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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm not "rich", but I am blessed to be in a position that I am preparing to buy some property, design and build my own "dream home". This will be the house I plan to remain in for the rest of my life (Now in my 30's).

So, as work on the house design, I want to incorporate themes and features that benefit survivalist scenarios.

BUT PLEASE LET ME BE CLEAR ABOUT A FEW THINGS FIRST:
1) This is a home. NOT a bunker. :D
2) Traditional construction techniques only. No hay bales.
3) Primary electric service through utility company.

__________________________________

I really want ideas, both basic and elaborate, for things I can include in my design and construction that will be a benefit to me in a future SHTF scenario. I want to build something that is better than just "any old house" I could buy and then hold-up in.

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EXAMPLES:

These are some things I've already included in my plan.


- Manual Integrated Water Pump
http://www.simplepump.com/OUR-PUMPS/Hand-Operated.html
(one of several manufacturers)

- U-shaped House.
Offers an area of property mostly hidden from view. Addition of a relatively short piece of fence for a somewhat secure and completely hidden courtyard.

- Heavy Gated Driveway

- Rain water collection system and underground cistern

- 3-5 acre pond

- "Homesteading" areas. (Orchard, Garden, Compost, Pastures for animals, etc)

- Outdoor brick oven incorporated into esthetic "outdoor entertainment area"

- Reloading room

- Passive solar home design to limit heat gain as much as possible.

- Ranch house design to grow old comfortably.
(Also considering using attic trusses on one end closest to the property entrance only with a small window for a small finished "crows nest"/sniper hide") Paranoia on full display with this idea :-/

- Both dedicated outside dogs and dedicated inside dogs for redundant warning system and deterrent.

- Several small hidden compartments in the home for quick access to firearms near entrances and one larger hidden area.

- Many other obvious things like good security system, etc.


ELECTRICITY:

- Utility Service. Backup "whole house" generator (short term/storms), with "necessities only" (long term) solar system.

I don't have the full details of this worked out yet.

______________________________

So, hit me with anything you can think of.

I plan to update this thread throughout the process of me finalizing the plan, selecting property, and building.
 

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Depends on what area of the country and state you live in. Are basements prevalent in your area or is their solid limestone underneath like certain areas of Texas. Is the property sloped or relatively flat? When we built our house we intended on building a small start home then moving. Our lot is sloped so we ended up with a basement/basement garage. It is paid for so I find it hard to move and build again.
If I were to build again I would probably try to make it as energy efficient as possible so when I'm old and don't have an active income my utility bills and cost of living are less. Also take whatever amount of bathrooms you have planned and add one or at least a half bath. If you live in the South think about backup AC (can you cool just one room with a portable or window unit), in the North backup heat (wood stove or Natural gas wall heater. Have the generator hookups prewired. I installed a breaker to protect against power surges after a lightning strike damaged several electronics. Prewire for an alarm maybe video cameras and internet. Wireless are usually more expensive and you may end up with batteries to replace on alarm contacts every few years.
I might consider a "mechanical room" where my tankless water heater is located centrally and have isolation valves to each part of the house. It sucks to turn off the whole house at the street to fix a pipe or add in another valve to add an outlet somewhere. If you go the wood fired boiler route, what about radiant floor heating, setup the zone controls in this room also.
Since you are on this site think about where you want to locate your gun safe or safes. What can they be anchored too? Reloading room needs excellent lighting and plenty of shelf and cabinet space depending on how many calibers your load for and how many components you store.
 

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Limiting it to traditional techniques is very limiting. Maybe you want to look at some options and open that up some? Also depending on where in the country is what is traditional. Some area have earth bermed as being more normal due to tornadoes, some have basements as normal. This is a very big consideration and will drastically change the level of quality information you get.

If you are going to make it U shaped why not go ahead and make it a box with a center courtyard. Outdoor entertaining area fireplace/stove and protected outdoor area for kids/grandkids. Also a protected area for an herb/salad garden. No deer eating the garden fears there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Depends on what area of the country and state you live in. Are basements prevalent in your area or is their solid limestone underneath like certain areas of Texas. Is the property sloped or relatively flat?
Some of that is difficult to answer, since I haven't selected a property yet. But it's not in tornado country and it's far enough from the coast, that it's pretty much mixed between maybe 70% crawl space and 30% basements.

I know basements are cheap square footage, but I also know a lot of people that don't utilize their basement. And I'm trying to think of how I will use this home 20, 30, 40 years from now.

It will probably be sloped enough I could get a cheap basement, but not so much that the crawl space will be nearly basement height regardless.

Our lot is sloped so we ended up with a basement/basement garage.
This is on my list of things I really want to avoid. Being 70 years old and having to go upstairs every time I come home with groceries, etc is going to be a real problem.

Being able to live comfortably in the home can be the difference between having to go to an assisted living facility and not.

If you live in the South think about backup AC (can you cool just one room with a portable or window unit)
I am in South Carolina. Heat is almost irrelevant. I run the AC on Christmas Day often :-/

What do you mean? Have additional window AC in a single room, so if the AC goes out we can just go in that one room to be cool?

"mechanical room" .........your gun safe or safes. What can they be anchored too? Reloading room needs excellent lighting and plenty of shelf and cabinet space depending on how many calibers your load for and how many components you store.
Going with PEX plumbing for exactly that reason. I can turn off flow to an individual room or group of fixtures for repair.

I am still thinking about the Safes.

One idea I have is for a "safe/panic-ish" kind of room, but on an exterior wall. The safes will be bolted through the subfloor to metal. Utilize an exterior door for the room with reinforced walls. But keep the window for escape, assuming it's high off the ground and can't be accessed from outside. Maybe a barred window. This wouldn't be a real panic room, but mostly like a secure room for my stuff and final-stand/last resort place to run to in an emergency.

Both this room and the reloading room are attached to my office and are next to each other in the drawings I've made so far.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Limiting it to traditional techniques is very limiting. Maybe you want to look at some options and open that up some?
Nope. Central premise of the post and project.

I am building it myself. I will hire out some here and there, but I will be doing more than simply serving as the general contractor. Most work will be done by my hands.

I'm not familiar with hay bale construction or an underground hobbit hole, So I won't be attempting to build something like that.

Some area have earth bermed as being more normal due to tornadoes, some have basements as normal.
I consider all that "normal" and "traditional construction". There is a big difference between a bermed home and a completely underground cavernous home (saw one of those for sale in my area the other day).

It had a little 500 sqft dome and about 3000sqft below ground. No thank you!

Stick built, poured walls, block walls, brick construction, partially bermed, are all things I feel confident I could handle, but my experience (limited as it is) is in wood framed single-family homes.

If you are going to make it U shaped why not go ahead and make it a box with a center courtyard. Outdoor entertaining area fireplace/stove and protected outdoor area for kids/grandkids. Also a protected area for an herb/salad garden. No deer eating the garden fears there.
That's a good point. I have considered that, but that's a lot more cost. A lot more foundation, roof, and angles. A lot more square feet, unless I make the other sides a lot thinner than I want.

Also, and I can't deny this, it has a lot to do with the epic views I have planned for most of the house out to my pond.

Finally, I was thinking, along those same lines, that I could build a wall in a pinch if I really felt like I needed a "protected place" in the future.

This will be in probably 30-50 acres and in the middle of pretty much bum-#@$% nowhere.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Superinsulation trumps passive solar design.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superinsulation
You bet, but passive solar design is FREE. It's just an extra design consideration that gives you a benefit.

I'm not going to do less insulation. It will be extremely well insulated.

When I sat down to write my wish list for the project it went:
1) Billiards Room
2) Pond
3) Zero Heat Gain
....
lol


Actually, I've pretty much gone overboard in insulation plans for heat gained through radiation to the point that I've begun looking at ways to limit actual conduction head gain.

I've looked at products like THERMABLOK (http://www.thermablok.com/) and gotten some samples, but the cost is just too great for what I think is pretty limited reduction.

Not 100% sure yet.
 

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Sounds like you've got most of the basic ideas. I think the most important challenges are cooling and reliable water.

Some things I would consider:

Definitely have a solar charged battery bank.

The ancient Romans and Greeks built U-shaped passive solar design houses with the opening facing south. I don't think I would like a closed in courtyard but who knows?

I dislike whole-house generators because they suck fuel like you would not believe. You are building for survival, not for the occasional power outage so I think I would stick to the plan. I would (and do) have solar power and have adjusted my lifestyle to live with less power. It was not that hard. I run a small generator as I need it. If you can keep the house cool passively, you might not need to power an air conditioner very often, but if you need it, it will likely be sunny so you can possibly run it off solar panels - but you will need a lot of solar panels and battery amps. Better to do what you are planning and build passively.

If you do have a DC battery bank, anything that you can put on DC will decrease the draw on an inverter. Consider DC lighting for the house. I am attempting this on my own house that I am building; the challenge is finding wife-approved fixtures, or E26 12VDC LED bulbs (E26/E27 is the standard light bulb base like you would use in a house). You can use RV light fixtures, but most of them are cheap looking. Also I've seen some DC powered RV ceiling fans that draw very little power and put out a nice breeze. I will be trying out one or two of those as well.

I would consider ICF concrete walls and earth berm around them on the north east and west. The north part of the house will be coolest so put the kitchen, pantry (and/or root cellar), and bedrooms towards the north. You could excavate and bury a root cellar to the north with direct access to the kitchen. You can add skylights or sun tubes to get light to these rooms, but have a way to shade them.

If you do go with stick-built, use 2x6 walls so you can put more insulation in there. I had a 2 story house with 2x6 walls (in Montana) and even on 100+ degree days it was bearable upstairs (though much cooler in the earth-bermed lower floor). Window orientation helps a lot.

You could also use concrete and earth berm on the north and part of the east and west walls, and 2x6 for the rest. This is not uncommon, sort of like a walkout basement without a second story.

Keep in mind a manual pump needs a max well depth of around 250'. If your well is around that depth or less, I would use a DC Grundfos SQF pump which can run on either AC or DC with a fairly small solar array and no batteries. Have a storage tank buried near the house, then pump on sunny days to the tank. Have a small pump in the house to get water to the pressure tank and fixtures. This is how off-gridders do it and if you are building with survival in mind, might as well do it right to begin with, rather than have a more traditional system and then change to a backup plan. If you have a hill, keep the water tank on the hill so in the event of total house power loss, you can get some gravity fed water to the house. As long as your solar well pump keeps going you will not run out of water.

Now that I think about it, I think Simple Pump sells a small DC motor for the manual pump that you just bolt on. It pumps slowly and I think at a low pressure, but consistently, but if you are pumping to a storage tank it would be perfect. Check out engineer775 videos on youtube for more on this.

Consider termites. I used to have a house in SC so I remember that issue.

Consider moisture in the house. SC is humid. If you have concrete walls, insulation on both sides will help prevent condensation on the inside. If you build stick walls, make sure they can breathe.

Since this is a dream home and you will be excavating anyway, consider earth tubes to help with cooling. The idea is not too radical, simply bury pipes (at a slope with a drain at the low end for moisture to drain out) 4-5 feet deep (or check on the earth temperatures at your area - may need to go deeper?). Bring the other end of the pipe into the house and have a fan to blow that cool air into the house.

You live in a perfect climate for solar hot water. A hundred years ago it was very common. You could simply keep a black water tank on your roof, or get more technical.

Use a metal roof to gather the rainwater. Put most of your insulation under that roof or in the ceiling.

Don't forget to build a big room or root cellar to store all your long term food storage.

Even though you're in SC, I would have a small wood stove and a woodlot. It does get cold sometimes, and better to have it and not need it, etc.

I would get some chickens. They don't require much work or maintenance, they eat bugs (which you have a lot of) and in your climate they could free-range most of their food for most of the year. You could set up an automatic watering system that will operate year-round, maybe throw them some food once a day, and collect the eggs.
 

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For me one of the few blessing of my home is a simple, centrally located, wood stove. I strongly recommend incorporating one into any home design. I can cook on top and it has a small area that can be used for baking. It is never used for those things (except for fun) but is used a lot for keeping the house warm.

If you have access to wood I would add that to your list.

A couple of other things I would add if I was designing a scratch home:
* At least one hidden passage. When I was a kid we had a hidden crawl space behind a bookshelf that connected to another room. We used it for storage and playing in. I wish I had one of those now.

* Shutters on windows. Preferably the kind that roll down automatically (but with manual backup), far more privacy than just curtains and can protect the windows in very bad weather conditions.

* Everything automated (especially above mentioned shutters)

* A damn good door and door frame, something not easy to kick in.

* Emergency lighting for power outages. Seems stupid but a bit of light can provide a lot of comfort to the little ones (if you have/want any) in situations that might already be a scary enough.

* Last but not least, good neighbors. If you have a choice look HARD for a place with decent people living around you. Don´t buy without first talking to your neighbors and getting a feel for the area. If something is wrong with your house you can fix it, but you can´t fix bad neighbors. I recently (a few years ago) moved from a bad neighborhood to one with good neighbors (not rich or anything just nice) and more than anything that has been the single greatest part of the new place. I never realized until I left, how much a difference it makes.
 

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This is the sort of project I'm interested in myself.

I'm a little more willing to go for a multi-story structure, above and below ground. I want (need) a library.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Very large walk in pantry for storing food preps off the kitchen
Good call. It's already in the plan, but I forgot to mention it.

I plan on a 14' deep, 5' wide pantry. Runs perpendicular to the kitchen along the laundry room.

This is about the only area in the house that won't be "accessible" for growing old.

But I figure if, I can't walk 10 feet to grab a can of peas, I probably can't reach the back of the stove to cook them either :-/
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Since you plan this as your forever home, don't forget to make it as accessible as possible. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_design. Make doorways wide enough for wheelchairs and walkers. Definitely get the taller, "comfort height" toilets. Grab bars in showers. Zero threshold showers.
Thanks. Good idea. We definitely want to be "accessible" but hadn't even considered things like toilet height.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I have a couple of lists and a spreadsheet that might provide some ideas.

Only the one list will attach. If you would like the other list and the spreadsheet that goes with this list, e-mail me at [email protected]

Just my opinion.
Great list. I forgot to list many things in my original post.

Pond access for the firefighters is something we've already included but I forgot to list.

Living fence (in addition to regular fence) is also something we're looking at.

I will definitely email you for anything else you have.
 

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Large deep double sink near the w/d for doing laundry by hand if necessary. Indoor space for a retractable clothes line for the winter.
 

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Make all doors 36 inches!! Makes moving furniture, appliances and remodeling much easier. When my parents built there home 20+ years ago that was one of only 2 regrets. I have delivered appliances for lowes for a few months and it does make a difference of over an our on installation time for large appliances
 

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I just did an addition to my home theres something i wish i installed. Ive been wanting to put a bank of batteries in. I have the room for batteries, but i wish i had run a seperate electrical run for batteries. I did the electrical work myself eith the help of my brother inlaw who is an electrician. It would have been easy to run like one outlet per room down to the basement where i could put a battery bank in. Nothing too elaborate, run a few lights, a tv, the fan on my fireplace. i could still do this via a transfer switch at the panel, but it wouldve been simple to just run a few wires also.
 
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