By Colleen Curry
The latest real estate boom to sweep America comes with all the trappings of luxurious living: custom-built swimming pools, gyms, full-length basketball courts, and even airplane hangars. The only catch is that this time, the features are all buried underground. The boom in bomb shelter sales over the past 15 years has taken the spartan 1950s notion of a fallout shelter and given it a makeover, according to the owners of three companies that make and sell shelters. Now, custom installations can create 100,000-square-foot underground dwellings that could hold dozens of people for months or years.
"You can have all your major amenities: TV, high power and high voltage [appliances] ... horticulture rooms where you can grow vegetables and gardens, a full shower, all the amenities of your full home. We're not limiting what people can do," said Brad Roberson, marketing director for Rising S Company, which builds and installs custom shelters.
The basic requirements that most owners want in a shelter include air filtration systems to protect from nuclear, chemical and biological warfare, ventilation systems and a toilet system, as well as blast-proof and fallout-proof casing on the outside, he and other makers told ABC News. But in addition to that, shelters can have "secret doors, hidden passageways, panic rooms, bulletproof glass," running water, toilets, showers and electricity, according to Roberson.
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"Budget and imagination are the only limits," he said. A bunker on the small side of 10 feet by 20 feet starts at about $54,000. They go up from there to $10 million, Roberson said. At Utah Shelter Systems, corrugated pipe shelters start at about $50,000 for an 8-foot diameter by 32-foot length shelter. They go up to about $490,000 for a 12–foot by 50-foot run, Packer said.
Rising S recently built an $8 million shelter in Colorado that measured 15,000 square feet, with camouflaged elevators and handicap ramps to provide access to a disabled client. They placed a log cabin over the top of the bunker to serve as a safe house. Behind the logs will be a bulletproof half-inch steel plate protecting the structure, he said.
"Everything above ground is camouflaged by an old barn or water silo that sits above it," Roberson said. "He's got a basketball court, and airplane hangar large enough to park 2 Cessna planes that will open up to face a hill or mountain. He's got a large gym, 22 rooms, he has a large family."
Bomb Shelters Make a Comeback Amid Nuclear, Economic Uncertainties
In the past 15 years, companies that make and sell underground bunkers have sprouted up around the country, mainly in the West and South, according to the founders of three companies. "I think probably around the year 2000 we started seeing quite an increase in sales," said Sharon Packer, co-owner of Utah Shelter Systems in Draper, Utah. Her company installs shelters made out of 10-foot-wide concrete pipes linked together to create rooms six feet underground.
"People were concerned about the very real issue of possible effects on our computers. 'Y2K' started the upsurge, and for 13 years it's been a good steady business," Packer said. "After 9/11 we had a big surge in the East, in New York."
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Recently, fears of a nuclear armed Iran or North Korea have stoked the fear that a nationwide disaster would force residents to retreat to safety underground to wait out nuclear fallout or social instability, Packer and others said.
"It's sad to say, the worse the state of affairs get, our government gets, the closer we see these policies the government is forcing down our throats, and foreign threats as well. It inflames peoples' desire to give themselves a retreat," Roberson said.
Read the rest of this story on ABC News.
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