July 8, 2013

Consider the Engineering Implications Before You Modify Your Shipping Container

Think Before You Cut Your Container Once shipping containers are done carrying cargo overseas they are sold and put to use serving many new functions. Some become storage containers; some are outfitted with phone and server equipment to restore communications in the event of natural disasters or in remote locations and still others are modified to become mobile offices, small businesses, or homes and cabins.
snow load mapWhen homes and buildings are constructed by traditional means they are required to meet some engineered design criteria so that the building will perform safely for any extreme environmental conditions that normally occur in the geographic area that the building is placed. Due to the various weather conditions the country experiences the required design criteria changes from region to region and in some areas county by county. For instance, buildings constructed in the southern portions Florida are required to withstand winds of 120mph – 150mph while buildings in the northern part of the country have a wind speed design criteria of 90 mph. Conversely, building in the northern portions of the country must be designed to withstand 70 lbs. /sq. ft. – 100lbs. /sq. ft.  of snow loads versus southern Florida which has no snow load criteria. A standard shipping container is not specifically designed to meet the occupied building design criteria for wind loads and snow loads but rather they are designed to meet the load of being stacked three to ten fully loaded units high provided the load is transferred down through the corner posts and to carry a tare of up to 70,000 lbs. Once the container is modified like the side wall cut open to allow a container to mate up to another container to create a large open space, then the roof snow load can no longer be transferred down through walls and onto the foundation.  A properly sized “header” or support member must be installed on the unit and this piece must be sized based on the load conditions for the area in which the container building will be placed. These types of modification considerations are equally important in the south west where buildings are designed to earthquake criteria. Cutting an opening in the side of a shipping container may impact the containers ability to not collapse in the event it is shook back and forth in an earthquake.wind_speed_map To insure your shipping container home or building is safe, the local building authority or commonly known as “the building inspector” will likely ask you to provide a set of fully engineered drawings and calculations of your shipping container house/building which are sealed by a professional engineer that is certified for the state or province in which the building will be placed. You’ll need an engineer experienced in this type of design, we can provide a reference for someone who is very knowledgeable in this area please contact us and we will put you in touch with a qualified engineer who we have worked with for many years who may be able to help you.