4.1/5 (69) Why would you want to do this? Look at the name: STORAGE Shed. Most everybody “needs” more storage because they can’t bear to have less stuff. And someone preparing for bad times probably has more stuff than a person who doesn’t believe anything bad can happen and expects their parents and/or government to take care of them no matter what. Some of that extra stuff you really don’t have room for in your house, and some of your prepping supplies you REALLY don’t want to have IN your house. Such as a generator and fuel, oil and vehicle parts, battery banks and so on so building a storage shed makes a lot of sense in some situations. You can, of course, rent storage space; there is a large industry devoted to just that.
There are a few problems with that solution though. One, you have to go there to get your stuff, and that assumes that you have a working transport AND that they can or will let you have access if they have no power or their computers don’t work or the people in charge are honesty challenged. Two, you have signed your stuff over to them if they don’t receive payment for any reason (such as banks being closed). Three, you are usually contractually obligated NOT to store some of the things you don’t want in your house. And four, they can raise their rates whenever they please unless you have a long-term lease. The place I am at currently is charging me TWICE what someone walking in off the street pays, and won’t reduce it. I could rent another unit, move my stuff over, and cancel the first place, or move to another location, but I know the new price will just start moving up again. The cost of a storage shed may seem large, but I did the math, and it will be paid off by two years of storage fees, and that is assuming they don’t raise the rate again, which is a very poor assumption.
Ok, let us assume you have decided you want a storage shed. But can you have one? Like it or not, there are a number of people or organizations who have control over what you put up. Do you own the property? If not, the owner has complete discretion over what you put up, if anything. And if you don’t own the property, do you really want to make improvements to it? An option in this case might be “portable” storage, like a trailer, or one of those transoceanic shipping containers.
Do you belong to a “Home Owners Association”? If so, you have contractually agreed to give them complete control of the exterior of your property. Read the bylaws to see what is currently allowed. Figure out what you can do which abides by any restrictions. And once you come to agreement on what they will accept “today”, get documentation which grandfathers your shed against any future changes to the bylaws.
How close are the neighbors, and are they reasonable? If you follow all the legal requirements, they may not be able to prevent you from doing what you want, but if they get annoyed enough, they can still cause you plenty of grief.
Dealing with Governments
And then there is the city, town, township, parish and/or county. Each level of government will have restrictions on what can be done, based on the “zoning” of the property in question. The less remote the property is, the more stringent the restrictions are likely to be. These include things like the percentage of the property which can be “covered”, height restrictions, required distances from property lines and other buildings, and many other things, collectively known as “Building Codes”. Your safest bet is to get a “building permit”, but this has some downsides. First of all, as a survivalist, you should attempt to stay “under the radar”. You would be hard pressed to be more obvious than having your plans on public accessible file with the government, and having inspectors checking you out each step of the way. Second of all, it will cost. The building permit has a fee, often based on type of building and square feet. I once wanted to put up a carport, and they told me I would have to pay $5 per square foot just for the permit. For posts and an aluminum roof; the building permit would have cost more than the carport. Not only that, but it is likely they will factor this “improvement” into your property value when computing future property taxes.
By all means, find out all the restrictions on what you can put up; violating restrictions has potential for serious annoyances if the government wants to raise a fuss (and they usually do if violations are brought to their attention). However, if you can avoid getting a building permit, that might be a good path. For instance, here, if the shed is less than 200 square feet, you don’t need a permit. That means a 12′ by 16′ shed (192 square feet) can be put up without a permit being required. Just because a permit is not required, does not mean the restrictions can be ignored; you just won’t have the public records and government monitoring.
Ways to Get a Storage Shed
The “easiest” way is to have someone build it for you. This will not be the cheapest option, and a competent builder will likely insist on a building permit, meaning not only public records and government monitoring, but the builder and perhaps others will know all about your shed. The incompetent builder will refuse the permit and perhaps build something which violates code, with potential for eventual legal challenges or structural problems. For smaller sheds, you might be able to have it pre-built and delivered. You could build it yourself, which means you have to come up with a viable design (not that hard) and get the materials, which may be a challenge. I don’t know about your location, but the lumber here is crap; warped, twisted, split, insufficiently dried. As my dad said when we were trying to get lumber to replace a rotted porch, “I wouldn’t use this stuff for firewood”. The remaining option is a “kit”. This has the advantage that the design, acquisition of materials and much of the cutting are already done for you. A good kit will have better quality material than you may find locally and instructions which most everyone should be able to follow.
Types of Storage Sheds
There are a number of architectural shed types. Chose what you like, and what fits your landscape and restrictions. I’m partial to the “barn” style, because it gives you more height, and even “lofts” in some models. Possible materials include wood, steel, aluminum and various “plastics”. Plastic and aluminum tend to be the hallmark of cheap “department store” sheds, great for lawnmowers and garden tools, but not what you would call “durable” or “secure”, and usually limited in size. For a substantial shed, wood or steel is usually the way to go. I’m more comfortable working with wood, so that is the path I chose, although steel seems like it might have some advantages.
Depending on what you will use the shed for, you may want to make modifications or additions. For instance, wiring it for electricity may be useful. But since there is no guarantee electricity will always be available, make sure you have the ability to plug-in a generator (via a transfer switch), or add solar or wind generation capability. In some cases, you may want to add plumbing. Note that no matter how much of the electrical or plumbing work you are willing and able to do yourself, you should consider getting a permit for this work and having it inspected. Unlike the structure, which is hard to mess up (especially if professionally designed), a mistake in the design OR execution of electric or plumbing can cause fire, electrocution, leaks, odors or rot/rust. And if not up to code, an insurance company may refuse to pay off on a claim. Wherever practical, have the shed “completed” so it looks like you are “adding” the electrical or plumbing and follow all requirements for what must be visible to the inspector(s). Of course, if you got the permit for the shed in the first place, follow their instructions on when in the process the various inspections should be scheduled. If temperature control is a concern, you may want to add insulation, cooling or heating.
This foundation (literally) of a shed is an important decision. The common choices are concrete, or joists with flooring panels. Concrete may be “better” and in some cases easier; pick your location, set up forms and rebar, and have it poured. It may be more expensive, and less versatile (it is kind of hard to dig through concrete if you decide a partial “basement” would be handy), and “impossible” to move. Joists are likely to be less expensive and more versatile, and if the ground is not even, may even be more practical. There will be beams running the length of the building, with the joists running across the building between the beams. Flooring panels are laid across the joists and fastened in place. Note that the beams and joists are in contact with the ground and so are at risk for rotting and/or insects. Thus pressure treated lumber or corrosion resistant metal is critical here.
Site preparation is highly important, since in order for the floor to be flat and level, and stay that way, the ground must be flat, level and stable. If it is not, you may be able to compensate by having a variable thickness concrete floor, or building a foundation or partial foundation for your beams out of blocks and concrete. A “better” floor system is to have runners the length of the building, on which the beams and joists sit. As long as the runners are flat and level (and adequately supported), it does not matter if the ground is, plus it also allows ventilation below the shed, which can help with cooling and reduction of condensation inside. It also puts the flooring higher, which may make entry more difficult, but on the other hand, gives more protection against minor flooding. The runners, of course, must also be pressure treated wood, corrosion resistant metal, or even concrete and/or blocks, and a ramp can compensate for the step up.
Does this sound like something which might be of value to you? Check out Part 2 of the Introduction for some more pre-build details.
We do go on about the importance of resilient design, the ability of our buildings to survive in changing times and climates. We are big on repurposing, finding new uses for old buildings. And if the greenest brick is the one already in the wall, then surely the greenest bomb shelter is the one that’s already in the ground. That’s why the Oppidum is such an exciting opportunity; it’s a conversion of a classified secret facility built in 1984 by what were then the governments of Czechoslovakia and The Soviet Union. Now, it is available for use as the ultimate getaway, deep in a valley in the Czech Republic. The developer notes that they don’t make’em like they used to:
Because the construction of the facility occurred at a time of heightened world tension, the enormous level of resources used to develop it would be all but impossible to match today. It is extremely unlikely that any government would approve a non-military structure of this size to be built today.
It has a lovely above-grade modestly sized 30,000 square foot residence, which is connected via secret corridor to the two-storey, 77,000 square foot bunker below, which has been stylishly subdivided into one large apartment and six smaller ones for friends, family and staff, all stocked with ten years of supplies. Here is the upper level:
The bunker will be able to provide long-term accommodation for residents – up to 10 years if necessary – without the need for external supplies. This would involve large-scale stocks of non-perishable food and water, along with water purification equipment, medical supplies, surgical facilities, and communication networks with the outside world.
And of course, a wine cellar. Don’t worry if you are not into wine; right now it is all an empty shell and will be designed “according to the needs, wishes, and tastes of its future owner.” So you can make it as green and sustainable as you desire. You could even fill it with tiny homes or RVs and save a lot more people from the apocalypse; the ceilings are 13 feet high so many could fit.
Being in the Czech republic, it is a little further away than the Vivos and other shelters we have shown before, but there are benefits to not being in America:
Even though it is located in central Europe, Prague is not in the strategic path of Moscow, Warsaw, or Berlin, all of which saw mass bloodshed in past European conflicts. The Czech Republic is unlikely to become a potential battlefield. It faces no current major security threats.
The only real drawback that I can see is that it is a lot of space for just a couple of families, and would need a really big staff to keep them living in the style to which they appear to be accustomed. It does come with a retired general as a Director of Security, but no word about the sommelier. The project is billed as “The largest billionaire bunker in the world” but surely they would be better off to fill it with, say, millionaires, in tiny apartments or RVs like they do in Vivos Kansas. Because as we keep saying about our cities, you need a certain density to support decent services, not to mention, drink all that wine.
You’re not alone, in fact today most people in “civilized” parts of the world don’t own their homes but are indebted to banks or rent from a landlord. But it has not always been this way, as Henry David Thoreau so truthfully writes in his book Walden:
“In the savage (Native American) state every family owns a shelter as good as the best, and sufficient for its coarser and simpler wants; but I think that I speak within bounds when I say that, though the birds of the air have their nests, and the foxes their holes, and the savages their wigwams, in modern civilized society not more than half the families own a shelter. In the large towns and cities, where civilization especially prevails, the number of those who own a shelter is a very small fraction of the whole. The rest pay an annual tax or this outside garnment of all, become indispensible summer and winter, which would buy a village of Indian wigwams, but now helps to keep them poor as long as they live.”
Is it impossible to imagine a future where humans, just as other animals, own their shelter free and clear and don’t have to pay a “tax” their whole lives just to stay protected from the elements?
Of course not. This is crazy!
In the list below you’ll find examples of homes that “savage” people throughout the world built with their own hands using locally available materials that Nature provided for free. No mortgage or rent required.
Most of the examples on this list are small house designs. They are small because a small house takes less fuel to heat, less time and building materials to build, and for some of the more portable designs a small home is much easier to move.
What you take away from this list is up to you, but I have no doubt there’s a lot to learn from how our ancestors lived in harmony with their surroundings and adapted perfectly to their environments, no matter how harsh.
1. The Tipi
Tipis (also spelled Teepees) are tent-like American Indian houses used by Plains tribes. A tepee is made of a cone-shaped wooden frame with a covering of buffalo hide, and originally they were up to 12 feet high. Like modern tents, tepees are carefully designed to set up and break down quickly. As a tribe moved from place to place, each family would bring their tipi poles and hide tent along with them.
Plains Indians migrated frequently to follow the movements of the buffalo herds, and it’s said an entire Plains Indian village could have their tipis packed up and ready to move within an hour.
2. The Lavvu
Sami family infront of their lavvu, 1900
The Lavvu has a design similar to a Native American tipi but is less vertical and more stable in high winds. It’s a temporary shelter used by the Sami people living on the treeless plains of northern Scandinavia, and it’s made of wooden poles which are covered in reindeer hides or, more recently, textile.
Modern designs of the lavvu have replaced the wooden poles with aluminium poles and heavier textiles with lighter fabrics. Today some people choose to heat the lavvu with an oven instead of an open fire and that has the benefit of producing less smoke, but it also produces less light making it quite dark inside.
3. The Wigwam
Wigwams, sometimes also known as birchbark houses, are Native American houses used by Algonquian Indians in the woodland regions.
These shelters are small, usually 8-10 feet tall, and they’re formed with a frame of arched poles, most often wooden, which are covered with some sort of roofing material ranging from grass, bark, brush, mats, reeds, hides or textile. The frame can be shaped like a dome, like a cone, or like a rectangle with an arched roof. The curved surfaces make it an ideal shelter for all kinds of conditions, and while wigwams are not portable they’re small and easy to build.
A first hand account from 1674 of Gookin, who was superindendent of the Indian subject to the Massachusetts Colony, says…
“The best of their houses are covered very neatly, tight and warm, with barks of trees, slipped from their bodies at those seasons when the sap is up, and made into great flakes, with pressure of weighty timber, when they are green….The meaner sort are covered with mats which they make of a kind of bulrush and are also indifferently tight and warm, but not so good as the former….Some I have seen, sixty or a hundred feet long and thirty feet broad….I have often lodged in their wigwams, and found them as warm as the best English houses.”
4. The Hogan
A hogan is the primary, traditional shelter of the Navajo people. It can be round, cone-shaped, multi-sided, or square; with or without internal posts; timber or stone walls and packed with earth in varying amounts or a bark roof for a summer house. Anything goes really.
The hogans of old are also considered pioneers of energy efficient homes: “Using packed mud against the entire wood structure, the home was kept cool by natural air ventilation and water sprinkled on the dirt ground inside. During the winter, the fireplace kept the inside warm for a long period of time and well into the night. This concept is called thermal mass.”
In 2001 the Hogan began seeing a revival with a joint-venture of a partnership involving the Navajo Nation, Northern Arizona University, the US Forest Service and other private and public partners.
5. The Burdei
The burdei dates back as far as 6000 years and it’s a type of half-dugout sheltersomewhat between a sod house and a log cabin, usually with a floor that’s 1 – 1.5 meters under ground level.
This type of shelter is native to the Carpathian Mountains and forest steppes of eastern Europe but has seen use in North America as well by many of the earliest Ukrainian Canadian settlers as their first home in Canada at the end of the 19th century and by Mennonites from Imperial Russia who settled in the Hillsboro region of Kansas.
The March 20, 1875, issue of the national weekly newspaper Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper described the structures:
…is the quaint brand-new village of Gnadenau, where there are some twenty small farmers, who have built the queerest and most comfortable cheap houses ever seen in the West, and with the least amount of timber, being merely a skeleton roof built on the ground and thatched with prairie-grass. They serve for man and beast, being divided on the inside by a partition of adobe..
6. The Barabara
A barabara were the traditional shelter used by the Alutiiq people and Aleuts, the indigenous people of the Aleutian Islands. Similar to the Burdei, the barabara lay partially underground like an earth lodge or pit-house so they could withstand the high forces of wind in the Aleutian chain of islands.
7. The Clochán
A Clochán is a dry-stone hut with a corbelled roof, commonly associated with the south-western Irish seaboard. Dry-stone is a building method where you use stones without any mortar to bind them together, and these structures get their strength from compressional forces and the interlocking of the stones.
Clocháns are most commonly round beehive huts and the walls are very thick, up to 1.5 metres. Some Clocháns are not completely built of stone, and may have had a thatched roof.
8. The Log Cabin
Some of the first log structures were built in Northern Europe many thousands of years ago, and they’re most commonly associated with Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.
They’re built out of logs laid on top of each other horizontally, with notches at both ends to form weather tight corners. The thick solid wood provide much better insulation over a timber frame covered with skins, boards, or shingles.
With suitable tools and logs, a log cabin can be erected (and disassembled) from scratch in days by a family but it can stand for potentially hundreds of years. In fact, not far from where I live you’ll find one of Sweden’s best preserved old farms with log structures built in the 1700’s that’s still in good condition.
Just as with the Clochán, the log cabin gets its structural integrity from compressional forces, and a log cabin tends to slightly compress as it settles over a few months or years.
9. The Long House
Reconstructed long house in the Vikingmuseum in Borg, Vestvågøy/Lofoten, Norway
Longhouses have been built all over Europe, Asia and the Americas, but may be most commonly associated with the Iroquois tribes in North America, as well as with the Norse(better known as the Vikings) in Scandinavia.
They are built similarly to wigwams, with pole frames and bark covering. The main difference is that longhouses are much, much larger. Longhouses could be 200 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 20 feet high.
Smaller longhouses housed one or several multi-generational families while larger ones could house an entire clan– as many as 60 people!
In its natural form, bamboo as a construction material is traditionally associated with the cultures of South Asia, East Asia and the South Pacific, to some extent in Central and South America,
11. The Pueblo
Pueblos are adobe house complexes used by the Pueblo Indians of the Southwest. They’re modular, multi-story houses made of adobe (clay and straw baked into hard bricks) or of large stones cemented together with adobe.
A whole pueblo housing comples can house an entire clan, with each adobe unit being home to one family much like a modern apartment. These houses can last for dozens of generations or longer in a warm, dry climate.
12. The Earthen House
Turf house in Sænautasel, Iceland.
In the old days you’d find several types of earthen houses around the world, including Native American houses such as the Navajo hogans, Sioux earth lodges, pit houses of the West Coast and Plateau, as well as subarctic sod houses in Alaska, Canada and on Iceland in the Atlantic.
These are all semi-subterranean houses, sheltered by the surrounding earth on three or four sides with a roof on top. The main benefit of the earthen house isthat you’re sheltered from both cold and wind by the earth, and if you face large windows towards the south you can potentially heat your home 100% passively from the sun.
13. The Igloo
Igloos are snow houses used by the Inuit (Eskimos) of northern Canada. Igloos are dome-shaped shelters built from the snow, with large blocks of ice set in a spiral pattern and packed with snow to form the dome.
You’d be surprised how warm an igloo can get when it’s freezing outside! “On the outside, temperatures may be as low as −45 °C (−49 °F), but on the inside the temperature may range from −7 °C (19 °F) to 16 °C (61 °F) when warmed by body heat alone.” – Cornell University, 2003
14. The Yurt
The yurt is a portable shelter used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia for at least three thousand years. You read that correctly. 3000 years. Wow.
Traditional yurts consist of an expanding wooden circular frame carrying a felt cover, and complete construction takes as little as 2 hours.
According to 4 major biblical prophets something truly terrifying is coming our way, and it will hit homeland before the 1st of January 2017…Mega Drought USA
A walipini is an underground greenhouse that lets you grow food year-round, and the idea was first developed in Bolivia, South America. It uses the same earth sheltering principles as many of the ancient house designs on this list.
What makes the walipini better than hoop houses and green houses? First, by locating the growing area 6’- 8’ underground you take advantage of the constant temperature of the earth below the frost level. Second, you can capture and store the daytime solar radiation in the surrounding earth which then radiates back into the greenhouse during the cold winter nights.
These ancient Newhouse designs are better than modern homes in many aspects because they were adapted specifically for their environments. The homes in the Arizona desert looked much different from the homes in the Alaskan tundra, and nomadic people had different needs than agricultural people.
The point is that our ancestors were as One with their environments and co-existed with Nature. These people were native to the land, while modern man is more like an invasive species that does not know its place in Nature.
But, maybe most of all, these homes illustrate that the builders knew when enough was enough. They were clear about the purpose of building a home, i.e.to stay protected from the elements and have a safe place to sleep, rather than constantly expending their life energy on trying to build bigger and fancier homes.