In the mountains of West Virginia, there was a well kept secret hidden in plain sight of the visitors and staff for 30 years. It was a fall-out shelter built during the cold war, to provide a place of safety for the U.S. Legislative Branch in the event of a national emergency. But it didn’t look like a bunker, despite the 3 to 5 feet walls and ceilings. It just looked like a conference center, which had been built into the hill, for that was the role it served on a daily basis. Only the massive 25 ton doors were hidden from view, left in an open state, and concealed by a false corridor wall.
While the Berlin wall has been torn down, we still face potential disasters, some political and many others of natural causes. What are the disasters facing us? There is no “one” answer, as it is based on geographic location, political and religious interpretations of world events. But there is probably some element of building durability, power and then food/ water.
|First ICF "Fortified" House|
In preparing the built environment for a future disaster, I think back to many construction drawings which incorporated a tornado shelter directly into a school. Houses may be designing around the possibility of a 100 yr flood plain occurrence, with deep pylons and elevated occupancy space. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety has a great website to provide guidance for Fortified Homes for Safer Living.
But given the human propensity to believing in the lottery, and our personal exemption from disasters, it would seem the most viable market approach to “selling” disaster resistance is to expose it in full view. Incorporate the functioning of the material or space into the design. Sell another aspect of the material, such as energy efficiency, termite or rot resistance, or something more exotic - such as the climate and moisture control needed for a wine cellar!
|Green Revolution Energy Cycle|
This type of construction is part of the greater scope of passive survival concept, well known to the pioneers who settled North America, but camouflaged by the modern, technology driven world. Yet, our centralized power grid system has been known to fail, leaving entire swaths of the country without power for days on end. Does this mean we should all go out and buy a back-up generator? We might instead assess just how much power it would take to maintain a level of survivability, for example to power the thermostat and a low fan for our gas heating system. It then might be sufficient to have a bicycle which can generate that power. These types of energy generating devices are now being developed as part of the “green energy” revolution. While you’d currently have to bike the Tour de France to power up any significant portion of your household utilities, the very market for this type of product is sure to spark new innovation. In the meantime, you get some exercise, and some level of back-up power.
Apparently, the sale of survival kits is on the rise, indicating the concern for future disasters. Can this concern be expressed in the way we build and the way we live, to strengthen our own level of survivability? And is it just our own hide we are saving – or are we making decisions as a community, as a people, which looks out for all humanity?