Photos of Construction
of Ark Two

Our reason for going into such detail about the construction of our shelter is not just to show how large and strong it is but to let others benefit from our experience.

This was the 24th shelter that the designer personally built. He has used in other shelters almost every material and method imaginable. Wood structure and sandbags, gunite, corrugated metal, steel construction, steel tanks, concrete forms, and concrete block. The best method found to date has been the use of school buses as forms.

Mind you, one learns from experience, and there are still many things that would be done differently another time around. Mistakes had to be corrected - that now with the experience could be avoided. Still, all in all, the assessment of the Federal Government shelter inspectors who came from Ottawa to view the shelter that, "This is the best shelter that we have ever seen!", seems to be accurate.

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Aerial View A

Aerial View A

To begin the facility, we first dug a DEEP hole and piled up a mountain of dirt in the process. How deep the hole was you can tell by looking at the cliff behind the back row of buses. There is now fourteen feet of earth cover over the buses below that cliff.

In this photo all the buses are in place except two for the main entrance and one that covers the water settling tank. At the top far right of the mass of buses, one bus is sloping up. The bus at the far right waiting outside the hole was used to continue the slope upwards, and then another was brought and continued the slope up again but at a 90 degree angle to the other two.

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Aerial View B

Aerial View B

The shelter is located in a small village at the end of a dead end road. Here in this aerial photo you can see how it sits on top of a high cliff that drops down 150 ft. to a stream in the valley below. Click here to see pictures of the stream and waterfall below the cliff.

If you examine in detail the enlarged aerial photos you can see such things as at the top of the picture the line up of the left over rear axles of some of the buses that are already in the hole.

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Here you see how the buses are completely gutted and stripped before being brought to the site, so as to cause no environmental damage. Their engines, transmissions, gas tanks, windows, and so forth, have all been removed at another site.

If you look at the bus in the bottom of this picture you will see how all the windows have been sealed with fibreboard. After the concrete was poured, the fibre board and the buses remained in place. Only the outside forms were removed. However, the buses no longer support the shelter, once the concrete is set. They were simply forms that we did not remove.

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Here is a picture that shows all the buses being lined up in the hole. The far bus is just being jockeyed into place. On the left of the picture are stacked up forms that are placed around the whole complex.

The square boxed room is the transmitter room, which needed a higher ceiling. It, and the generator room, which needed to be more square, were two of the few places that were formed without buses.

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Here you can see the buses being accurately placed, eighteen inches from each other so that each bus acts as a form for the next, and the concrete just fills in between. This is what makes this mode of construction so strong. It is formed like a beehive, with many, many, strong cells.

The civil engineer who guided this construction was the engineer who designed the subway system in Toronto and he felt that the concept resulted in an IMMENSELY strong shelter. Especially with the immense amount of reinforcing steel that we put in and the extra strength concrete that we used.

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The one bus being formed up separate from the others is the fuel bus. The four 500 gallon fuel tanks were placed in the fuel bus before the concrete was poured.

All the buses are also greatly braced on the inside. Multiple 2 by 4's hammered together to make 4 by 8's and larger, running the length of the top inside and the floor of the bus with the same type of vertical bracing between them every 4 feet. NECESSARY, NECESSARY, NECESSARY. There is also cross bracing, at TWO levels every four feet. All this bracing was of course removed after the concrete was poured, and AFTER the backfilling was done. The bracing was then used to build bunks and interior walls.

In the picture there is a corrugated pipe that extends up into the air in the foreground in front of the workmen. The back fill around this pipe ended up about a foot from the top of the pipe so you can see how far underground the shelter is after the backfilling.

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The main activity in this picture was the lifting by the crane of the diesel generators into the special built room in the center of the complex. Our rationale was that being in the center of the complex this would make shorter runs to points of usage and make the system more efficient. WRONG! In this, as in so many other things, we ran into bureaucratic rules that required the main electrical panel to be at one end of the complex, which is where we should have placed the generators.

Also in this photo you can see the outside forms being put in place and how strongly they are braced. This is VERY necessary.

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Here you can see all the buses parked tightly together, and the concrete being poured in between. The framing of doorways between the buses must also be securely braced. The importance of STRONG bracing EVERYWHERE can not be over stressed.

The concrete is poured over the whole complex at the SAME time, in ONE FOOT passes on each and every side of every one of the buses. This is VERY important because otherwise the weight of the concrete would cause the buses to move.

Between all the buses is HEAVY wire netting to reinforce the concrete, and because this was private construction we were able to force down in TONS more of scrap steel to further reinforce the concrete.

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Here you can see a close-up of the pouring of the concrete. Notice the wire reinforcing rod over the top of the shelter. Every so many feet plastic and tin also had to be laid to create expansion joints. The big pumper was rented for a week, at $10K per week (a very large sum back then), and many concrete trucks were necessary to keep it serviced. One at the pumper, one waiting, one or two on the way back to the mixing yard. One at the mixing yard. One or two on the way to the pumper. From early morning till late at night. To make sure we picked a week of good weather we talked with the airport meteorologists.

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Arial View B

All of the buses (except the fuel bus) ended up in one big concrete block, which then had to be kept dampened and hosed down for a month to let the concrete set, before we could remove the outside forms and begin backfilling.

After the outside forms were removed everything was sprayed with heavy black water proofing (we have never had a leak) and then the bulldozers moved the top cover back into place. After giving everything a week or two to settle we removed the interior bracing.