Wednesday, May 5, 2010

How NOT To Build A Shipping Container Shelter

This is nearly a perfect guide to exactly the WRONG way to construct a shelter using a shipping container. These folks have built themselves an almost perfect death trap. Having had personal experience with precisely the same sort of mistakes, I can promise you that at some point this shelter will fold sideways and accordion the humans inside it. It is only a matter of time. It will make for a very horrible and messy death when it happens, as well. Being pinched by several tons of concrete should leave you enough time to know what has happened to you and what a terrible error in judgement you made.

I would recommend you study this video until you know for a fact what they did wrong here, before you attempt to build using a shipping container. I am leaning strongly towards several for my next shelter and I already know you would NEVER build it the way shown here.

EDIT : Excellent link by reader to engineering problems involved

I knew about all of these problems previously, but after reviewing them at this link above I realized that a shipping container is as lousy an idea as it seems. You cannot turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. I think that the ICF box with the arch barrel on top (Hoag Shelter Design) is still the most effective compromise between a full blown pipe like Firehold Bravo and a comfortable living space.


Dr. Richard said...

The strength of these containers comes from the four steel columns on each corner of the box. They are designed to support hundreds of tons of weight stacked directly above them (e.g. a stack of ten containers on a container ship). The walls are not strong. The flaw in this implementation is there was not reinforcement of the walls of the container -- think in terms of a 6" to 12" thick concrete wall with plenty of rebar surrounding the container. This is especially true if you put 2 ft to 5 ft of concrete or dirt on top of the container or if you live in an earthquake zone.

Texas Arcane said...

Similar excavation with concrete filled slowly in stages all around the box - if you were careful enough apparently experience shows you can skip the reinforcement of the box interior.

The ceiling is then a mass of rebar and steel posts that rests on the surrounding concrete, not the strength of the shelter.

Apparently such arrangements represent the cheapest, easiest way to do one of these correctly. Of course, the costs in concrete can be astonomical.

One Angry Goat said...

The issue is not just lateral strength, but also degradation of the metal over time.

Have a read here for some detailed data on why containers suck for the purpose..

Texas Arcane said...

I gather than a shipping container can be a very rapid and effective way to construct an underground shelter (as illustrated here) as long as it serves only as a form for the concrete poured around it and not as a load bearing box in it's own right.

I still tend to prefer the Hoag design in all things. I am tempted by the shipping containers because of the ease with which they can be purchased, delivered and craned into place.

Anonymous said...

Some problems were easily solved!
The OP couldn't have been more miss-leading.

I used 2 4o' containers in the same fashion as in the video. However, we did reinforce the side walls w/ simple I-beams and 1/8" steel. We tested this by driving bobcat bulldozers into it(40 mph). Not even a dent!
We also used a crane to lift containers for a week. This allowed us time to spray a "truck-bed liner" on the entire structure. We used three coats that ended up about 1/4" thick! Waterproof!
We also poored concrete around the containers in 8 steps ( 1',every other day). No forms were used except for the entry/stairs.
6 months after this project was done, we installed a well and small pool. Explosives were also used here to remove some rock. We can see zero damage to our shelter!
This shelter was finished turn-key for under 20 thousand $$.
Use family to help build...dont let anyone know you have a shelter. The people that know you have one...will be the first ones you might have to harm!

George Runkle said...

I'm still confused as to why people want to bury shipping containers. On my own site I point out the weaknesses of the sides and how they cannot resist the soil loading. Just the container doesn't fail right after burial doesn't mean it won't fail in time - it will.

The other alternative, encasing a container in concrete will work, but why not just form the concrete walls? Most concrete wall contractors have the metal forms they can put together in about a day, and you can form a vault to the exact size you need. Steel reinforcement in the interior is relatively cheap, and you don't have to worry about corrosion like you would with an encased container.

Funny thing is, people still argue with me over this, and use as their points the container is made with "Corten Steel" - as if that means anything. "Corten" steel is just a type of steel that is somewhat corrosion resistant because the rust doesn't flake off easily. It doesn't have infinite strength. Or, they send me a link to a You Tube video. So what? It just means someone buried a container and it didn't crush right away.


Sylph Phyllis said...

Why use a steel shipping container surrounded by concrete, when you can just build a concrete shelter?

The steel protects you and your electronics from radiation of a nuclear blast. Combine this with a pond directly above your shelter for neutron-bomb proofing.

puerca said...

Hi George,
I was wondering about container pools. If you use the container in a lateral position, so the top and bottom would be the walls, could it be a good idea ? How about putting it underground ?

puerca said...

How about using a container for an underground pool ?

CrazyKens said...

Ingenious website. Go around the web and find people doing it wrong and capitalize on that with google ads. Why didn't I think of that, lol. I was just looking at this video on another page and saying, what the hell are these guys doing? They're doing it all wrong. You can't shove steel beams into dirt, lol. Also there is no prepping of anything correctly. Why have blocks hovering over rotting rusting steel? Wouldn't be a shelter. It would be a death trap. Concrete all the way around, steps all the way to the ground. Wrap all steel with rubberized insulation to reduce rot and rust. Rebar all the way around. Sloped in a mound shape above to wave off water far out as possible. Maybe some lead sheeting incorporated into the project. One can actually order a vault from a concrete precast company as well or a series of vaults to wherever. I have no idea why I'm commenting. Maybe to save a life? Yeah. Make sure you know what you're doing folks, lol. Doing it wrong on a large scale can cost 4 times as much. Especially if you have to remove it and lose everything, lol.