. The fisherman for open water.

  • by Zemran (3101) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:03AM (#41863881) Homepage Journal

    ... 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.

    • Tropical Diseases? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Tenebrousedge (1226584) <tenebrousedge AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday November 03, 2012 @11:10AM (#41864513)

      When you say that, I immediately think of Dengue fever. [wikipedia.org] It's a hemorrhagic fever with four serotypes: fun for the whole family. Unlike most diseases where catching one variant grants immunity to the others, with dengue you end up with *less* protection from the other variants. I like to think of it as "Ebola Lite", except by the time you've had it a couple times you may not appreciate the distinction.

      You can get worse things without having to make the trip to the tropics: MRSA [wikipedia.org] will make your insides become your outsides at a shockingly rapid pace, and tends to cause permanent scarring in survivors. It's commonly found in hospitals! Fun fact: About half the US states do not require hospitals to report statistics on Hospital-Acquired Infections. [hospitalinfection.org]

      I've had both (within the last year or so -- may you live in interesting times). MRSA is worse, and lots closer to home. For all the hue and cry about salmonella, only about 30 people die per year from it. In 2005, over eighteen thousand people died [webmd.com] from MRSA -- it has a greater annual death toll than AIDS.

      If I had to pick which infection to get again, I'd probably go with "Ebola Lite". That should tell you something.

      The question of why MRSA gets less press than other diseases is left as an exercise to the reader. Support legislation on hospital infection statistics!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:06AM (#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.

    APK

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

    ... apk

  • Brick (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Lode (1290856) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:08AM (#41863905)

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

  • by LetterRip (30937) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:25AM (#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.

    http://onestepbuildingsystem.com/what-is-onestep.html [onestepbui...system.com]

    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.

  • by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:26AM (#41863959) Homepage Journal

    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.

    • by u38cg (607297) <calum@callingthetune.co.uk> on Saturday November 03, 2012 @09:57AM (#41864089) Homepage
      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.
      • by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @11:48AM (#41864739) Homepage Journal

        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.

        Oh, that is crazy. I was hoping for something in terms of the opposite. Buildings should be receive a disaster risk rating, such that people can make informed decisions and accept whatever penalty comes with it. Imagine the rating goes from A-F, with A being lowest risk rating. If something happens there then you get an increased rate of protection, if you get get F then you should be paying a tax surcharge as a way of compensating the government for when the finally have to bail you out.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @10:09AM (#41864159) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by TheGavster (774657) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @10:44AM (#41864363) Homepage

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

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dymaxion_house [wikipedia.org]

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

  • by Tom (822) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @11:08AM (#41864499) Homepage Journal

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

    Because people who are rich enough to own homes like that wouldn't ever have anything inside that is as valuable as the house, and maybe more (paintings, artwork, stuff like that).

    Not to mention emotional values.

  • A square house made of sticks does not stand up to high winds. For that you need a concrete dome [monolithic.com] made by the folks at Monolithic.

  • by minstrelmike (1602771) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @12:28PM (#41865035)
    It is easy to design a house to withstand multiple types of disasters.
    However, the pampered rich will not buy them.
    If you entertain, you cannot have a long entryway to repel home invaders.
    If you want a view of the water or mountains or whatever, you need to carve holes in the sturdy walls in put in windows that _will_ fail when the wind gets strong enough. And most emergency preparedness is not a one-time thing. It is the maintenance of keeping batteries charged and an emergency food supply up-to-date and having sufficient -liquid- gasoline (it jells over time).

    That said, those homes will sell for the same reason folks bought/built nuclear shelters in the 1960s. Fear and lack of foresight. (And the homes will only -appear- to withstand multiple disasters up until the time one actually occurs because they will have windows that fail and homeowners who don't understand generators and a house staff that will stay at their own homes instead of show up during a disaster to take care of white folks who probably vote Republican.)
  • by johanw (1001493) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @12:37PM (#41865137)
    When I see pictures of the storm damage, I notice most houses in the USA seems to be built of wood. No wonder they are not storm resistant, did they forgot the story of the 3 little pigs and the wolf? In the part of Europe I live almost all houses are built of stone, storms do cause damage but you never get complete villages completely crashed. Wood is used for garden small homes, not for the house you normally live in.
  • by evilviper (135110) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @12:48PM (#41865225) Journal

    You don't need to go nuts to get a home that'll survive massive destruction.

    Wood-framed homes are plenty strong to survive massive destruction. The failures happen where the various frame pieces join together, hence the Hurriquake nail designed just for this purpose: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HurriQuake [wikipedia.org]

    Secondly, I've seen the aftermath, and heard from residents, and you get a pretty clear map of what works and what doesn't... The houses destroyed are the ones that didn't have steel shutters... all the the surviving houses have steel shutters on them. Those big pieces of plywood you see people attaching just aren't nearly strong enough (without extra framing), and your home is long gone the instance the envelope is compromised.

    Build your home with hurriquake nails, and have steel shutters installed, and your home will handle immense forces, without needing massive design compromises that make the resale value about zero.

  • by pubwvj (1045960) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @12:54PM (#41865275) Homepage

    It doesn't have to be expensive to build a house than can withstand hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, fire, etc. Nor does it have to be very large. Our family's home cost only $7K to build and is a comfortable 252 sq-ft for five people. We built it in two months by ourselves - just about anybody could do it.

    As an added bonus, our house's 100,000 lbs of masonry (stone, brick and concrete) stores heat very well so the house is cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Even without auxiliary heat the house stays above 45ÂF in the dead of winter here in the mountains of northern Vermont when it is -25ÂF outdoors for extended periods. We burn a mere 0.75 cord of maple hardwood a year in our wood stove to bring the cottage up from that to a toasty 70ÂF for my wife who likes things a little warmer.

    Another advantage of this construction is it is virtually maintenance free. No painting, no roof to repair or reshingle (the roof is a concrete barrel vault), and the house can be earth bermed for even better performance and to make it blend with the landscape.

    Because the house has such a high thermal mass we are able to have a lot more windows than a conventional house without overheating. Our east, south and west walls are virtually all windows. Shutters can protect the windows during bad storms - a simple, traditional method of quickly closing up.

    Our house will also probably last hundreds to thousands of years. Far longer than conventional stick built houses.

    Frankly, there is no good excuse for building the fragile stick built houses.

    Location is also important. Don't build where it will flood. That land is better for forests, fields and crops or just wildlife.

    If you are curious and would like to see our house visit:

    http://sugarmtnfarm.com/cottage [sugarmtnfarm.com]

    where you'll find pictures and articles about how we built it.

Never appeal to a man's "better nature." He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage. -- Lazarus Long

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