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Many of us view shipping containers as strong and durable modules, so much so that we modify and transform them into various structures including offices, restrooms, equipment enclosures, and more. But what if we told you there’s a limit to their strength?
Shipping containers are structurally strong thanks to the combination of each structural element—the corner castings, corrugated walls, corten steel, columns, beams, and more. Each element comes together to form an impressive box-like unit that shipping companies rely on to transport goods at sea.
When people interfere with a container’s structural elements—let’s say, by cutting into it—the container is no longer as structurally sound as it once was. For example, if you were to remove both ends of a container, it’s likely that its walls would sway out of place. You could push against the side of the unit and watch it flex into a lopsided shape.
Here at Falcon, we call a box without ends a “donut,” and it’s representative of the fact that when you remove or change an element of the box, it will become much less sturdy and unreliable as a structure.
Imagine if you were to cut out a slice from the side of an empty soda can. The can would probably still stand upright, but it would be flimsy. So, if you plan to modify a shipping container, you’ll need to reinforce it.
To modify a shipping container into a portable office, locker room, or to use it as a modular building element in itself, manufacturers must cut into the box—but they do so with a precise plan.
Expert manufacturers will have the knowledge and ability to reinforce the container and play off the unit’s inherent strength. Not just to recover lost strength but to transform it into a durable structure with a new purpose!
Let’s say a manufacturer plans to add doors and windows to the side of a shipping container. They’ll start by cutting rectangular holes into the walls. Then, they must reinforce the openings by inserting steel frames that are welded in place. The designs of each modified container should inform manufacturers on how long and thick the welds need to be to stay secure.
The addition of welded frames is a crucial step in container modifications because doing so restores the integrity of the container. Frames add stability to the module, and they ensure doors and windows are secure after installation.
Proper framing for a shipping container relies on—if you can believe it—mathematics! The process of creating a reliable structure comes down to the principles of tension, weight, and other forces. It’s with the help of engineering that all structures are created, the same goes for modified containers.
Although modified containers rely on the same principles of mathematics as other structures, you don’t build container-based structures from the ground up like traditional buildings. Instead, you adapt an existing box of steel into something new.
Many companies—and DIY-savvy individuals—claim to be able to cut and reinforce a shipping container, but it’s important to remember that container modification is much more than adding a few tweaks to a cargo box. For this reason, we encourage you to work with a reputable manufacturer that has the experience and knowledge to create a structurally safe unit.
Here at Falcon Structures, we’re backed by two decades of experience, modular builder certifications, and an Evaluation Service Report from the International Code Council. If you’re in need of a modified container structure, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Reach us at 877-704-0177 or email us at Sales@FalconStructures.com. We’re ready to get to work!
Shipping Container Modifications
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