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How to bury a shipping container - Gabion Basket

27.02.2013 - Posted by Updated On 27.02.2013    

"Can I bury a shipping container" is a standard question that the staff is asked on a very regular basis. People want to bury shipping containers for many reasons, and some of the most common are:

  • Hiding the shipping container for security reasons
  • Integrating the containers in landscaping designs
  • Insulating the shipping container for greater temperature control
  • Building a storm shelter
  • Installing a fall out bunker
The first initial response when someone asks for advice on burying a container is "no, you should not try to bury a shipping container."  Shipping containers are designed to carry weight in their corners.  When done properly, it's not uncommon to see containers stacked four or five units high – and the weight is all carried in the corners, where the corner beams carry all of the weight.  The side walls an top of a container are normally constructed of 2.0mm thick corrugated steel sheets, without additional beams for support.  If you load weight of any type, dirt, boxes, or just about anything and the weight is distributed over the entire container wall or top, given time it will gradually cave in or collapse, as can been seen with this buried shipping container in Florida. Buried shipping container collapse
If you're insistent on burying a shipping container, some people have done it successfully.  One option is pouring concrete forms to support the weight from the side of the container, however if you're going that far you need to ask yourself if you really even need a container once you have the concrete forms in place.  The most cost effective method that we've seen is to bury a shipping container is to use Gabion baskets.  Gabion baskets are the steel cages that you often see on the highway filled with stone to support hills or as bridge abutments.  Every location is unique, as are each container project.  So the following section is a general guideline for successfully burying a shipping container.  Each project should be planned out for their specific needs and geographic relief. Bury a shipping container with a Gabion basket

1. Dig a hole: You'll need more than enough space to container both your container, and the Gabion boxes.  As a rule of thumb it's best to leave four feet on each side of the container, including the front and back.  So, for a 20' container you'll want to the hole to be 28' long, and 16' wide, the depth depends on how much of the container you'd like to leave above the surface.

2. Stone foundation:  Once your hole is dug, and before you lower in the container, you'll want to put in a simple stone foundation (at the very least).  You can read more about laying a foundation for shipping containers in our article.

3. Drop in the container:  Lowering the container into the hole will require a crane.  As the container is lowered make sure that the box is properly centered on all four sides to allow for the Gabion baskets.

4. Building the Gabion baskets:  Once the container is in place, surround it with the Gabion baskets and fill them with stone as you build up.

5. Backfill the hole:  With the container in place, and the baskets filled with rock surrounding the container, you can now safely backfill the hole and bury the container.

This system provides support for the sides, if you plan to carry any weight on the top of the container you may need to consider building some type of truss system to frame out the top of the unit.

Burying a container is a large project to undertake, and there are risks involved if the project isn't executed properly.  It's always advised to consult with a local professional if you have any questions or concerns about the structural integrity of your design.

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