The apocalypse will be televised…
As I start to write this article, there are 216 days, 13 hours, 28 minutes and 41 seconds until the world is going to end. But how the end will arrive is something that nobody knows for sure. Nuclear war, biological terrorism, solar flares, a killer comet, global tsunami and super volcanoes have all be suggested, while others believe it will be a global economic meltdown.
Personally, I believe it will be zombies. After all, the Russians have announced that they are rapidly developing a ray gun that turns people into zombies by taking advantage of the effect pulsed microwaves can have on brain activity.
The fact is, many people are suffering from apocalypticism, which is the fear of the end of the world as we know it, and they believe the world will end on 21 December 2012 because the Mayan long-form calendar ‘predicts’ it.
In fact, according to a recent Ipsos Global @dvisor poll, conducted on behalf of Reuters News, 14% of the world’s population agrees ‘the world will come to an end during their lifetime’. One in ten (10%) believe the Mayan calendar, which ‘ends’ in 2012, marks the end of the world and another 8% admit they ‘have been experiencing anxiety or fear because of the impending Armageddon’.
This fear has lead to the introduction of the ‘prepper’.
A prepper is someone who is prepared for the end of civilisation. They have learned to fight, hunt and forage. They have learned how to survive in almost any situation.
Their crippling paranoia is second only to their stubborn determination. And as technology becomes increasingly pervasive, they are learning to use it for their survival.
The zombie house
Situated on the outskirts of Warsaw, Poland, is an architectural property that has been touted as the world’s first zombie-proof home.
Designed by architect Robert Konieczny of KWK Promes, the ‘Safe House’ features large mechanical walls and gates that, when closed, turn the home into a impenetrable cement box.
“Our client had very unpleasant experiences in his life, including the fact that his previous house had fallen victim to two burglaries, one of which took place while he was at home with his wife,” Robert says.
“The experience left a lasting mark on his psyche. He said that the next house he built would be one that gave him a sense of security – mental and physical.
“Now, should he feel the need, he is be able to completely cut off from the outside world.”
When somebody arrives at the front gate they are granted access to a secured courtyard but are unable to proceed any further onto the grounds. To get into the garden, the visitor needs to go through the house.
“After entering through the main gate it is not possible to get into the house or garden if you do not pass through the main entrance,” Robert says.
“The house features 45cm-thick moving screens, which when closed create a ‘safe zone’ within the confi nes of the building.
“The house is resistant to bandits and the walls are resistant to various kinds of interference. The home is resistant to thugs who aren’t carrying heavy, custom hardware.”
Accomplishment of this design required the use of technically complex solutions, the most significant of which was the 22m-long by 2.2m-high sliding wall.
Further, all windows are covered by large, motorised concrete shutters (3.5m-long by 2.8m-high, and opening up to 180º) and the swimming pool is accessed via an automated drawbridge leading to the roof terrace.
The southern elevation is closed by a 14m by 6m roll-down gate, which was manufactured by a company that normally supplies shipyards and air freight companies. It is constructed from a white anodised aluminium, which makes it possible to also function as a movie projection screen. All the moveable elements are based on in-built industrial electronic engines, which guarantee safe operation. Everything can be controlled from a remote location and, in case of a blackout, manual operation is available.
“After publication in the Spanish magazine El Mundo, where this property was described as the safest house in the world, we have had lots of calls to our office,” Robert says.
“Surprisingly, there is huge interest from the United States where clients want a similar house as a shelter against nuclear attacks. We are also discussing with Russian businessmen about complete residential areas with several houses similar to this one.”
Robert explains that in relation to natural disasters like earthquakes, floods and tornadoes, the ‘Safe House’ could not withstand them.
Rather, it is better suited to protect residents from burglars, looters or the aforementioned zombies.
“Nature is unpredictable and we architects can only try to solve some aspects. The only perfect solution would be a bunker dug deep in the ground. But what kind of life would you have living in such a house?”
Good question. And, as is the case with most ‘unusual’ properties, the answer can be found in the US. In Salina, Kansas, engineer-turnedreal- estate-developer Larry Hall has converted an abandoned missile silo, which was originally intended to hold a four-megaton thermonuclear warhead, into a 14-storey underground luxury apartment block that features its own gym, swimming pool, bar, medical facilities and movie theatre.
Fitted out by Logic Integration from Denver, Colorado, these $2 million units feature state-of-the-art home automation technologies to improve liveability.
“In every unit there will be lighting control, local automation for each fl oor (video switching and audio switching), an intercom, internet network and phone infrastructure,” says Logic Integration chief executive and founder Shawn Hansson.
“Alongside the seven individual condos there will be a large theatre for people to gather in to watch movies and other media.
“Further, each condo will also feature fake windows that are in fact LCD screens operating on Mac mini computers. It will be sort of like a fancy screensaver.”
In total, there will be around $50,000 worth of equipment installed in each condo. Though, installing technology into nearly 3m of solid concrete walls isn’t easy.
“All the interior walls use metal stud framing, so that wasn’t a problem,” Shawn says.
“As far as penetration to the outside for satellite phone and internet (assuming that would even work if the world ends), we have not yet done the outside runs. That said, the developer will be providing an entry point that is sealed and safe.”
The entire complex will be surrounded by a $500,000, four-stage security system. Stage one is a 2m-tall barbed wire fence. Stage two is a complex surveillance system of electronics, biometrics, motion sensors and CCTV to allow residents to see any intruders. Stage three is the 2.7m-thick entrance to the silo itself. Finally, if that all fails, the silo is stocked with enough weaponry to service a small army – handguns, shotguns and automatic rifles. There is enough ammunition to fight a small war.
In real terms
According to National Geographic, more than 50% of Americans believe a significant weather event, terrorist attack or financial crisis could happen in the next 25 years. And 41% believe it is more important to plan for a catastrophic event instead of planning for retirement. But while it might seem a bit exploitative to capitalise on people’s fears, despite how irrational they may seem, the examples above are simply the extremes of what can be achieved.
The simple fact is an integrated security system could be a good way to generate extra income, especially considering the current state of the global economy. After all, we can’t just wait for Bruce Willis or William Shatner to save us from what, at the time, will appear to an insurmountable problem. But you’ll have to act quickly because you don’t have much time left. 213 days, 11 hours, 47 minutes and 19 seconds to be exact.