Secure Life Homes GRID Down Homes
Licensed architects in over 17 states, engineers & builders of resilient, hardened homes, off grid homes, and other hardened structures, including shelters against severe storms, safe rooms, and nuclear fallout bunkers

Space planning

ICF Insulated Concrete Form Home design

Space planning for a secure home is notably different from traditional American executive home design and construction.

America has lived through a very long period of relative safety, so much so that most new home seekers, as well as residential architects, who design wonderful homes, do not include the topic of physical security in their home space planning considerations at all.


We now tend to place master suites on opposite ends of the home and on different floors from children’s bedrooms to gain privacy for the master suite, and to accurately predict many owners will not like climbing stairs as they age with the home.

Our new homes now tend to have a principal entry which includes a grand open entry foyer for which affords stunning view of much of the home such as an open great room and nearly always within view of an open main staircase to the upstairs bedrooms.

But 70% of home invasions occur at the front door.

  • If the front door is being breeched, 
  • and the master suite in on the first floor 
  • and the children are on the second floor,
  • and the only way to get to the children is via that grand open stair in view of the entry foyer, 
  • How do parents secure their children and get to a safe place during a home invasion?

Showing this design concept failure to our consulting clients has resulted in multiple clients changing direction with their existing home or local architect.

We seek to avoid this example and many other fatal flaws from the onset of design, and have developed a system to do so, relying on input from security professionals and by looking outside America for how other cultures develop homes with security in mind.

The home must be designed to both provide an excellent quality of life and be safe. The two resources we like to direct clients to for enhancing their quality of life at home are the Sarah Suzanka books on “Creating the Not So Big House” subtitled “A Blueprint for the Way We Truly Live” 

For all new home clients to research Japanese bathing culture, for how fundamentally different it is from how Americans think about, design and use bathrooms, and the proven hygienic and personal wellness benefits this aspect of Japanese home design can bring to your own life.

Example, the Japanese bathroom is a traditionally a three-room configuration,  

  1. sealed door wet room for showering thoroughly before bathing each evening, with enhanced HVAC features.
  2. A private toilet closet with hand wash sink
  3. An open sink/lavatory area for facial and dental care functions.

My molecular biologist Japanese wife brought this to my attention in our first home. 

“Why would American’s think it is ok to keep family toothbrushes, or shower your body, in the same room as you flush a toilet?” Toilet plume is a real health hazard.

Japan has advanced bathing to a high level of culture, personal wellness and developed the worlds most advanced and hygienic system of products for this purpose.

We can share resources we like, such as TOTO whole bathroom design, but it would be best to experience this for yourself. Since travel to Japan is prohibited for Americans during COVID-19, there are a few options within the USA:


Architecturally stunning homes nearly always include large amounts of glass.

Residential code approved windows with operable sashes and Ballistic glazing is one of the top cost items in a project of this type. 

Insulated glass maxes out at 5.56mm rifle rated glass. (Beyond this level, we need to look ballistic shutters or other architectural features of some type.)

But the windows need to do much more than this, they need to work; meet codes for energy conservation, ventilation and egress in some cases,  enhance the quality of life in the home and be excellent at sealing out the outside world from extreme weather events, attenuate sound and of course, resist both hot and cold temperature differences between conditioned space and the extremes of each location’s climate type. 

So far, the ONLY brand of residential windows which has been able to provide code approved, operable window units with ballistic glazing is Zola.

If others become available, we are glad to review them.

EMP protection will be another high cost line item. Similar costs can be expected to just protect the overall energy infrastructure of the home from EMP events.

Power and energy use:

Everything in a modern home runs on power of some sort.

A survivable home must have the ability to function in an off grid mode.

Reducing power demand is the first order of business to making off grid feasible. Here we turn to Germany for the world’s best home energy conservation system, “Passive House” (PHIUS in America); proven to make American homes on average, at least 80% more energy efficient, for less than 10% more initial project costs. This equates to the same finite fuel source being able to run 5 times longer. If you only have 1,000 gallons of propane for a generator and other household uses, do you want that to last 72 hours (3-days) or 360 hours (over two weeks). Similar calculations apply for how large and costly other off grid energy systems need to be to run the off grid home such as Solar PV and wind power. Essentially, German principals of Passive House make off grid homes much more feasible for everyone.

Solar PV and wind are both proven off grid energy sources, but neither can be considered a hardened source of off-grid power as both are far too fragile. Example: It is readily achievable to hardened access to a solar PV farm, but not to hardened the actual panels themselves.

Micro Hydro has more potential to be a hardened off grid energy source, if an adequate source of 24/7/365 drought proof water can be secured on-site, and not encumbered by local government restrictions.

Other power options which may be possible:

If possible, a site with proven natural gas reserves can produce its own energy source.

Or, if a site has proven or provable geothermal resources, micro geothermal technology can produce a limitless source of energy.

These topics represent just a few of the concepts we employ to make secure homes much more livable and resilient for our clients.

We are also certified in Fortified design and construction, which is a program developed by the insurance industry to make homes much safer and resistant natural hazards such as high windstorm types (hurricanes and Tornadoes). Many insurance companies now fund damage claims for restorations and rebuilding after tragic events to be executed to the Fortified Standards, to reduce the insurance company’s own liability for claims payouts at the same property for future events. Even low-income level homes by Habitat for Humanity in storm climate zones are now built to Fortified Standards. Based on these examples, we believe following the Fortified principals is the very least all new custom homeowners should expect from their designer and builder.

We hope this is help information when you consider what needs to go into a truly secure home design.

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