Beehive Shelter Systems, is an architectural / engineering firm dedicated to NBCE (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical, Electromagnetic) Bunker design throughout the United States. The firm, led by Lane Lythgoe has seen global interest in its bunker projects in recent years. Major disasters, civil unrest and the threat of terrorism has led citizens to focus on being prepared for emergencies – sending the bunker industry into a growth boom period that does not appear to be slowing.
Lythgoe and the team at Beehive have been using ArchiCAD for the past eleven years to build safe environments for the family and property. His expertise and knowledge of the highly specialized bunker requirements has been recognized in his recently receiving a U.S. patent for a pre-cast bunker design that was completely designed in ArchiCAD.
In working with Utah Shelter Systems and following a Swiss design principle, the bunkers are highly specialized. This makes a detailed and reliable BIM tool that solves design problems and eliminates errors completely an absolute must.
“In building these bunkers, we have to have a complete understanding of the systems, their design elements and how that system fits within the structure itself. When it comes time to pour the concrete – you have to be completely certain that the team knows exactly what they’re doing. I can’t stress enough how important the conflict detection is.”
The high-end home owners, businessmen, CEO’s – not fanatical “doomsday preppers” – make up the typical consumer of the concrete bunker systems. They tend to be well-educated and have concerns about protecting their family and property from civil unrest. Nuclear and biological threats are also factored in, but for the most part; Beehive Systems’ clientele are taking practical steps to ensure their family’s safety.
The locations of the bunkers are typically kept “under wraps” but Lythogoe and his team try to encourage clients to build the bunker close to their home or business – to avoid problems in getting to the bunker when the need arises.
The increased interest in safety bunkers has led to an outcropping of companies claiming to have expertise about installing and building a reliable system. The combined experience Beehive and Utah Shelter Systems bring to the design and execution of sophisticated bunkers cannot be matched by companies just entering the industry. Often the case is that Beehive has to take over their design process mid-stream.
“We’ll take their CAD files and use them as trace references. We’re left to reverse engineer what they’ve done – but in no way do we rely on them for accuracy. We are extremely detail-oriented and ArchiCAD has been an invaluable tool in that regard. We even incorporate MEP into the model, routing pipes and determining penetrations – there is no way we could have done that without ArchiCAD.”
The bunkers are designed to withstand various weather extremes. Each design is analyzed based on its location and the different scenarios that could occur. Using ArchiCAD, Lythgoe engineers walls that can be wide and deep, ceilings that can hold up to high intensity conditions.
“We evaluate blast impacts, calculate air infiltration and set up systems to ensure proper air filtration and purity. We use ArchiCAD to model the entire bunker so we can walk into that thing, in the model and see what we’re going to be doing. The model is our bible, because when you are pouring 28” thick concrete walls, mistakes are not an option. All the components must be embedded and in place before that step.”
The concrete custom designed bunkers – some of which have homes on top of them – have to be self-contained. The design involves setting up water storage systems, sewage system, generator capacity, energy storage and can be extremely elaborate. They can range in cost from $300,000 to $20 million to build.
“In a standard project, you can make errors and still recover – but the bunker design has no wiggle room for errors. We have been using BIMx to show our clients their model and have found it valuable to have them understand what’s going on with that bunker through it.”