What to Expect when Planning a Hardened Shelter with a Professional Team of Engineers and Architects
(Douglas Clark, HS) This article is written for people who are considering building their retreat with a fortified shelter. Here, we will thoroughly explain the entire process on the shelter design and construction phases with our design professionals (engineers and architects) and other building industry professionals (general contractors, subcontractors and product vendors, etc).
Because it is impossible to protect against all threats and hazards, adopting a “balanced approach” in designs that considers intended functions, threat mitigation, and budget, is imperative. This is where Hardened Structures experience and know-how separates our Team from the general purpose Architects and Engineers. Our Teams experience has shown there is no one-size-fits-all or formula of security features and programs that will ensure 100% safety against all man-made or natural disasters.
In order to meet our client’s goals and budgets, our Team ensures each project is designed and specified to meet a particular hierarchy of anticipated threats, not all possible threats. In other words, Hardened Structures’ Team designs your facility to achieve what we term ‘Balanced Survivability’, ensuring that no one system or component is the ‘Achilles Heel.’ No matter if your personal threat hierarchy focuses first and foremost on a regional natural disaster, Nuclear, Biological, Chemical or EMP/HEMP event, or forced/armed entry our experienced and highly specialized team of engineers, scientists and ex-Navy SEALS can confidentiality design and covertly construct your facility efficiently and cost effectively.
In most of the American Redoubt rural areas, you are not required to have a licensed architect or professional engineer to design your own home. Your local contractor can often provide you with a drafting service to plan homes, that is, if you only need to build a modern, code compliant home, up to about 3,000 square feet, with very modest improvements to perimeter security.
Please understand first and foremost that your project type will cost more than the standard level of construction.
In general, the costs associated with a custom project, both in terms of the professional design fees and the resultant construction costs, are much higher. For example, if the cost of new construction in your region is typically $140 per square foot for a nicely upgraded home of about 2,000SF, for a custom hardened and fortified structure, you can expect the costs to exceed $250 per square foot, or more, depending upon the threats you wish to be protected against. Some costs can reach over $800SF, depending upon the threat that requires mitigation.
The reasons for this are myriad, but it all stems from the multiple aspects of life support/life protection which must be achieved for a hardened shelter to be truly sustainable. For example, if one wishes to ride out a nuclear or biological event, that person is often seeking to be protected in the shelter for a period of a month, or longer.
A system MUST be in place to provide a continuous supply of clean air, and keep contaminated air from entering. This is one of the key lifesaving technologies needed to be employed in any shelter and is often referred to as CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological & Nuclear). But this system requires extensive engineering, planning and a source for continuous energy as well as competent construction techniques. How are we providing power? If it is by generator, how are protecting the generator from sabotage or routine failure, proper venting and noise solutions? Our engineers have proven solutions for this, but they come at a cost.
Another cost consideration to balance is if the event we are protecting against is nuclear blast, what about HEMP? HEMP often coincides with a nuclear event. HEMP events disrupt and/or disable many electronics and therefore the shelter’s energy source and the air pressure/filtration CBRN system must also be HEMP protected. Possibly other living spaces need HEMP protection, but this should be kept to a minimum if budget is a constraint.
The two technology fields of CBRN (air filtration and overpressure), and HEMP shielded enclosures must be planned in unison. Any unplanned Utility penetration in an HEMP shielding solution will cause the HEMP shield to fail. However, these engineering specialties are each the work of separate professional engineers, which must be coordinated by an experienced project manager.
Additionally, the logistics of calculating and planning an ample source of energy, with fuel, is a very costly undertaking. While you are in this shelter, you will need to prepare food, drinking water, maintain human sanitation, and be in an environment which does not drive you or your group members into emotional issues. You are essentially taking 21st century first world civilians and placing them in harsher conditions than we place highly trained and rigorously screened candidates for the US Navy submarine fleet. This is not to be underestimated; FEMA guidelines for disaster shelters are rumored to have been developed with an acceptance of a 10% suicide rate. What is the acceptable suicide rate for your sheltering group? If it is less than 10% then we would like to plan your shelter with more comfortable amenities than you would have in a FEMA specification quality of shelter.
In short, you simply cannot have a nuclear blast protected bunker which can sustain your family in a post apocalyptic event, for months and months, with air filtration, generators, water, food, storage, and hardening against small arms up to .50 BMG for the same price a standard home.
Generally, this is the point at which some potential clients depart from engaging our services. The projects we work on are usually over a half million dollars. This is not to say a lesser-cost project is impossible, but the challenges increase, and it does cause the design and engineering fees to become disproportionate to the project cost. For a project over $500k, the complete design and engineering package is roughly 10-12% of construction costs. For projects of $250k and less construction budget, the engineering costs do not come down in equal proportion to construction costs, and can exceed 15% of construction budget.
But what about those bunkers that are made entirely out of metal that you can find on the Internet for $39,990? Sure, these will work well in a very short-term scenario, but at what cost? If this is all you can afford, then it’s better than nothing, and certainly well worth the price. However, some considerations should be noted from an engineer standpoint;
These may offer some utility in a certain scenario for a very limited duration; you can do your own research regarding the depth of soil cover required for plate steel to be enough to stop gamma waves (nuclear fallout). Be sure to confirm weight of the depth of fully water-saturated soil needed does not exceed the strength of the steel box. Is the price advertised inclusive of shipping, excavation, and utility infrastructure? If you need a place to go hide during the next LA riots and can be very sure no one will find and disable your source of electricity and/or water, you could be ok in a metal box shelter. Also these types of structures are acceptable if you are looking truly for just a tornado shelter then FEMA guidelines on how to construct one are perfectly acceptable as well, for potentially even greater cost savings.
Beyond the Hardened Structure, every client also needs a longevity plan. That being a plan for what to do after the major event subsides and how to maintain an ongoing posture of security and to transition forward into a new lifestyle. This includes everything from considerations for permaculture, childrearing, or mounting an active defense against numerically superior forces. A sophisticated team for fortified shelter design will include security consultants and be able to help plan the steps to take to set up life post event, and include provisions in the design for life afterwards.
What to expect when planning a Hardened Shelter:
There are several pre-design steps one can take to begin conceptualizing what will be needed to meet your goals in a hardened structure. These are listed below;
- You need to list the threats you are preparing to survive and then rank these in priority. These can be natural disasters, manmade events or others; this is your own list. A team will begin design to achieve protection for the most major event. By doing so, most often we find that we cover most needs presented by the threats further down the priority list, and we can make inclusion for those events in addition to the overall major planning criteria.
- Given the identification of the most major event to protect against, what is the longest you want to remain interred in the shelter without exiting the structure.
- You need to list the assets you are protecting, human assets and material assets. How many people is just part of the equation, who are these people, what are their individual special needs, and what is their relationship to one another?
- Where and what are the site specifications? The aspects of regional demographics, site topography, terrain analysis, soil type, the adjacency relationships of your site to its neighboring properties, roads, towns, military installations, power stations, waterways, seismic faults, all contribute to a complex site development analysis process to help determine how to best protect our clients.
- What are your group’s abilities and limitations? This is an important criterion to really look hard at your entire group dynamics at the present and into the foreseeable future, and not based on the past. Maybe a member of your group has special medical skills. That training is most useful when provided with a facility and the equipment needed to perform those life saving skills. Or maybe someone in the group was a very accomplished athlete, but that was 20 plus years ago, or the person is most busy presently with small children who are also part of the group.
Once these criteria are identified, they can be translated into performance goals for the Hardened Shelter, such as size, engineering and technology needed, and a list of spaces and special features.
Once this is determined, a team leader, architect, or project manager can then assemble the team of engineers needed to develop your Hardened Shelter. Also, this set of goals becomes a program statement, which you should receive from your design team, and review carefully. You should make sure all your needs are met in this program statement; otherwise, it is likely some of your goals for the shelter might not make it into the design. At this point, your designer may be able to communicate a rough conceptual budget for the project, based upon the program statement and his past experience with other projects. This early conceptual pricing statement has an accuracy of +/-20% because so much is not yet known with the design, and how the actual site impacts the cost of the project. However, it is very important at this early phase in the planning process that you check your goals vs. the possible budget for the project. This is the easiest time to readjust goals to align with your budget.
The adjustment of goals to match budget is a very difficult mental process for many clients, and here is another place where clients fall out of design services. Many folks just cannot get past the idea that if they cannot have everything they want for the budget that they had in mind, then the project is not worth doing at all.
This is not realistic thinking. We all make value choices in products everyday based on cost versus performance or quality. We do the best we can within our own priorities.
The important thing is to really look hard at your priorities from an aspect of most likely threat to protect against, and a worst-case threat you must protect against, and the minimum acceptable outcome of these two scenarios. With these goals as the guiding principles, often we can help clients focus on a budget that’s realistic for the projects overall goals.
One example of this is duration of sheltering. Clients often come to us with the perception of a need to shelter continuously for many months. This criterion is very expensive to achieve both in terms of space required but also in logistics and energy provisions. However, there are alternatives to months of sheltering that can be considered and still have high expectations of survivability.
Once the design program aligns with your budget, your design team is able to move forward with planning your project. This is an interactive process and you as the owner have a tremendous impact in the outcome. One temptation to resist is over designing. There are infinite possibilities in design, far more than there are choices in the marketplace when researching a new vehicle or appliance. However, exploring all of them is not realistic and it is important to remain focused on the goals of the project and accept standard construction practices as much possible.
With these concepts in mind, it is highly possible for you to be able to plan a Hardened Shelter with professional engineers which meets an adequate level of survivability metrics to ride-out many foreseeable SHTF scenarios, and allow you and your loved ones to emerge ready to take on the real challenges of life in the world after TEOTWAWKI.
EMP Engineering can provide comprehensive and effective hardening, hardness verification and hardness surveillance of bomb shelters, buildings, facilities, hardened shelters, command/control centers, data processing centers and business continuity centers against the damaging effects of Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP), HEMP, GMS, or transportable High-Powered Microwave (HPM) weapons. The function of these facilities supporting critical time-urgent applications requiring network interoperability and effective physical protections, electromagnetic shielding, point of entry (POE) protection and related special protective measures. At EMP Engineering we offer cost effective solutions and full manufacturing capabilities for most any type of HEMP/EMP/GMS mitigated facility along with full hardened shelter design/build services. We are dedicated to the design and implementation of robust, hardened CBRN and EMP measures – including specialized shielding / mitigation, components and sub-systems, to prevent the harmful effects of intentional or unintentional Electromagnetic Pulses and Geomagnetic Storms.
To create a protective electromagnetic-threat facility shield requires an electromagnetic barrier with additional special protective measures that incorporate electrically continuous housings that substantially reduce the coupling of EMP electric and magnetic fields into the protected area. The electromagnetic barrier shall consist of the Facility HEMP Shield and protective devices for all POE’s. Additionally, reliability, maintainability, safety and human engineering, testability, configuration management and corrosion control all need to be incorporated to the HEMP protection system design.
To accomplish this goal, a Client specific Vulnerability identification/Hardness Program overview and criticality assessment must be conducted that incorporates design, engineering, fabrication, installation and ongoing effectiveness testing activities to achieve the following:
Provide an electromagnetic threat- protected facility or system design based upon verifiable performance specifications against identified threats that ideally suits the requirements of our clients.
Provides a means of verifying achieved hardness levels through a cost-effective program of testing and analysis.
Develop a maintenance/surveillance program during the procurement phase that supports the Client’s operational and life cycle HEMP hardness requirements.
Based on the anticipated threat, facility location and Client’s protection program establishes the HEMP configuration baseline consisting of documentation of the physical characteristics of the HEMP protection system, subsystem and baseline performance data. To read more about EMP Protection please visit this Resource Page.
Interested in Hiring us?
By their very nature, hardened shelters and underground bunkers require highly specific life safety and threat mitigation features in order to perform their primary mission: protecting your family. This is not a job for the average architect or the common contractor. Success requires a unique expertise in HEMP/EMP, WMD’s, blast effects mitigation, adversarial assaults, shelter dynamics, threat mitigation measures, advanced HVAC systems, structural steel/concrete and earth work operations.
We mitigate various threats by employing a Multi-Hazard Engineering methodology that not only recognizes individual hazards/threats sequentially but also address all hazards/threats simultaneously as a problem of optimization under constraints. The facility/shelter/building can be protected against a wide range of threats including WMD’s, forced entry, armed assaults, climate change, 2012, chemical, biological, radiological, explosive (CBRE) agents, airblast, ground shock, penetration, fragmentation and damage to the structure and equipment due to explosive loading.
Our Spectrum of Services include:
- Architecture and Programming
- Engineering (Structural, Civil, Mechanical & Electrical)
- Shelter Dynamics
- Asset Value Assessment
- Threat Hazard Assessment
- Vulnerability Assessment
- Full Risk Assessment
- Red Team Assault Evaluation (Ex-US Navy SEALS)
- Site Selection and Layout Design
- Building/Site Design Management
- Blast Effects and Mitigations
- HEMP/EMP shielding
- Chemical, Biological and Radiological Protective Measures
- Ventilation, Air Filtration and Sorbent Filtering Systems
- Sustainable, Alternative, Climatic and Solar Energy Designs
- Budgeting and Estimating
- Permitting and Local Jurisdiction Approval
- Full Construction Contracting
- Long Term Survivability, Food Storage and Equipment
- Shelter Commissioning
- Client Move-in and Start-up
As Professional Architects and Engineers, Security Specialists, Project Managers and Ex-Navy SEALs with over 30 years in shelter construction experience, our approach methodology is to professionally and confidentially complete the designs, and covertly construct the facility while ALWAYS working in the best interest of our Clients.
The Hardened Structures Team analyzes all options for shelter construction including concrete, steel, fiberglass or composites to find the best fit for our client’s unique shelter, sustainability and funding requirements and implement a design/build program for that particular client. Experience has shown there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to Shelter construction. Simply stated, we work for you as your private Facility Staff providing single point responsibility for the fast and efficient delivery of your Facility in a stealthy and secret atmosphere.
Our experience has proved that the basic fundamental rule necessary to successfully execute Covert Construction and Clandestine Contracting techniques is “Need to Know.” The level of secrecy is established by our Client and is a direct determinant affecting the overall cost.
Our services can range from complete design and build to working directly with your preferred architect and / or contractor to provide specific consulting services.
We can bring in our own specialized workers and we have perfected the protection process to ensure that no one subcontractor or supplier will fully know the final function or true capability of our Client’s facility. Some of the techniques we employ include:
- Compartmentalized and Furtive Construction Scopes
- Phased Critical Path Construction Techniques
- Specialized Out-Of-Town Subcontractors and Suppliers
- Multiple Surreptitious Project Identifications
- Correlated CAD Drawings and Specifications
- And Other Time Tested (and Secret) Clandestine Strategies
Before contacting HS directly, please contact our Partner Todd Savage w/ Survival Retreat Consulting. The SRC Team will complete an initial confidential threat assessment with you, and then set up a meeting between us. You may contact SRC at 406-241-1795 (cell) or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org (secure/encrypted).