With nuclear threats looming overseas, plus the devastation from natural disasters and climate change, “doomsday shelters” are in demand — but these aren’t the bomb shelters of the 1950s and ’60s. They’ve become decorative environments complete with modern furniture and ultra-durable lighting.
The world has inched a little closer to total annihilation. That’s the assessment of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which regularly gauges how close civilization is to global catastrophe with its famous Doomsday Clock. As of press time, the Clock reads two minutes to midnight — the closest to a possible apocalypse since the early ’80s.
Until recently, the construction of “bomb shelters” was mainly the work of governments. In 1962, for instance, federal authorities completed a massive bunker beneath the Greenbrier hotel in West Virginia, a four-hour drive from Washington, D.C. The nuclear-fallout shelter, code-named Project Greek Island, packed enough supplies to keep all of Congress plus an additional 600 staff members alive for 45 days.
Today, it’s concerned citizens and entrepreneurs who are getting involved. Some are building from scratch – Texas-based Radius Engineering offers fiberglass shelters that it claims can support 2,000 people for five years underground – and others are taking over Cold War relics. “The critical infrastructure is already there,” says Larry Hall, Project Manager of Survival Condo Project, which is converting abandoned Atlas missile silos in Kansas into fallout shelters at $1.75 million per floor. Brian Camden, CEO of the Colorado-based firm Hardened Structures, estimates his bunker sales have increased by 40 percent over the past 10+ years.
Apocalypse-ready properties are being offered at various price points, ranging from $25,000 up into the millions, and they run the gamut from basic survivalist co-op apartments to vast underground military compounds.
Robert Vicino, founder of Vivos xPoint Shelters, reports interest in bunkers has dramatically increased within the past year. “People are waking up to the pending doom that surrounds us and are seeking a viable Plan B solution,” Vicino comments, adding his bunkers provide an opportunity to come out on the other side of what may be an “extinction-level event for everyone else.”
Vivos xPoint, a former army base decommissioned in 1967, claims to be one of the largest survival communities available. It consists of 575 hardened concrete off-grid bunkers buried in the quiet grasslands of South Dakota, near the Wyoming border. Each bunker was reportedly built and fortified to withstand a 500,000-lb. internal blast while being strategically separated from the next bunker by an average of 400 feet in all directions, providing security, protection, and privacy. There are more than 100 miles of onsite roads providing access to each of the bunkers with several runways and a municipal airport nearby.
Although no one currently lives on base, buyers are starting to build out the interiors. The bunkers are priced at $25,000 to lease for 99 years, plus $1,000 annually, and that cost is the same no matter how many residents wind up using the space. The facility plans to expand to as many as 5,000 bunkers with features planned like general stores, hydroponic gardens, hot tub spas, shooting ranges, and even a community theater.
Vicino recently added a shared, fully furnished bunker to xPoint’s inventory, in which up to 24 people can purchase a private sleeping pod for $5,000 each. He incorporated both decorative and utilitarian lighting within the showroom bunker, including vintage-style filament bulbs and fixtures, and modern LED and halogen lights. His goal was to attain maximum lumens in practical areas while maintaining low-wattage consumption, and to provide accent and mood lighting for ambiance.
“We included decorative vintage string lights to create a warm atmosphere, and we used LED strip lights along the base of the great room and dome walls,” he says. The dining area features two large incandescent lighting fixtures over the dining table. These were selected to engender a rustic, yet casual, feel.
“A lot of consideration went into lighting the space,” Vicino adds. “The bunkers are able to withstand the worst-case scenario, but they’ll be of little value if they aren’t properly lit.”
Vicino estimates the cost of retrofitting each shelter – complete with a blast door seal and interior lock, an escape hatch, exhaust and air vents, a propane generator, a fuel tank, electrical wiring, plumbing, a hot water heater, and a septic system – is roughly $22,000.
For clients looking for something more luxurious, the company offers Vivos Europa One, billed as a “modern day Noah’s Ark” in a former Cold War-era munitions storage facility in Germany. The structure, carved out of solid bedrock, offers 34 private residences, each starting at 2,500 sq. ft., with the option to add a second story for a total of 5,000 sq. ft.
The residential units will be delivered empty and each owner will have the space renovated to their needs, choosing from options that include screening rooms, private pools, and gyms. Vicino compares the individual spaces to underground yachts and even recommends owners commission the same builders and designers who worked on their actual vessels.
“The sky is the limit,” Vicino explains. “Our clients are ordering everything from high-end appliances and glamorous furniture to modern technology and decorative lighting fixtures. No expense is being spared.”
Clyde Scott, President & CEO of Rising S Company, urges his clients to choose utilitarian and LED lighting for reliability and simplicity, plus the estimated lifespan of 50,000 hours or roughly 10 years or more. Rising S manufactures steel underground bunkers, storm shelters, safe rooms, blast doors, and emergency shelters. Since forming the company in 2003, Scott has constructed 20 shelters in Western Pennsylvania, with four in the Greater Pittsburgh area. As North Korean and Russian threats continue to raise demand, his company is building up to 300 per year worldwide at an average cost of $125,000.
“Practicality will always be first when making decisions about a product designed to save lives. Bunker lighting is just like home lighting, no more and no less creativity,” Scott remarks.