Billionaire Bunkers: How The Rich Prepare For Doomsday

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Billionaire Bunkers: How The Rich Prepare For Doomsday

It’s no longer enough for a billionaire to build a Craftsman style mansion with an ocean vista, or a Beaux Arts “cottage” with a wraparound view of the French countryside, not even if the mansion has a teak dock for a 20-foot yacht, and the cottage has a landscape design that would make Frederick Law Olmstead green with envy. Today, the world’s deep-pocketed pay top dollar for a far more exclusive amenity: hi-tech security.

The billionaire bunker is becoming increasingly more commonplace. In an age of anxiety, where threats of terrorism, natural disaster, and Orwellian government surveillance dominate the media, where Russia, in lieu of recent political events in Crimea, issues a nonchalant warning like – “Russia is the only country in the world that is realistically capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash” -it’s logical that the super-rich would want to build luxurious strongholds against whatever doomsday scenario is on the horizon.

According to Chris Pollack, president of Pollack+Partners, a design and construction firm in Purchase, New York, the spending for home defense has increased markedly over the last five years. Ultra-net-worth clients are arming their homes with all sorts of futuristic technology securities. Many of these hi-tech safeguards were created for the military or NASA, but sound as though they were developed by James Bond’s Q, or came straight out of one of William Gibson’s speculative fiction novels.

What types of technologies are being utilized in these palatial, bunker estates? Traditional lock and key entries are being replaced by Biometric recognition software. Security alarms are being fortified with fog screen systems that billow either harmless smoke meant to disorient potential intruders, or noisome gas that has temporary disabling effects. Natural disasters are no longer a serious concern, as some billionaire bunkers have steel–reinforced concrete caissons that burrow 30-feet into private hillsides. From strategically armed and fortified environments to exclusive high-security communities, here are 8 ways the elite prepare for Doomsday.

8. Secret Passageways

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If Biometric recognition systems sound like something out of a science fiction novel, then hidden passageways and secret portals are more in line with an Agatha Christie mystery. Creative Home Engineering, which was started by an ex-Boeing engineer, specializes in clandestine tunnels. While some of the secret passageways are designed solely as fun amenities for the home, the company builds around 50 portals a year for security reasons. From entrances hidden in bookshelves to elevator staircases and false-walls leading into panic rooms, the billionaire’s home security system is not only about futuristic gadgets but also deception and subterfuge. In 2012, Creative Home Engineering built multiple secret passageways in the royal palace of a Middle Eastern king.


7. Subterranean Extensions

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According to The Guardian, over the past few years authorities in the Kensington and Chelsea districts of London have granted planning applications for more than 800 basement extensions. Many of these basement extensions have been used to create gargantuan pleasure caves complete with ballrooms, swimming pools, tennis courts, saunas, massage rooms, and private cinemas. Nevertheless, these secure, geotropic basements also function as high-class luxury bunkers. Residents in London refer to these subterranean extensions as the “billionaires’ craze” and complain about the construction that’s “turned Kensington into a war zone.” However, with no room to build outwards in the populated borough and no permission to build upwards (restrictions forbid it), the only place to go is underground.


6. Submarines

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While building an elite bunker with more amenities than Greenbrier resort is one way to prepare for a doomsday scenario, so is devising a good catastrophe or escape plan. (Note: The Greenbrier, in West Virginia, is the site of a massive underground bunker, code named Project Greek Island, that was meant to serve as an emergency shelter for the United Sates Congress during the Cold War).

Unless a home is full equipped with an indoor farm, medical center, and alternative energy source, the ability to get to a safer and more fully equipped destination may be an integral part of survival during a catastrophic event. In 2011, English business magnate and billionaire Richard Branson unveiled a single-person submarine. The vessel was so popular that Bailey S. Bernard, the associate editor of Robb Report, a magazine for the mega-wealthy, featured the submarine in its “Toys of Summer” edition. While purchasing a submarine isn’t anything new for the super-rich, purchasing a submarine as a means of escape or survival instead of simply as a luxury item is part of the Brave New World of doomsday preparation.


5. Infrared Cameras

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“The exterior of a property has always been the holy grail because you could never really protect it without 24 hour guard service,” says Christopher Falkenberg, a one-time secret service agent who now works for New York-based Insite Security, a firm specializing in security for high-net worth families.

Originally developed for military use in the Korean War, infrared cameras are being used to secure and protect high-end homes. Oregon-based Flir Systems, a world leader in the design and manufacturing of infrared devices, produces a camera that can read the thermal light signatures of everything in its sight lines. Being that humans generate more energy than animals or trees, high-end models can detect someone up to 15 kilometers away, regardless of the time of day or atmospheric conditions.


4. Panic Rooms

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The panic room, known as a house’s safe core, has evolved over the last decade to such a degree that it makes the concrete and steel room in the 2002 Jodie Foster thriller look as high-tech as a Victorian parlor. Modern panic rooms include motion and heat sensors, Kevlar-lined and bullet-resistant doors, lockdown switches that alert authorities, and air scrubbers designed to filter air in case of a chemical attack. Taking it a step further, some panic rooms even have bathrooms or closets that double as “inner” panic rooms; in case the main panic room is compromised, “inner” panic rooms are equipped with water, dry food, and camping and survival gear.


3. Biometric Technologies

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“It transforms you into the key for your building in under two seconds.” This is how Aharon Ze’evi–Farkash, one-time head of the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate, describes Biometric technologies. For the past three years he has been working with his company, FST21, on a keyless entry system. The software product combines facial, voice and behavioral recognition, and it gives a residence the same type of security as the White House.  In other words, it’s a far cry from operating a home security system with a “smart” device.


2. Disaster Accommodations and Cold War Condos

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Doomsday bunkers are a growth industry, especially in the American West, Pacific Northwest, and California. Entrepreneurs Robert Vicino (Vivos Doomsday Bunkers) and Bruce Beach (Utah Shelter Systems) market the Apocalypse to America’s rich who can afford to reserve disaster accommodations for $25,000 to $50,000 a head. When interviewed, Vicino wouldn’t let Forbes visit any of his bunkers, nor would he reveal their secret locations, alluding to the fact that there’s “just too many wing nuts and wackos out there.”

However, rumor has it one of the Vivos luxury shelters is being built below the Kansas prairie in the shaft of an abandoned missile silo. Supposedly four buyers have already spent $7 million to reserve their doomsday condos. The shelter is designed to accommodate 70 people, and it comes with a pool, movie theater, wine bar, and library. Time: Business and Money, on the other hand, reports that the Vivos luxury shelter is actually being constructed in an old Kansas mine shaft and can accommodate up to 5,000 people.

Despite the fact Vivos is marketing the Apocalypse to the rich, luxury bunkers have less to do with the biblical End of Days and more to do with providing protection and security from terrorism, nuclear war, cyber-war, solar flares, health pandemics, and ecological disasters like the 2004 tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear accident.


 1. Indian Creek Island

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Indian Island Creek is not only Miami’s billionaire bunker; it’s Miami’s billionaire bunker community. The small barrier island is comprised of forty property parcels, all of which are arranged around an 18-hole private golf course and country club. The sole entrance to Indian Creek Island is heavily guarded, and a private police force patrols the area by boat, jeep and Jet Ski 24 hours a day.

According to Forbes, a Russian mystery-buyer recently spent $47 million for a plot on Indian Creek Island, which is Miami-Dade County’s most expensive sale ever. The 19,000 square foot compound includes a safe room that operates on an independent generator and a wine cellar wired with facial recognition technology and infrared surveillance. Latin singer Julio Iglesias, retired Miami Dolphin’s football coach Don Shula, and supermodel Adriana Lima own homes on Indian Creek Island.