Pirate Platforms

What do you do when you have virtually no budget, little security in your premises, but you need more space? Build it, that's what.

Our platform construction method involves Dexion Speedlock palette racking, timber joists and tongue-and-groove chipboard flooring panels. The aim is to create mezzanine levels which extend our usable floor space, but which are outside the scope of building regulations or business property tax. What we construct is classified as furniture not taxable floor space. (Okay, it's very large furniture, but it is portable, and de-mountable, and is not attached to the fabric of the building.

Is it safe? Oh yes. It's rated to more than double the load per square metre required for the upstairs of a typical home. The way we do it the structure will not be able to move within the space its installed, so there's no possibility of upset.

We adapted our stairwell design from one used by a local electronics recycler. It is a distinct improvement on Access Space's Platform Zero staircase, which we built in early 2000. Materials cost for our new stairwells is around £45, compared with ~£350 for our first attempt. Construction time is lower as well!

To play this game you need

  • A post-industrial context in which redundant double-height industrial or commercial units are cheaply available. (That's lucky!)
  • Alternatively, a city rich in redundant Victorian school buildings constructed with double height classrooms and gymnasia. (Oh, so that's lucky, too!)
  • A local supplier of used industrial palette-racking. (If you live in a post-industrial area, then this will certainly be available - fortunately for you, those warehouses, factories and so on are now closed!) WARNING: We do not recommend buying palette racking new. It is built to be massively strong, reconfigurable, and to have a virtually infinite lifespan. Why wreck the planet and stab your bank balance in the back just to get it shiny?
  • Standard construction grade timbers. We like 45mm x 145mm actual section, which old-timers and Americans call “six by two” - despite the fact that its actual size is somewhere around 5.75” x 1.75”. We also use larger, “eight by two” timbers for the stairwells (did we mention that?) and smaller “five by two” timbers for handrails.
  • 22mm flooring grade chipboard for the floors. These come in 2440mm x 610mm sheets, with tongue-and-groove around the outside. 22mm plywood for the shelves and workbenches. Don't pay for the “fine sanded surface” type - slightly rough is fine, and costs much less. We looked into scrounging this timber, or buying it second-hand - but it wasn't any cheaper than getting it new. At least it was grown in sustainable forests.
  • A good hand saw, a pair of adjustible spanners, a hammer, a tape measure, a straight-edge and pencil, an electric screwdriver and/or a large-size pump/ratchet screwdriver. (You'll need to put in so many screws that using a traditional screwdriver is unfeasible). Fixings: lots of ~45mm decking screws, M8 threaded rod, plus washers and nylon-collared non-slip nuts to suit.
  • You do need at least two people for some of the construction steps. We recommend 4-6 volunteers, to spread the load and get a good group dynamic going.
platforms.txt · Last modified: 2012/02/20 14:13 by james
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