Friday, April 20, 2012

Architecture and the Apocalypse #2

                         Please note this is a continuation of Architecture and the Apocalypse!

      Now for those of you who like to build or can afford to build, and would like to survive if things go wrong. Always remember, if they do not go wrong, you can have a very safe and sound home. Build with security in mind, as well as enjoyment without sacrifice. Studying the 15th and 16th century keep will aid you in constructing an interesting retreat.
     As we left off in the first post, we will begin with the contemplation of creating a keep. We must look to the styles of the past and make them fit to the skills and practicalities of the present.

     Here are some concepts for the keep as done in days long gone; but for today do we need to build exactly as in the past? I believe we must take inspiration from the past, while possibly doing something completely new.
     Today we have to consider expenditure. Labor being so great a part of cost, we must come up with several scenarios. Our basic design could revolve around the open courtyard. The courtyard serves as a walled in  garden, in case circumstances cause a siege situation. Some  believe being as low key as possible is important. You will have to decide. If you can find shipping containers, specifically 40 or 45' long high cube one trip containers for about $1500 each, you can pour a concrete base and stack them around a courtyard/garden area the size of your own choosing. You can stack them three or four high if need be, and can place them side to side and cut openings to create wider rooms, with windows and doors facing in to the courtyard. You could also use them as storage areas, even burying them, as many are water tight. The problem surrounding these containers is their recent popularity. I have seen them selling for as much as $4,500. The scammers preying on the prepper movement have artificially escalated the prices on survival goods and related products.
      I believe welding them together is wise while mounting into a concrete base, so you may want to pay a contractor to lay in a concrete base without saying exactly what it is for. Determining what a rough estimate of the weight you are placing upon this base with an architect can determine with your soil type (and the distance from bedrock the top of the soil is, whether or not you might need to put a few piles in; but generally a three to four foot base in a two foot freeze zone, should be adequate. I don't believe you should settle for less than a two foot (25" or better is the way its done in Germany) thick concrete base. Some might just advise upon one or two feet of poured concrete with a good steel mesh placed in the middle. Having an architects opinion or a contractors who is used to building in the area will help in deciding. Be sure to determine an estimated lifetime of the concrete, you don't want conditions to occur which cause cracking or buckling. Thicker just might be better.
    All the decisions must rest with you, because contractors build mostly with profit in mind, and often don't do a very good job. Concrete in America has fallen into a monopoly situation, where the government no longer enforced the anti-trust laws, and now the price has sky rocketed due to zero competition (north America having been divided into two zones between two companies.). I like the idea of 4 feet of poured concrete with 18 pieces of tied rebar per square foot, and the new rebar mentioned in part one of this article.
     We have had discussions on this, and consensus seems to be that building a cinder block wall on the outside walls of the containers, which would entail having no outside windows and then building another wall 4' away from this exterior wall, and filling the gap with earth and rubble (mixed with a wet concrete even better) will create a castle like protection as well as an insulator from heat or cold, and even radiation, which can be done inexpensively ( The outer wall can be dressed in stone, or camouflaged).
      We feel this is not practical on small pieces of land, but  might be the least expensive way to build. There are lots of examples of bunkers from the preppers shows on you tube or nar.geo., and other sources. If you can afford to build the entirety of your structure, then a steel framed structure, solid wall on the outside, and windows and entrances on the inside, with just a few exits on the exterior walls, or even just one, if you are comfortable with that, will be adequate. Many Italian keeps were built right next to each other, with windows not set in until three stories of height. No one thought Rome would fall, but when it did, the individual citizen responded to the barbarity that followed its decline (rioting in Greece, France, and Great Britain are just the beginning of what we can expect. The greatest fear is that the U.S. will be the next Greece.The foundation of the new police state seems to have this in mind, as well as bringing an end to the constitution, which could inevitably insure that the US becomes Greece, or Russia.
     In a roomy keep design, two three foot thick walls, enforced with rebar with a two foot space between them to fill with rubble should be sufficient, (making the outer wall 8 feet thick). Steel construction for all frames and a lighter inside wall to surround the interior courtyard can be just 1 foot thick (with rebar to resist earthquakes), with windows and doors placed in convenient positions. Remember; the higher the wall, the more difficult it will be for predators to enter within, and the more of a statement you are making publicly (you will have to weigh that problem, some advise low walls, with a berm around them so as to make your dwelling unnoticeable, and a mote?.). Four stories high is not so outrageous. If you build with enough strength, you can add towers in the corners if things do go wrong, thereby allowing for better surveillance.  You can create a fantasy castle if you've ever had such a dream and let artistic flourishes abound.
     What is suggested is rooms about 25 to forty feet wide, or as wide as you like (between the inner courtyard and outer walls). You can apportion rooms based upon your needs. The size of the courtyard is determined by the walls that surround and protect you,; you can do a great deal with a 5000 sq. ft courtyard. A crop for the year, herbs for the kitchen, fruit and nut bearing trees, in a well planned garden, will determine the exact size of the whole structure. This does not mean that you cannot plant outside the walls. A subsistence garden on the inside is most important.
     One theory is that we may have to live through a nuclear winter for two years (Isaiah seems to describe this). You can effectively create lighting to aid in plant growth inside the courtyard. A 30,000 watt diesel generator can easily be purchased, which can be adapted to run on bio-diesel fuels (more cleaning involved with the possiblility of rubber parts wearing down faster). Diesel fuel can be stored for a long time, but the problem is storage, which is expensive and easily toxic. Make sure tanks are under ground, with a hand pump and imbedded in concrete to preserve against leaks, the reason for the best quality of tanks to be purchased in the first place. You don't want to foul your water supply.
     It would pay in most cases to filter your water supply. spares for the three year or more period are affordable. There is so much arsenic and lead in the water table, let alone perchlorates and who knows what. Regular testing is not always available or possible. It is often difficult to determine where pollution can come from, or when.
     Building codes or an architect must be conferred with in your attempt to build such a structure. A county where codes are few, and is lax is the best choice for land; so the most libertarian leaning government you can find would be a good choice ( the problem with that being that they may be lax with business, so potential polluters and sources of pollution need to be sorted out and their effects upon your area studied). Some people go for a small bunker like structure, underground and out of sight. The problem is that most use a contractor, who uses local labor. Many instances of local labor result in the shelter being raided and looted by those employees. The more work on the property you can do by yourself, the better, the fewer people who know about it, the safer you may be. It is often possible to find one or two people to build with. People who have experience in all aspects of building and are willing to work with you.
     One line of thought is that you can build whatever you like through a contractor, but that you must install generators and expensive things yourself ( you could try to find electricians and others specialists from far away). Building something large is bound to attract attention. You can only hope to be seen as quaintly eccentric, and hopefully be forgotten in time. Much would depend upon how large a group you might consider having with you and how bad you think things might become. Note that most people in society believe that the only things you have to worry about are death and taxes, that much will not change in our society. All considerations much be taken in how much of your time and wealth you might consider to invest in this project.
     We are suggesting to build your personal Shangri-la, so that your pursuits for survival run along the same lines as your pursuit of happiness.
    Most of the preppers that I have seen interviewed seem to be a form of hoarder, somewhat uncultured and naive.  You must find the thin line between obsession and compulsive behavior and practicality. In many ways you are becoming something of a Noah by doing this. We believe to live by art and arts sake. To do this is to preserve dignity and culture so that art and Divinity can be a great part of life.  There is no reason to avoid surrounding yourself in beauty, a well defended but charming environ.
     As we have said; it is expected that the darkest times will last for 2 to 3 years, and then much will improve in society, to the point where a golden age may ensue. Build with a comfortable living situation in mind, that will offer the protection of a keep. As J.W. Rawles expects roaming gangs using stolen armored vehicles to drive about the countryside raping, looting and enslaving, you might want to consider how far you would go to preserve your personal freedom and well being.
     Returning to our concept of the keep; the garden in the center should be well maintained and watered (with adequate drainage and protection from pests) . You can install windmills atop the walls, say in the corners, build to stand upon platforms that overhang the courtyard, thereby leaving an open walk way around the top, which should probably have some form of crenelations of your own choosing. For the floors I would want concrete, mesh reinforced, top and bottom, you can decorate the interior to you choosing lining it with wood or however. I've seen two feet of concrete for floors work very, but with modern materials and a good contractor, one foot should be adequate. If rebar is placed well you can easily cut through a few feet to make a circular hole for a spiral stair case if you choose to redecorate at a later time. Its always good to just do it once, but changes can be made without too much difficulty in a structure such as this.
     If you use the container concept you can work with what you've got. Sometimes the floors can be worked with as is, but it seems to me that if you are going to put two side to side to widen the space, then it might pay to put a new floor over it, depending upon how you are going to join them together (you can buy 8'6' tall containers). You can use 8 to sixteen trailers per floor, so if you are paying more than $1500 dollars for one you may have to decide upon how many you can afford, or if its better to expense out a structure and forget about the containers. The best argument for the containers is that you can build to add more later, so that if you can't afford to build the structure all at once, you can do so as money affords the opportunity. Buying your containers all at once allows for economies of scale, and the power to ask for a discount.
     You can use lots of recycled materials. In building your outer wall, you can use tires, which are to be filled with packed earth against the outer wall. I still think an outer wall of cinder block  to hold things together is advisable. You can also find stone at quarries, tailings from mortuary stones, that can be picked up for free, or cheaply through negotiation. You can also shape blocks of concrete for the look you like, and finish the wall. There are many ideas out there, and experienced builders have many.
     Googleing recycled materials for what ever use you may have will enable you to do much to create an inexpensive keep.
     If you can afford it, the steel and concrete, with 18 rebar per square foot of concrete is the best way to go. A water supply must be available on the land with a well in the keep, with both a hand and electric pump. A water tank high up can catch rainfall for the garden, and some solar panels placed on the inner walls or roof can also help in electrical and hot water production. If you are taking the inexpensive route, things can be added as afforded, and less expensive alternatives are available. Windmills are a great choice if you have enough wind activity, along with a diesel generator and some solar you have many alternatives.
     If you want to prepare for all calamities, have plastic available in case you need to close off the overhead area of the courtyard in the event of nuclear fallout. A dozen or two rolls of 48' wide 50yards long heavy green plastic and some tape doesn't take up that much space, if the need should arise.
     For the garden area, you must create a kind of Garden box, which can even be built above a cellar, The Garden box can be the size of most of the courtyard, and must have proper drainage. Fruit and nut bearing trees obviously need room to grow down, but vegetables don't need as much. The places where trees are planted might need to be deeper than those for vegetables, so you must decide to have a uniform box of a certain depth, or vary it accordingly. Essentially soil forms above bedrock, the box you create must mimic a natural occurrence, so drainage and fertilization and French mound gardening techniques can be effectively made use of. Compost can still be kept outside the Keep as the smell is too great to bear. A good way to enrich the soil is to plant alfalfa. Then turn it into the soil after it is grown. Along with compost turned in before winter set in fully, and you will have some good soil to start planting in next spring.
      If you are caught in a siege situation you can create compost from daily use, though a siege situation is highly unlikely. You are building to make raiders think twice about bothering you, causing them to choose to move on to an easier target. Diplomacy is  often the best approach, without any compromising of your situation or people. Never let anyone outside your group know exactly what you have. Avoid preppers and other reality shows ( as if that had to be mentioned). The hilarity of self exposure in our modern society is quite an anthropological study in itself. We fail to be amazed.
     Our goal is to be prepared to last for three years. We then expect a new golden age, the chance for a better society, and maybe something quite spiritual. In creating this refuge, we believe in attempting to shape a dream into a living reality. What would you like your every day to be like. Where would you like to wake in the morning? What are your ideal criteria and how close to them can you make this Keep.

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