Lessons from the Ultimate Safe House (The Wall Street Journal)
The Corbi family's house looks like many other modern homes in the Hollywood Hills, with white walls, large glass windows and views of downtown Los Angeles. But it has some key differences from its neighbors. The house has been built to withstand nearly every type of disaster scenario imaginable, from storms to high-magnitude earthquakes to wildfires to pandemic to a rare but potentially crippling high-frequency electromagnetic pulse attack triggered by a nuclear bomb, solar flare or specialized weapon. A wine cellar in the basement doubles as an underground bunker. If all else fails, a rooftop helipad allows for a last-ditch emergency exit.
More home builders and buyers are chasing a new kind of security: homes equipped to handle everything from hurricanes, tornados and hybrid superstorms like this week's Sandy, to man-made threats ranging from home invasion to nuclear war. Some, rebuilding in frequently storm-tossed areas, are looking to better withstand the next disaster; others are hoping to create a safeguard against any possible calamity. Fueling the rise of these often-fortresslike homes are new technologies and building materials—which builders say will ultimately be used on a more widespread basis in storm- and earthquake-threatened areas.
Sean Murphy, of Miami-based Coastal Construction, is building a 40,000-square-foot waterfront estate for a client in South Florida that's designed to withstand a major hurricane or worse. The home's owner, whom he declined to identify, has ordered 12-inch-thick reinforced concrete walls wrapped in a rubberized material for added waterproofing, clad in 2-inch stone. Typical storm-resistant building techniques call for about 8 inches of concrete composite block to wind- and waterproof a home.
"It's basically a bunker-style home we're talking about," he says. "If you had a major storm, a major flood, a major anything, this home is not going anywhere."