Thursday, February 7, 2008

Ideal Survival Retreat

Those destined to survive have an instinctive drive to develop skills and cultivate self reliance techniques as tools that will allow them to stand independently, completely self sufficient, while less prepared persons stand in soup lines waiting for their handout when crisis strikes.

I wish I could say this drive influenced the building decisions made while constructing my cabin. Unfortunately it was built as a weekend get away and not as a survival bunker. Although the itching for isolation and desire to remove myself from gross consumerism played heavily into its design it was not till recently that its use as a true survival retreat crystallized. Over the past several years I have become increasingly aware of the threats being mounted against our liberties by the government and corporate elite. The reason behind this gradual stripping of our rights is arguable, but as a fact it is happening.

So, if I had to design from scratch what would I do differently.

The most important thing to consider is passive solar heating. If your retreat can be heated without purchasing any carbon based fuel you are well on the way to energy independence. Everything is designed around this one invaluable resource.

The cabin would be roughly a forty foot by twenty foot box oriented so one of the long sides faces due south. The other three walls would be ten foot high six inch concrete with one entry door placed where every convenient. The floor would be a six inch thermal mass slab and the roof either metal or for maximum concealment concrete with local dirt and vegetation planted on top. The roof would be slanted to the north dropping two foot across the twenty foot span.

For maximum solar gain the south side needs to be a wall of windows twelve foot high running the length of the house. The bottom and top two foot need to be operable windows that open. During the summer this design creates a convection that naturally cools the interior space while exchanging stale air with fresh. During the winter it delivers maximum solar gain to the thermal mass floor.

Large rollup metal security doors are needed to deploy over the glass wall when away or during a threat situation. This completely secures the retreat from outside threats. Unfortunately it also turns your cozy cabin it a sweet box quickly cooking the inhabitants. To remedy this I would recommend flipping the metal door so they roll up instead of down. This gives the option of securing all the glass except the top two foot where the windows open. It also allows natural light to flood the interior without sacrificing security.

If the rolling doors are installed on the outside of the glass the windows are secure against breakage. But consider installation inside the glass, the house is still protected and a trombe convection heating system is created in the few inches between the metal door and the windows. When the security doors are closed you loose the passive solar gain from the sun, this can be offset by placing the doors inside the windows.

There are no other windows in the structure.

The north wall will have two foot deep cabinets running the length of the house to hold survival supplies and food stuffs. A small bathroom, kitchen, bedroom and utility room need to be arranged in the structure to maximize energy efficiently while keep a large common area open for living space.

The cabin would be completely off grid solar with backup wind power. A small wood stove will augment the natural heating during extended overcast periods.

Next week I will cost out the structure and discuss in more detail the power and water systems.


theotherryan said...

For tactical considerations change 3 things. First have an operable window on each side of the house. It is aweful hard to defend against people that can't be seen coming. Second on the south wall (biggest windows and likely the best avenues of approach to the cabin itself or atleast a wall of glass) have a 18in or 2 foot tall atleast 6 inch deep stem wall to hide behind. Third keep the roll down shutters but have them roll from the top. It would not secure the place to have a 2 ft opening on top. The roll down shuttes will not stop bullets and a few flaming tourches and some brush would lead to ead problems inside if the plan was to just wait them out. If the opening was on bottom then it would be possible to use the 2ft stem wall to fight from behind.

The solar info was geat though.

Future Farmer said...

For the slab I would put 24 inches of gravel under the concrete and 4 inches of EPS foam under the gravel extended out past the side walls .

Also put 4 inches of foam outside the
concrete wall, chicken wire and stucco it. You would have one insulated house.

BigBear said...


I agree with everything except the door rolling down. The door will close all the way to the top when necessary. The place has to be livable in hot weather so it needs to vent.

You need a planter anyway and the 2 foot footer wall would work great for that.

BigBear said...

Future Farmer,

That would be well insulated.

Michael Hawkins said...

"Defence" should focus more on preventing burglary, and deterring oppertunistic "looting".
If someone is hell bent on harming you, the measures you'd have to take to prevent that are prohibitively expensive.

Hopefully, steel shutters will scare him away, but in the end, passive measures can only discourage and slow down, not stop.

Those same shutters will work wonders on the oppertunistic burglar though! But if someone KNOWS there are valuable pickings, He'll gladly tear your door out with a pickup truck.

BigBear said...

Michael Hawkins,

That's what the shutters are for. Getting shot is much lower on the list than looting as far as threats go.

theotherryan said...

Big bear, If the plan would be to keep it partly shut all the time (during SHTF residence) I can see the wisdom of that.If thats the chosen route then I suggest a heavy metal grill for the top windows and some way to look/shoot low from the cove of the footer.

The Urban Survivalist said...

Some type of basement or underground shelter is necessary. I would probably bury a 12-20 foot long, 5-7 foot diameter pipe underneath the slab with an entrance hole on each end. Hide the entrances under the floor and you'd have some extremely secure storage and a makeshift bomb shelter.

BigBear said...

Urban Survivalist,

Good idea and relative inexpensive also. said...

Maine is full of remote cabins, and the general rule of thumb here is to simply leave nothing of value in it. Some people even leave their cabins unlocked.

My wife's grandfather once had a hunting cabin. During the oil crisis in the 70's snowmobilers made off with the woodstove inside. He had break-in after break-in. Finally he went NUTS on securing the door. What happened? Someone came along, hooked a tow chain to the door, and drove off with the their truck.

I fear you might be on a losing battle here. The idea I like best is hidden motion cameras. Catch the thugs on film.

Anonymous said...

Use a flat-faced door, no knob or handle. Keyed deadbolt(s) for entry.
Nothing to hook a tow chain onto.

The buried pipe section under the house, if left uninsulated, would be a great root cellar/cool storage location as well as a shelter.

Finally, stick with roll-down shutters, but simply add a couple of small closeable roof vents or transom windows in the roof. These used to be common in uninsulated metal buildings decades ago. Basically, a small (3"-4") metal overhung protrusion with an inward-opening jalise style metal door on the downslope side, with a heavy wire mesh over/outside of it. Leave 'em open when away, or during hot weather for convection/hot stale air exhaust. Too small to get in through, yet keeps out bugs and rodents, can't be rained into. Close during cold weather or snow buildup.

Anonymous said...


wm. a. rush said...

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