Cantilever THIS!

4 May

As we sit here, turning ISBUs into Emergency Kitchens, to feed hungry workers tasked with cleaning up thousands of gallons of oil spill…

Our breaks from the Plasma Cutters and grinders are used up on the phone, trying to get supplies in place, things like chickens, meat, vegetables, canned goods, beverages, and the lot.

Although the oil isn’t here yet, it will be soon.

And those workers are going to want something more than MRE’s… let me tell you.

So you think YOU have problems…

Instead of dwelling on “OMG Projects”, let’s look at another adventure into engineering, shall we?

We talk about ISBUs all the time. It’s a “Shipping Container” blog… hello?

And one of the biggest mysteries in the ISBU arena is whether or not you can “cantilever” containers, to build “willy nilly – helter skelter”  buildings, with containers sticking out everywhere, in every direction.

It’s not a mystery. You CAN’T do it, without some additional support, and a lot of engineering in the background. Those containers aren’t designed to do that. You can cantilever a container, IF you have a ton of cash to throw at it. But on most of my friends budgets, it’s not bloody likely.

But, sometimes the idea of a cantilever can be fun, and even cool. For instance:

This guy in Greece decided that he wanted to really tick off his neighbors, by building a big pool sticking out of  his house. I guess some middle aged guys deal with getting old by buying a Red Corvette. Evidently, in Greece, other phallic symbols do the trick.


Just try and tell me that you wouldn’t kill to have this pool in your backyard… um… on your roof… um… er… never mind.

Designed by Ensamble Studio & Antón García-Abril,  this gravity-defying cantilevered swimming pool at Hemeroscopium House in Greece was constructed out of a single concrete slab, and then picked up by a crane and lowered into place. Amazing stuff, huh?

Now, you can swim laps, and give yourself a coronary (by “swimming into the “abyss”) at the same time. I don’t know about you, but that kick-turn on the glass wall end would stop my heart every time! 🙂

People call it “stunning”. Me? Um… I think it’s just nuts.

For all you DIY’ers out there… Here’s how they built it:

I wonder IF you COULD do this with a Corten box…. Nahhhhhh! 😉

Stay tuned.


8 Responses to “Cantilever THIS!”

  1. James Goddard May 5, 2010 at 8:36 am #

    Al – call me. I’d like to help, if I can. E-mail me.

  2. margie g May 5, 2010 at 4:24 pm #

    Hey Al…

    Let me know how I can help. Give a call or e-mail me.

  3. Ed T May 13, 2010 at 7:23 am #


    I’ve read enough of your blog to greatly respect your opinion, but this one has got me wondering. What’s your frame of reference? What’s “tons of cash” in your opinion, in real numbers or materials? I’m really wondering why it would be difficult to overhang a 40′ container on top of another by about 10-15′? It seems to me that although you might lose the stability of using the corner locks, you could weld the two containers together at the seams and use either concrete pillars or those metal basement support poles to support the overhanging container. Is there a great cost in either of these? Am I oversimplifying the design or missing some aspect of it?

    • renaissanceronin May 14, 2010 at 4:36 pm #

      Hi Ed,

      You’d think it would be easy, huh?

      We are BOMBARDED with photos and renders of container homes built with “appendages” sticking out all over the place, in an almost “Sci-fi-esque” conglomeration of steel.

      I mean, I too love the way those cantilevered boxes look… but the reality is that it isn’t that easy to achieve.

      You CAN do that. But, what they never tell you in those “budget-busting, artsy fartsy, collections of architectural flotsam” (and it REALLY hacks me off…) is that those poor side rails that you’re hanging out all over “His/her” creation aren’t up to the task, and they were never designed to be.

      Those side rails won’t take that kind of point loading, or that kind of stress. So…

      You don’t just have to support that “flying end…” you have to support the TOP of that cantilevered container (above the “connection” point), so that the force of it flapping in the breeze doesn’t cause the structure to fail at that load point in the floor of the cantilevered ISBU container. You’re still transferring all the load down, onto basically NOTHING. Simply welding the rails together isn’t enough. You need to add more “structure” to support the mess you’re making.

      You don’t just have the weight of the floor and the container’s contents to deal with, you have all the load placed on it – created by sheering and racking forces, too.

      So, although you can use the end frame of that bottom container to hold up your cantilevered box, it’s just the beginnings of the engineering problem that you have to solve. And..

      Ahem… and if you’ve extended that top box out in a cantilever, you have the OTHER end of the container, and IT’S resting place to deal with. You have the same problem, at BOTH ends of the box. So, you have yet more problems to solve.

      None of these problems are insurmountable. But, most of the families that I build with don’t have the funds to deal with “sci fi” homes. We express our “creativity”, in “other ways…” a little more safely, a little more affordably, a little more “conventionally”.

      I’ve had this argument with several other families, one in fact defied my “recommendations” and cantilevered like crazy, anyway. “The brother-in-law was a welder, and therefore much smarter than me about steel…”

      I signed off. I returned their consulting money, and wished them luck. I knew that they would fail and I told them that, in writing. For a year after, all I heard was “told ya so, told ya so… told you it would work…” Nah-nah-na-nah-na!

      Three years later, they were crying into my telephone. complaining that their flooring had cracked, the wall coverings were cracking and “starring” out, a window had “popped”, and the building actually creaked when they walked thru those parts of the house. It was the steel failing, in the side rails, from all the point loading.

      Did I make them eat their words?

      Yep! Without ketchup. Every last one of them. 🙂

      I’m quite possibly over-simplifying this, but you get the drift.

      Oh yeah, that “welder brother-in-law”? He later blew himself up trying to light a torch. Now, he’s in physical therapy, and taking “plumbing school” lessons, via the internet. I’d laugh, but it’s just SAD.

      So, suffice to say… Isaac Newton was right… the moral of this story is “What goes up (or out) must come down…”

      Either design it to carry the load all the way to the ground in the first place, or it’ll find it’s own way down, all by itself.

      Do what you need to… but if you’re determined to do it the hard way… don’t call me… huh? 😉


  4. Ed T May 13, 2010 at 8:18 am #

    Oh, and I love your blog! 🙂

  5. Ed T May 14, 2010 at 7:42 pm #

    Thanks for the information! I’m definitely the type of guy who can lear from others’ mistakes! That call won’t be necessary!

  6. Will June 18, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

    How is the shipping container Puma store cantilever accomplished? I have seen many pictures of this and it uses a cantilevered design. You would know better than me, but it doesn’t appear there was a significant amount of support added to that design. On top of that it is my understanding that it is moveable, making the possibility of welding the boxes together impossible.

    • renaissanceronin June 18, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

      Hi Will,

      The Puma Store that you’re talking about is a “Temporary Store.”

      It was created for “Sales and Marketing” and not longevity.

      Here’s what I’m told:

      While the interior of the boxes has some additional steel structure, in the form of additional steel risers, there are shims located between the containers at those points, to connect it all together and carry the load to the ground. In effect, this stiffens up the boxes. That way, they don’t “droop.”

      In spite of that, people who have actually stood on that cantilevered deck described the way it “bounced” as they partied.

      Short term… okay, I suppose.

      Long term? Structural Failure. You have to support the “connecting bits”, and the container “cantilever” responsibly, if you expect your home or office to last longer than a marketing season…

      And, with the flex, flooring and anything attached to the walls will certainly be affected over time. Nothing sucks worse than a cracked radiant floor made of concrete due to “container bounce.”

      While the Puma Temporary Store is certainly cool, it was never meant to last… and it won’t.


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