For what seems like forever, concrete suppliers and contractors everywhere have been looking for somethinganythingto spark and sustain their business.


I’m not sure this is what they had in mind.


CNN reports a surge of interest in bunkers and other structures capable of protecting occupants from disasters both natural and human-inspired. The renewed interest in ultra-hardened construction is, of course, a result of the post-tsunami disaster unfolding at the Fukushima I nuclear power plant in Japan, but also worries among some that the recent spate of natural and political unrest may well validate the ancient Mayans’ predictions of upheaval when their 5,125-year Long Count calendar ends on December 21, 2012.


Mind you, these are not the cramped, Spartan fallout shelters that were in vogue during the Cold War (and parodied in Donald Fagan’s song, New Frontier).


For example, Northwest Shelter Systems, which also offers designs for safe rooms, gun vaults, and wine cellars, claims that its underground bomb shelters “look and serve much like an attractive room addition,” yet with the strength to withstand a bomb blast or earthquake.

The CNN story also cites the work of developers that are transforming former missile silos in the Midwest into catastrophe condos. One company, Vivos, has a 137,000-sf project underway in Nebraska that will house up to 950 people in suites, plus offer amenities such as “a medical and dental center, kitchens, bakery, prayer room, computer area, pool tables, pet kennels, a fully stocked wine cellar and a detention center to place anyone who turns violent.” 

Guaranteed  protection doesn’t come cheap. According to its
price calculator, Northwest Shelter Systems’ base 200-sf underground shelter starts at $55,5000. That doesn’t include the tunnel, blast doors, plumbing and electrical system, water storage, etc., or whatever other amenities the owner wants to add. It also takes $25,000 just to be considered for a spot in the Vivos complex; the cost of purchasing the actual suite isn’t mentioned.


(Presumably, the Vivos selection process differs from the moral-dilemma exercises we Space Age kids were given in school; e.g., if you have a group 12 people, but provisions for only six in your fallout shelter, do you let in the young doctor and his pregnant, somewhat panicky wife, or your elderly grandparents?)


Will the budding bunker revival put a dent in the concrete industry’s doldrums? And will their customers’ investments be worthwhile? I guess we’ll find out toward the end of next year.


(And should circumstances surrounding a positive answer to the second question prevent a Rebar Madness follow-up…well, I hope you all understand.)