The concept of underground space is quickly becoming a popular trend with the emergence of the recycled shipping container. With its robust structural integrity, modular design, and portability options, shipping containers provide an efficient, cost-effective solution to the need for home, work, or storage space underground.
Since we’re talking about underground space, the shipping container will require certain structural changes. It is not as simple as using one of these structures for an above-ground establishment. You will need to consider several factors if you want to create a space below ground level by burying a shipping container. Let’s take a look at what the process entails:
Six Ways to Effectively Restore Shipping Containers
The first thing to take into account when planning to bury a shipping container for creating an underground space is that putting anything under tonnes of mud or rock will result in enormous pressure being exerted on the object and the supporting frame. In the case of the container, the structural framework in the corners supports most of the weight in the structure. Even if this portion of the structure holds up, the walls will not be able to withstand the sheer weight and may buckle and fall in when buried. Therefore, the number one requirement is reinforcement.
If you are working with the Corten steel container, you may have to prepare the unit to withstand problems like rusting because of the high levels of saline in the soil. Sometimes, denting or cracking can affect the integrity of the container structure and cause problems with insulation. Humidity seeping into these cracks can lead to mould growth and contaminate the air, which can cause health issues like breathing difficulties.
Sanitation is another important factor to consider when prepping a shipping container for underground space. Proper drainage of sanitary waste and grey water is crucial to prevent foul odours, growth of pathogens, and hazards to human or animal health.
These are a few major challenges that underground shipping container spaces raise for people considering this option. But, there are several solutions to consider:
- Finding the right place to bury the shipping container is the first major step towards a solidly supported structure. This will ensure that the soil or burying compound is evenly distributed, and builders can ensure that maximum weight is supported at the strongest points like corners and thicker frame sections.
- Reinforcing steel beams at the right points in the container can strengthen the structure’s integrity. Barriers that prevent the walls from being in direct contact with the soil should also be considered.
- Inspect the shipping container to ensure that you get one free of toxic chemicals, wood-treatment compounds, or poisonous paint fumes.
- Avoid rust at all costs! Thick layers of whatever compound you choose will ensure durability. Newer technological and plumbing systems use advanced rust protection techniques like cathodic coatings.
- Install efficient ventilation systems that combine robust filtration and air circulation.
- Sanitation and sewage waste disposal is the final but important factor to be considered. A disposal system that is based on composting is found to be the most successful option in this case.
The shipping container is a robust structure but is not easily used for building underground spaces. It requires a system of reinforcement to make it safe for below-ground use. Reinforcement is a necessity if the structure must remain sound and the enclosed space is safe for use.
Reinforcing Shipping Containers: Five Fail-proof Measures
An underground workspace made out of a shipping container will require effective reinforcement to ensure that it is a safe space. This will be an uphill task using several specialized materials and equipment like meshes of copper or steel, welding equipment, strong bars of steel, copper braising, etc.
Once these materials and equipment have been acquired, take the following steps to reinforce your bunker for safe use:
STEP 1: Bury it well.
As cryptic as this step may sound, burying the shipping container correctly is crucial to keeping your underground space safe. Here are basic considerations you need to take care of:
- Digging the right hole.
There needs to be a four-foot buffer space around the container when you measure out the hole in which you’ll need to bury the container. You will also need to figure in space to accommodate the reinforcement structures.
- The right depth for proper burial.
You can decide how much of your shipping container will remain above the ground, and this will have to figure in the depth of the hole as well.
- Up-side-down burial.
Above the ground, the shipping container will support more weight on the bottom of the structure. But, when the space is meant to be created below the ground, the roof will have to support more weight than any other part of the structure. So, it is common practice to flip the container over and have the thicker, more robust part of the structure serve as the roof.
STEP 2: Fortify the roof.
Even with a flipped structure that uses the robust part for the roof, there needs to be as much reinforcement for the roof as possible. Steel bars welded across the roof surface will enhance structural integrity and secure your space to a greater degree.
STEP 3: Strengthen the side walls.
When the shipping container is used underground under a large load of soil, the container’s structural integrity can be put under a lot of stress. The roof and walls have not been designed for such pressure. There needs to be a reinforcing framework put into place so that the container can serve its purpose.
Welding steel rods into the walls for horizontal and vertical support can help. A Gabion cage is another solution that is simple yet effective. It can act as a supporting barrier that is fitted around the container and buffered with rocks to take on the weight of the soil underground. Another idea is to line the edges of the container structure with sandbags or barrels to help support the weight of the soil.
STEP 4: Put in EMP blockers.
There are several dangers to prepare for when planning for an underground space. The risk of EMP or Electromagnetic Pulse attacks can severely affect underground structures and cause large-scale destruction. You can prepare for such events by investing in pulse-dampeners or insulation material like rugs or mats and grounding the structure effectively. This will also protect your electronic equipment from getting damaged in such events.
STEP 5: Sealing
If sealing the structure is a requirement for you, you can use a stainless steel or copper mesh wall. These are easily broken once the container needs to be accessed again. Soldering the door shut or using copper braiding around the door also works to seal the space.
Points to Consider Before Reinforcing Underground Work Spaces
Corner posts on the shipping container are strong enough to withstand stacking another container on top to create upward space. But, below the ground, the situation is very different. Reinforcement is crucial to the soundness of the whole structure, but here are a few points to consider before you get into reinforcement:
- Consult a professional structural engineer to check your container for structural integrity.
- Always have an escape plan and structures in place to remove yourself and others from the environment in case the structure fails underground.
- Ventilation and air supply are factors that need to be provided for.
- You will need to use an external power source like a remote diesel generator.
- Always be aware of the possibility of wall collapses and keep people and valuable equipment away from the walls.
- Thick insulators like rugs or carpets along the floor are a good idea in such underground spaces.
- Wooden flooring is also a good floor insulator.
Pros and Cons of Using Shipping Containers for Workspaces
Here is a gist of the benefits and challenges a shipping container underground workspace provides:
- Fractional cost: A used container will save you a lot of money in construction and material costs.
- A modular structure gives you the opportunity to make structural modifications easily.
- Modular bunkers are easy to transport.
- These structures give you high security and can function as a bunker. It will also effectively protect against natural phenomena like storms, excessive rain, heat waves and similar circumstances.
- Reinforcement is necessary for storage containers if you want to use them as underground spaces. Structural modifications are crucial to the safety of your space if you want to prevent the walls and ceiling from caving in.
- You will also have to make provision for artificial ventilation systems, alternate roofing, flooring, insulation, plumbing, and framing for a properly functional space. This can be a time-consuming and costly process.
A shipping container is a great raw material to quickly create a work- or home space. But, taking the space underground will not be a simple process. The use of re-reinforcement is not an option. Once done properly, a reinforced shipping container can be a haven of safety underground. It can be solid enough to protect you from natural phenomena and last for many years.
If you are looking for help in acquiring these containers and creating your own such space, take a look at Supertech’s projects in container conversion in Dubai. Reach out to us for more information!