An Architecture Student’s Lessons Learned, by “Mr. Whiskey”

As an architect for the last 30 years or so, I have been applying some important lessons learned in college that have an eerie resemblance to the survival mindset of those of us who think we just might be in for some hard times, and much sooner than we think. Let me explain.On the very first day of class, on my very first day of college back in the 1970s, I found myself in a design class with other new students who knew absolutely nothing about the profession or business of architecture. But we were there to learn, and our …




Eskimo Sod Huts–60°F Inside and Minus 50°F Outside

SurvivalBlog reader “KonTiki” sent the following article excerpted from the Duffy’s Law web site: http://www.duffyslaw.com/current14.htm The following is from a collection of random notes from the 1913 book My Life With The Eskimos by Vilhjalmur Stefansson. For serious research, one should read the unabridged edition. Eskimo Housing Eskimo houses were constructed with a hole in the roof to allow in light. The hole which was most often left open was covered with Bear intestine. The base of the house was five to six foot thick made of earth and sod and tapered and thinned out towards the top which was …




Letter Re: Earth Bag Construction

James- The latest Mother Earth News (#212) has an article on building a home from earth-filled bags. Looks like a cheap, fast way to build a home with good protection against attacks with weaponry. Might also be a good plan for a secondary place to serve as an emergency shelter against radiation. Or as a way to build up an existing area in a cellar as a Safe Room. – B.B. in Hawaii   Letter Re: Information on Various Fire Starters (SAs: Wilderness Survival, Primitive Skills, Fire Starting) Jim, Been a long time reader of your site. Just wanted to …




Letter Re: Radiation Protection Factors for Dummies

James: Just read Radiation Protection Factors for Dummies – by L.H. on your blog. These types of articles always talk about shielding of radiation. Is there any substance that REFLECTS radiation instead of absorbing it? JWR Replies: It has been nearly 20 years since I took the Army NBC Defense Officer’s course, so forgive me if any of the following betrays my faulty memory:  Any of the materials described will reflect or absorb alpha or beta radiation, and absorb highly energetic gamma rays. Because they are a ray (think of it as a flash from a flash bulb, or the …




Two Letters Re: More Web Resources on CONEXes

Jim: See these sites: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/01/shipping_contai.php (Site with some info on how containers can be used for living.) and, http://www.containerhouse.com/ (Site with interesting pictures of container conversions, including door systems.) Regards, – B.A. Jim: You might be interested in this site about CONEX containers: http://www.undergroundcontainer.com/  Keep up the good work! – J.F.




Radiation Protection Factors for Dummies – by L.H.

When building a homemade fallout shelter in a basement, or on a cement slab inside the first floor, it is important to understand halving thickness and protection factors. First of all, after a nuclear detonation, there will be light, heat, and a blast wave. This essay assumes that you will be out of that target area, with your home and roof intact. If you are close to targets, you may need better shelter than this improvised model. At the end of this essay I will list a few sources showing target maps, fallout maps, blast areas, etc. Fallout is the …




Survival On a Shoestring Budget

I often get e-mails from readers claiming either directly or indirectly that preparedness is “only for wealthy people”–that working class people cannot afford to prepare. That is nonsense. By simply re-prioritizing your budget and cutting out needless expenses (such as alcohol, cigarettes, convenience foods, and cable television) almost anyone can set aside enough money for a year’s worth of storage food in fairly short order. It is amazing what can be done with hard work, ingenuity, and very little money. While I do not endorse interloping on public lands nor do I suggest that you live like a hermit, the …




Letter From “Mr. Bravo” Re: Ballistic Protection of Building Materials

Jim, Joel Skousen writes in his book “The Secure Home” that a gravel-filled wall is better than concrete, for an exterior wall or an interior safe room. While persistent impacts will drill a hole in concrete, they will have no effect on gravel, except for slight settling and spillage, generating a gap only at the very top where protection is not needed. Gravel (1/2 to 3?4 inch, presumably fragmented and not rounded pea gravel) will deflect and destroy most rounds, unlike sand, which merely slows most rounds. In his book “The Secure Home”, Skousen advises using 5/8-inch or 3?4- inch …




Letter Re: Ballistic Protection of Building Materials

Mr Rawles, I saw the letter you posted asking about the ballistic protection afforded by common building materials. I did some experimenting on this topic, testing the protection of concrete-filled blocks against a number of common calibers. You can see my findings here: http://www.clairewolfe.com/wolfesblog/00001296.html and here: http://www.clairewolfe.com/wolfesblog/00001404.html Even 8 inches of concrete offers only temporary protection from rifle ammunition (though it’s quite good against pistol fire.) For info on other materials, you might direct folks to: http://www.theboxotruth.com/ – Ian




Letter Re: Retreat Architecture

James: Thoroughly enjoyed your book “Patriots”. Are there any recommended sources for designing a retreat on the Web that you recommend? You have provided a ton of info on the locating a retreat, but I have not been able to find anything on how to design a retreat or a comprehensive list of recommended features. Thank you for your Website, I read it daily. – J.M. JWR Replies: Glad that you like the site. I’ll be talking about retreat design in detail in blog posts in coming weeks. In the meantime, read Joel Skousen’s book “The Secure Home.” (The book …




Letter Re: Retreat Architecture

Hello from a long-time fan. With some of the discussions going into how to build a home that will be designed with survival in mind, I’d thought that the following may be useful (If you haven’t seen this stuff already). I’ve been researching extensively differing home structures and came across what the owners of this home call “The Ultimate Secure Home” See: http://www.ultimatesecurehome.com/ Now I’m not advocating anyone buy this place, but it is chock-full “Secure Home”. What scenarios to consider like plague, economic collapse, fire, and items dealing with water support, off-grid power, communications…etc. Also the unique dome-structure itself …




Letter Re: Retreat Architecture Options

I noticed that one of your readers requested information on retreat architecture. I’m off the grid and in the process of building a house. Before designing it, I investigated several different types of architecture, including straw bale, insulated concreted form (ICF), adobe, corn cob, concrete and earth-bermed. All of these have wonderful advantages, but one major drawback: nearly all literature and materials available to novices are dedicated to mainstream stick-built homes. I’ve found few books or other resources that give step-by-step instructions on building in alternative materials, although I’ve found many for stick-built. Home Depot carries lumber, insulation, windows, etc …




Letter Re: Retreat Architecture Options

Mr. Rawles, In your 09/19/2005 blog, you asked for input on different architectural techniques related to a retreat. Following is information on a type of construction that has some interesting potential. Take a look at the video at http://archnet.org/library/files/one-file.tcl?file_id=1385 . It is a high-resolution Windows Media Player file showing construction of sandbag shelters using very low tech methods and tools. The shelter exceeds all standard earthquake specs for buildings. Very cool idea and a very well done video. The objective was to find shelter for refugees rather than sticking them in tents. Adding Portland cement to the sand makes for …




Letter from “Dr. Buckaroo Banzai” on Living Debt Free and Retreat

Shortly before Katrina hit I eliminated all of my unsecured debt. At the moment we have just the mortgage and two car payments (aside from utilities and insurance payments.) We put a 48 month plan into action. Every month we ‘bank’ a percentage of our income, roughly $1,000 USD a month. At the moment it’s going into the safe and we are entering month 3 and are at $2,000 and right on track. Our car payments will be done before the 48 months are up and 100% of that will then also be going towards our new home/retreat. We are …




Letter Re: Manufactured Homes Versus “Stick Built” Homes for Retreats + Gun Questions

Dear Jim: I am completely impressed with the level of data and analysis on your blog site! However, there is one subject I have yet to see discussed. When looking for a homestead/retreat have you evaluated a manufactured home versus a conventional\ stick and frame house? Around these parts lots of rural properties come with manufactured/mobile homes as part of the deal. What is your opinion as to the type of housing to be used for your homestead/retreat? I also have a few questions concerning some answers to a previous e-mail: 1.) You had mentioned a CETME weapon. What exactly …