Modern home design has advanced in recent years to include super-efficient energy saving features. While this is really good, the cost of such a home is above astronomical. You will need high efficiency, but you don’t need a mortgage that drowns you in a sea of debt.
A better way is to build you own home. Many people who don’t think they can do this are surprised at how affordable and easy it can be. I’m a strong advocate of earth sheltered designs, using a combination of natural building materials. These homes offer the lowest cost alternatives to box houses and are much more personable and efficient and will last much longer.
You don’t have to do all the building yourself. There are plenty of people around who will work fairly cheaply and can assist you with all the heavy labor portions. It’s still far cheaper to hire this work out then to contract out an entire stick-built house project, or buy one pre-built. Another thing to keep in mind should you be flush with cash – simpler is better. Not putting all of your money into shelter or what is already proving to be a depressed real estate market is good advice.
When considering shelter, you will need to consider adequate storage requirements. Most homes are not designed with storage in mind anymore, although they offer large square footage. Empty space is energy inefficient and is not desirable. You’re going to need plenty of storage space. Supplies, gear, clothing, food and preparations areas (for processing garden produce and animals) all require a certain amount of space. Good home designs utilize basements, but these are not always possible. Earth sheltered homes don’t usually have basements, already being sunken into the earth fully or partly.
Really cool storage space “shelves” can be built right into earth sheltered designs (and straw bale designs), affording plenty of storage space right into the existing walls. Desirable are walk-in pantries allowing easy access to food stuffs with plenty of storage. Inside “root storage” facilities are advantageous for energy efficiency and convenience.
Earth sheltered designs offer passive solar heating, thermal mass, non-combustible, custom design, low profile, natural building materials, energy efficiency and the best security of all designs. Ground temperatures remain constant year round at about 4 ft. down, heat pumps and cold air exchangers can be utilized to take advantage of this natural feature (if you have electricity, otherwise, design for convection / thermal exchange).
Earth sheltered homes also are aesthetically pleasing and low profile, blending in with their environment best over all other designs. They can also be modified for expansion with a little planning and forethought. Additional rooms can be added on as needed, blending into the overall design.
When considering shelter, actual site location is very important. One of the distinct advantages of doing it yourself allows you to situate the home on the best possible location given the terrain and land features, solar angles and existing vegetation.
Deciduous trees naturally lose their leaves in the winter, allow much needed solar energy at this time of year to help warm your home, while protecting against the summer sun. Roof systems can be designed to collect rainwater for recycling into gardens and animal watering. It’s very possible to build rain catchment systems that can meet your yearly water needs from the square footage your roof offers.
Earth shelters offer the best defensive shelters, similar to bomb shelters. Thick walls, low-profile designs and difficult forced entry (generally limited to windows and doors) make earth shelters “safe”, as safe as most housing designs tend to be. They are also highly fireproof, earthquake proof and even tornado proof. Designs utilized must take into account natural runoff and potentially unstable ground.
Earth shelters need not be “dark, dank caves” of mold and mildew, but can be bright, sunny airy environments that take best of advantage of the natural lay of the land, sunlight, passive heating and cooling and be aesthetically pleasing. Best of all, they can be cheap to build, although they are labor intensive. This is the only real drawback, but considering their actual advantages over stick-homes, this is well worthwhile, even if you have to hire out the hard work.
Collapse will create serious security concerns for individuals, families and entire communities. The potential for marauding bandits, corrupt “officials” and even military attacks are very real. Security can be broken down into personal security and home / community security.
Personal security will need to be maintained at all times, even while in a “safe” community. Of course, this is true today – most people lock their doors, cars and don’t carry lots of cash or valuables. Collapse will bring out a great many desperate people who will have failed to prepare adequately, or at all, and they won’t think twice about taking whatever it is that they need.
There is NO adequate protection for this unfortunate outcome. Vigilance, preparation and training is self-defense with and without weapons are extremely worthwhile and highly recommended, but having to be “on guard” 24/7 is very tiring and nobody can do it all the time. Even so, preparation is your best defense.
Weapons training, marksmanship practice and combat training are essential. Learning how to keep your head when under extreme stress and make instant and judicial decisions will help keep you and yours alive. There are a number of good schools that teach these skills, if you can go, do so now. Then practice what they have taught you, refining your response time and “muscle memory” to react quickly and decisively. You can be sure that any would-be thief or assassin won’t hesitate – you had better not either.
Training should including hand-to-hand combat, pistol and rifle training and marksmanship skills and drills. Not just punching paper, but combat techniques, rapid reloading and defensive drills against multiple aggressors. The confidence and skill you gain will help you in innumerable ways. This is defensive training and is not to be construed as anything else.
Such training can be highly beneficial to a community, where your best options for defense really lies. Individual homesteaders and independent survivalists are easy pickings for a marksman, who can eliminate you from a thousand yards or more. That’s 3/4 of a mile away, perfectly possible with today’s civilian weapons. A .50 caliber rifle can penetrate almost any defensive barrier or barricade, except several feet of solid earth, rock or concrete. .50 caliber rifles are capable of 2000+ yards.
It’s unlikely that you’ll have to worry about .50 caliber rifles, but the point is clear – you may well run up against highly skilled, trained soldiers or ex-soldiers or skilled civilians intent on doing you harm. Your best defense is your own training and preparation.
There is safety in numbers – provided you can trust everyone else. Collapse will bring out the worst in people, and in some situations, the very best. You will quickly find out what everyone is made of and if they have the right stuff when they are put under extreme stress. The same can be said for you. This is where discipline and training come into play, and preparation. If you are suddenly subjected to a unknown, inexperienced situation, you may not respond properly, nor will anybody else.
Run through various “scenarios” when considering your defensive options. You won’t think up enough of them – the “enemy” will.
Your weakest link is your weakest “member”, be it yourself, your kids or your neighbor or even the stranger you may try to help. Anybody can be turned, compromised, kidnapped, or betrayed. The only real defense against this is training and discipline and adaptability, cope with whatever happens. You must not ignore these facts, because the enemy, whosoever they may turn out to be, will find the weakness.
Situational awareness is paramount. Understand and know what is going on around you. Loud music, drinking, drugs or any other distractions will make you considerably more vulnerable. So will simple carelessness or “blind trust”. Collapse will cause people to “seek the advantage” in all kinds of situations, because they are desperate, hungry, hurt or greedy. Plan for the worst, and hope for the best.
Security also includes community security. Food supplies, fuel, families, children and even access routes may need to be watched and / or defended if necessary. I fully envision communities posting guards to keep an eye on things (community police force) if necessary. Moreover, I fully expect a tyrannical police state to abuse its “privilege” and to take advantage of communities and individuals. This is a logical extension of the State-sponsored tyranny we are already experiencing now. Expect it to get worse if things collapse.
Some of this will have to be tolerated – some of it will not. Your best defense is to “know your enemy” (read Sun Tzu, The Art of War).
The patriot movement in America contains some highly trained individuals who will be potential assets, with some being downright dangerous. This is unfortunate, but ideologies sometimes override common sense. People somehow forget that we are all in this mess together, going through the exact same trials and tribulations, with the same fears, same needs and same desires.
Most of us just want to be left alone, but this is predicated on some basic assumptions, which are no longer proving to be true. The world is changing very rapidly for the worse and what we’ve long taken for granted is no longer true. The opportunity to simply live your life in peace is rapidly dwindling away. It will be tooth and claw when the oil runs out, the food runs out, the water runs out and the planet heats up to unbearable levels in some areas. On top of that, the police-state apparatus will be increasing its reach and tyranny exponentially as documented on this blog.
Banding together in community is your best defense. You cannot do this alone. Outsiders will be distrusted, lack respect, lack awareness of community needs and operations and be “untried”. Communities will be forced to deal with many outsiders as immigration and mass migration occur. Communities should make plans for this as soon as possible. Not everyone is going to be your friend. That would be nice, but that is not the real world.
Trust is paramount. Personal security and community security will depend on trust. Trust only comes from experience. It isn’t what people say that matters, it’s what people do. That’s your yardstick, the rule by which you measure folks by. That goes for family, children, neighbors, long time friends. Betrayal is difficult to accept and deadly in certain situations.
Trust can only be built up and experienced over time. Collapse will force some extreme situations on everyone, and “instant relationships” will be forged that may or may not be reliable. Best if you can work out the trust issues now (which is why early relocation is so important). Get situated, integrated and involved in the community. Get known so you can build the trust that is needed and vice versa. You have to learn to trust other people who will quite literally, hold your life in their hands. These things take time.
Nordic Thora pointed out something that I’ve learned a lot from. The lack of “localness” is one of the primary reasons groups fail. Groups formed from distant parts lack local connections, which eventually shows itself in numerous and negative ways. Lack of social structure, local income, connections to the community, connections to the land, investment in the future stability of the group or community, etc., groups more often then not “implode” from these “lacks”. They also implode because of family, pets, religion, ideology, work ethic, slothfulness, ignorance, belligerence and arrogance (sounds like the seven deadly sins to me).
Groups form “best” when there is personal involvement and investment. Not just financial (important), but time, labor, commitment and dedication. Buying your way into a survival community may work for some, for a while but what happens when your money becomes worthless? Without your actual participation (time, commitment and personal investment), you will be quickly isolated among your riches and distrusted. Maybe even destroyed. You need to become involved on a daily basis if possible. Contribute to the group / community and you will be valued as an asset instead of an ass. Offer nothing and you will be rejected.
I covered many of these points under the ecovillage sections on this blog and why I ultimately rejected the general “design” approach of ecovillages. Ecovillages are great in principle, but lack certain aspects of practicality. The relationship part of ecovillages are fine as far as they go, but they do not go far enough (in my opinion). Moreover, ecovillages fail to take into account some very serious aspects of collapse, including defense, the local community needs and requirements and mass migration. Essentially, this is why I’ve come to embrace the community solution, which is broader based, and much more similar to what we already have today without joining a bunch of villagers.
Don’t get me wrong – I approve of the ecovillage concept, but I don’t approve of the non-practical aspects I’ve read about. Collapse will be survival with no reliable existing support structure, and a survival approach with sustainability is what is needed. Communities offer this best.
Within your “core” relationship group (family, friends or survival group), getting everyone “on board” isn’t easy (at all). Consider yourself blessed if everyone is on board (and stays that way). Dissension, disillusionment and disgust are pretty common. Just keep plugging away, there’s not much else you can really do. Time and events will prove you right and if not, then it won’t matter anyway. Some people will simply refuse to face reality, even when they’re being tortured or their situation has completely turned. There is nothing you can do for them. You will need to stay focused as best you can. Not everyone is going to make it. In fact, exceedingly few will over the next 50 years. Estimates run as low as 30% or lower survival rate. Some estimates are 5 out of 6 people will die violently, or starve, within the next generation.