Build Specs Heavy

This document contains

  • Our General Concept and Requirements
  • The Sketch-up drawings and a materials list (cut list)
  • The BMOrg language as it relates to building on the playa

    The General Concept section provides the basic expectations of the project. The Sketch Up drawing and materials list are for your use and benefit and the BMorg language is for further knowledge. 


    You may add to this design or create your own, as long as you meet the basic safety and lighting requirements.  You are also free to further increase the load factors or stability. In other words, you can over build it - just don’t underbuild it.

    Ramps should be built to support a minimum of 2000 lbs at any one time, able to withstand winds of up to 40 mph sustained, 80 mph gusts, and be highly visible at night. Solar lighting is great but must be supplemented by battery or generator powered lights per BMorg.

    Here’s the stuff we encourage but don’t require: (in order of importance)  Shading , Decorations (paint, stencils, cut outs, etc) and Signage.. (note: we will be stenciling the StairRamps to Heaven logo somewhere prominently on your ramp. Size is approximately 2’ x 6”, black paint.

    If your ramp arrives on playa and does not meet the minimum requirements, we will attempt to help you bring it up to standard.  If this is not possible, we may have to ask that you take your ramp to your personal camp and install it there. We don’t want to hurt anybody. Especially with a ramp designed to help people.




    Cut list (This accounts for 10% waste, hardware not added):

    • 4x- 4'x8' 3/4" plywood
    • 48x- 2x4x8'
    • 10x- 2x4x12' 
    • 5x- 2x6x8


    You excited yet?! Well here is the basic ramp current draft. Before you panic, yes it is in progress. We will have the final SKP and cut list by June 7th. We will post a notification on the Facebook group when this is updated with the final things and stuff. We just wanted to give you something to get started conceptually and design wise. If you want to take this and run with it however you want, go for it!

    We have provided the BMorg wording for structural stability for your reference.

    Try to remember we are all looking to provide access to those with mobility challenges so please make it safe and functional.


    BMorg Artist Guide to Structural Considerations



    • Architectural Drawings: Architectural drawings are drawings that show the design intent of the structure. They will include various views of the structure, including plan view (or bird’s-eye view), elevations, and/or sections. Dimensions with units should be included of the various spaces and what the spaces will be used for. Please convert all dimensions to (feet-inches).
    • Beam: A beam is a structural member in the horizontal plane. They typically support joists (joists can sit on top of a beam or frame into a beam with joist hangers).
    • Bearing Plate: A bearing plate is a plate that prevents the structure from sinking into the ground. They can be steel, plywood, etc. and provide a larger surface area for large point loads to distribute their loads to the larger area, thereby preventing it from sinking.
    • Calculation Package: See “Structural Calculations”
    • Column: A column is a vertical structural member that supports gravity loads (via beams or girders) or lateral loads (via bracing, shear walls or moment frames).
    • Construction Drawings: Construction drawings are the tools that a contractor (or the build team) will need to reference in order to build the structure. These include architectural drawings, structural drawings, any mechanical, electrical, and/or plumbing drawings as well as the material specifications.
    • Dynamic Platform: A dynamic platform is a surface that is elevated from the ground that people can climb or step on top of and experiences some movement (rotates, rolls, shifts, etc.).
    • Girder: A girder is a structural member in the horizontal plane that typically supports beams.
    • Gravity Loads: Gravity loads are the vertical loads produced from the weight of the structure itself (also called dead loads) and the weight of any people, furniture, etc. (also called live loads).
    • Joist: Joists are structural members that occur at regular intervals (typically 24” on center for roofs and 16” on center for floors) and support the roof or floor sheathing as well as any roof or floor finishes and live loads.
    • Framing Element: A framing element (A.K.A. framing or framing member) is a joist, beam, girder, or column.
    • Free-Standing Wall: A free-standing wall is a wall that is not attached to any perpendicular walls or supports.
    • Installation Plan: An installation plan explains how the structure will be built as well as the construction sequencing. This will help to flag any construction issues so they can be addressed early on; understand and plan for acquiring the required equipment that will be needed; and flag any safety concerns during the installation phase.
    • Lateral Loads: Lateral loads are the horizontal loads produced from wind or seismic activity.
    • Rigging: Rigging is tensioned ropes, wires or cables that provide lateral stability to the structure. They typically extend from higher up on the structure down to the ground and are secured with an anchor.
    • Static Platform: A static platform is a surface that is elevated from the ground that people can climb or step on top of and does NOT experience any intended movement (rotation, rolling, shifting, etc.).
    • Structural Calculations: Structural calculations are the analysis that shows the adequacy of a framing element under a certain loading condition. Structural calculations can be done by hand or electronically with the use of a computer program. They should show the loads applied to each framing element, any safety factors used, the span between supports of each framing element and lastly, should show that the framing element has the capacity to support the loads.
    • Structural Drawings: Structural drawings are drawings that show the structural requirements of the structure. They should include:
      • framing member sizes, location and orientation,
      • maximum or minimum span dimensions,
      • the framing members’ relationship to another,
      • size and type of fasteners to be used and their locations



    For structures taller than 10 feet, or where failures could threaten safety, it is important that structural stability is considered; that construction is aligned with the plans; and that construction sequencing maintains a safe environment throughout the production cycle.

    The following information is provided as a guide to help Burning Man artists in preparing for successful design and construction of art in the Burning Man environment.

    Whether you are applying for an honorarium grant or self-funding your project the following are types of information Burning Man Arts will likely require.

      1. If the structure is between 0-10 [ft] AND does not have any static or dynamic platform(s) for human interaction:
        1. Provide a 3D model or hand drawn diagram of the structure
        2. Provide the installation plan
        3. Provide the deinstallation plan
      2. If the structure is between 11-15 [ft] AND does not have any dynamic platform(s) for human interaction OR if the structure is between 0-10 [ft] and has static or dynamic platform(s) for human interaction:
        1. Provide architectural drawings
        2. State in a very clear format:
    • the materials
    • the sizes of all structural elements
    • the quantity of the structural elements
    • Provide the uplift and bearing calculations. In particular, the number and capacity of your anchors and bearing plates. Please provide detailed information on how the anchor(s) will be connected to the structure.
    • Burning Man can install/remove 4ft long screw-in type anchors with an approximate vertical load limit of 3500 lbs. Anchor plans are reviewed by Art Support Services.
    • Provide the installation plan
    • Provide the deinstallation plan
    • If the structure is between 16-20 [ft] AND does not have any dynamic platform(s) for human interaction OR if the structure is between 11-15 [ft] and has dynamic platform(s) for human interaction:
    1. Items 1-5 from Section 2
    2. Provide construction drawings
    3. If rigging will be used to anchor the structure, please provide the forces experienced by the wires as well as how and where the wires will connect to the structure.
    4. Please provide the loads applied to the structure. In particular, provide information and the numbers used for wind and gravity calculation (including structure self-weight and people loads). If dynamic loads are used, provide the appropriate information.
  • If the structure is above 20 [ft] OR if the structure is between 16-20 [ft] and has dynamic platform(s) for human interaction:
    1. Items 1-4 from Section 3.
    2. Please provide the calculation package (if available). The calculation can be done in any format, hand calculation or any computer program.  If a computer program is used, please provide a small document that includes the inputs and outputs of the program. Calculations should be done, in general, for elements including (but not limited to) joists, beams/girders, columns, bearing plates, anchor uplift and connections of one framing element to another.
    3. If only a portion of the structure is analyzed, instead of the structure as a whole, please justify the reasoning behind that decision.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: In order for artists to assure the safety of the art structure (regardless of the size and application of the art structure), all the mentioned items should be followed. In addition, if the structure does not fall into any of the above categories, but it has a potential to put life in danger, Burning Man may request any of the items mentioned above.


    ** Have questions? Feel free to contact Alicia or BMorg with any questions  **


    For a 12x12:

    4 holes popped 36" deep, 11'8" center post to center post.

    It's 8'6" from ground to bottom of joist. 9'6" from ground to top of post. I've attaching a quick sketch of one wall of a 24x24 structure.  

    The important things are that your lumber is solid without any structural cracks, walls are straight up and down when you tamp them in, and that the shade cloth is tight. In reality this isn't professional construction, things aren't always entirely plumb, so the heights end up varying by about 6", more on the shorter side than the taller. 

    Cut List:

    • 4 4"x4"s
    • 4 4"x6"s (two of which are 'kickers' which get removed once the walls are erected
    • 4 1"x2" battens
    • 15'x12' of black shade cloth

    We build our structures by:

    • For a 12x12 there are two walls. Laying out each wall and assembling on the ground. We start with a "kicker" three feet above the bottom of the post for stability and leveling which is removed once we erect the walls and then use to connect the two walls.
    • Once both walls are assembled on the ground we erect each wall one at a time, plumb it, tamp it into the ground.
    • We then connect each wall with the removed kicker 4x6s.
    • Next, lay out the shade cloth on the ground underneath the finished shade frame, making sure there's an even amount of over hang on each side of the structure.
    • For a 12x12, a batten is laid down on two opposing sides of the short (12') side of the shade cloth, fold the cloth over the batten once and use a whacker tacker staple gun to attach the shade cloth to the battens. The long (15') sides are left loose until the last step.
    • Place two people on ladders on one side and have two people hand up one of the battens to the people on ladders.
    • Roll the batten so there is at least 1 full roll of shade cloth surrounding the batten, have one person sink a nail on the end. Adjust the batten as needed, sink it the rest of the way across, a nail every 12-18 inches.
    • Move ladders across to the other side, have ground people hand up the other side of the shade cloth, repeat last step, rolling the shade cloth around the batten, getting the cloth as tight as you can possibly get it. If you need to have someone stand behind the people on the ladders to pull the batten/cloth tight while the ladder/hammer people sink the nails in, do that. You don't want loose shade, it becomes a sail in the wind. Dangerous.
    • Once the two sides are done you will have the two loose ends of the shade cloth. Place two ladders on one side, grab a batten and place it on top of the loose shade cloth hanging over the side of the structure, have two people grab the lose shade cloth on the same side and pull down as hard as they can while the people on ladders secure the naked batten to the structure, on top of the shade cloth. Nails can be spaced further, as you'll be rolling and securing the shade cloth on top of the batten. Once the batten is secured down, roll the shade cloth and nail it on top of the batten.
    • Switch sides and do the same thing.

    Viola! Shade structure!

    ** Have questions? Feel free to contact the DMV Shade Structure lead **


    Cut List Safety:

    Two of these strings, 20 meters, white

    More detailed images and things to come! Basic gist is light it up safely, keep it lit safely. Here are some general thoughts but essentially follow the BMorg requirements listed below. The ramp should be at a minimum illuminated enough so people walking on the ramp can see clearly at night, and Art Cars can see them. Also make sure to use lighting and power sources that are suited for the playa. Please be mindful of people with seizures with any strobing lights, radical inclusion! I have put together an idea for lighting, you are welcome to go as big as you want but try to not blind someone :)

    To power the lights your choice depends on what you have available, how often you want to go out and deal with battery swaps, how much lighting you will have total, etc. Just please keep in mind people need these ramps to access art cars so try to use a source that will at least power the safety lighting through the night. They aren’t a fan if the safety lighting goes out.


    BMorg  Art Installation Lighting Requirements


    The goal is to make your art visible at night to:

    • Prevent destruction of your art from accidental art car/bike/pedestrian collision.
    • Prevent injury to participants.
    • Look awesome!

    General Guidelines for Lighting Design

    Use the 20-second rule. People should be able to see your art 20 seconds before they arrive at it.

    • Since art cars travel at 5 mph this means they should be able to see your art from (minimum) 150 feet away.
    • 360 degree safety and lighting is important. As most lighting is directional, ensure no dark spots in your lighting design by putting up spot-lighting or consider also adding perimeter lighting.
    • Lighting your art should be considered in the art’s design, not as an afterthought.

    Perimeter Lighting

    • Marks your boundaries and keeps art cars at a safe distance from your art piece.
    • Can mark where you may have buried equipment or trenching.
    • Perimeter marking is best when higher off the ground, so it does not get buried beneath a layer of dust.

    Light Your Rebar

    • This structural part of your project is often overlooked and is one of the largest causes of injury on the playa.
    • Make sure to mark it well, bury it, or light it up!

    Enhance your Lighting System

    • Mirrors, reflective tapes, reflectors, and other shiny surfaces can reflect not only your deliberate lighting, but also headlights from oncoming vehicles.
    • Sound objects like wind chimes can also provide additional assistance in protecting your art from oncoming vehicles not only at night but also during playa whiteouts in the daytime.

    Forms of Light

    There are many forms of light for you to choose from. See below for more info on approved forms, but please don’t use:

    • Chemical lights (“glow sticks”): they don’t last an entire night and are bad for the environment.
    • Fuel lanterns (tiki torches, etc): no unattended flames are allowed on the playa.

    Acceptable Forms of Light

    • Electroluminescence
      • Highly portable, flexible, and customizable, electroluminescent (EL) panels and/or wire
      • Available in neon/fluorescent colors, different shapes and diameters
      • Can be powered with simple or sophisticated lighting controllers
    • Incandescent lighting
      • Highly accessible
      • Available in standardized packages
      • Generates light omnidirectionally
      • Consumes a lot more power, produces more heat, and is far more fragile than their updated counterparts
    • LEDs
      • Highly efficient, effective alternative to conventional lighting.
      • Compact
      • Available in an array of colors
      • Easy to power and control
      • Perform well in extreme environments
    • Neon
      • Highly efficient
      • Consumes little power in operation
      • Can last for years if utilized properly
      • Since neon tubes are made of glass, consider placing it out of reach to guard against breakage.
    • Rope lights
      • Available as incandescent bulbs or LEDs
      • Inexpensive solution
      • Can make a great demarcation, point of reference, and/or general area light
    • Small blinking (bicycle) lights
      • Easy to procure
      • Bright enough to warn on-comers of potential hazards
      • Do not cast much light on the surroundings
      • Should be used as warning lights only
    • Solar lights (garden lights, etc.)
      • For ground-mounted solar lights, consider lifting them up and off the ground in an attempt to keep dust from accumulating on the integrated solar panel and/or LED light, which can greatly impair their functionality.
        • Can be used for perimeter marking or accents, but not very bright and should not be considered main source of lighting.
        • If not staked down properly, can be blown away or get stolen.
      • For larger solar light installations that require solar panels:
        • See section below
    • Lasers
      • You should only consider using lasers in your installation if you understand the regulations surrounding them.

    Power for Your Lights

    No matter the source of power you’re using, it needs to be checked daily prior to sundown to ensure your art will be lit throughout the night. Take this time to also do a MOOP sweep! If you are having lighting issues your team can’t fix, make sure you get to the ARTery before 6pm closing time.

    • Small Batteries
      • Require daily swap-out
    • Car Batteries
      • Should be stored in a cool, dry place
      • Should be secured to ensure they don’t wander off
    • Generator
      • Needs to be secured within a generator box (see the next section of this Handbook for more info on generator boxes)
      • Fuel needs to be arranged with Art Support Services

    Powering With Solar

    Solar is complicated enough to need its own section. Before acquiring components, it’s important to take the time to properly design your system around whatever you may be powering. Keep in mind that the more components you add, the larger the solar system will be. Always build margin into solar systems, be sure to account for no/low solar days, plan for worst-case scenarios and bring along additional components to perform onsite repairs. Solar systems require daily maintenance to remove dust and check connections.

    • Solar Panel(s)
      • Generate low voltage dc power, typically 12vdc, identical to the power generated by your vehicle through a cigarette lighter plug.
      • When choosing your solar panel, think of how it’ll be mounted. Whether it’s ground-mounted (will require perimeter lighting), pole-mounted or mounted directly to your art, make sure that your solar panel is properly secured.
        • When securing your system, take wind load, dust, potential impeding shadows, and electrical grounding into account.
        • Mounting a solar panel flat reduces its efficiency. If possible, position your panel at a 45 degree angle and face it towards true south; this will increase efficiency and can help to keep the panel clean.
    • Charge Controller
      • A protective, inline device that manages the power produced by the solar panel
      • Prevents the battery from being overcharged and/or potentially damaged
      • Some charge controllers integrate a photocell and/or timer functions, enabling system autonomy.
        • If your charge controller does not offer these functions, you may consider adding one so you don’t have to physically turn your lighting on/off every day.
    • Battery
      • Size and capacity is determined by your power load
      • Important to have enough power to account for poor solar conditions
      • Prefers stable, cooler temperatures (keep out of direct sunlight, consider a ventilated enclosure which can also double as a space for other solar equipment and wiring)
    • Inverter
      • If you want 110vac (standard U.S. household-type power) instead of 12vdc
    • Wiring and Connectors
      • To connect solar panel to charge controller, charge controller to battery, battery to your lights.
      • Ensure all wiring is properly anchored to avoid potential trip hazard

    Re-using Your Lighting

    • Post-event, your lighting system can be used for future years if it is in good condition.
    • Consider donating your unneeded lighting objects to avoid them ending up in a landfill.
      • Check in with Eyes on Art at the ARTery to see if they are accepting donations of small solar lamps, bicycle lights, blinkies and other small lighting accessories.
    • If you are going to re-use your lighting system for another year, think about ways to improve it.

    What is Eyes on Art?

    • Eyes on Art is a team that’s part of the Art Department.
    • It is not their job to light your art, but they are there to patrol artwork at night and check on the lighting status of artwork on the open playa.
    • If your art is insufficiently lit they will put out perimeter lights (if they are available) or they will put out perimeter cones to protect oncoming vehicles from colliding with your art.
      • These lights and cones should be returned to the ARTery in the morning.
      • ARTery staff will look to connect with your team to correct your lighting problems before the next nightfall.
      • It is important that you let the ARTery know where you are camped when you check in so that you can be located in case issues such as this arise.


    **  Have questions? Feel free to contact Alicia or BMorg with any questions  **

    • Getting your project built- Buying materials, and pre-building
    • Transporting- Brought to playa. Earliest arrival is August 22nd.
    • Registration - Check in at ARTery upon arrival for registration and for direction to specific ramp installation site
    • Assembling- On playa.  No cutting, sawing, drilling, etc. unless a tarp is used and LNT procedures followed. Assembled by August 24th.
    • LNT/ Maintenance - At least once daily. If your ramp requires more maintenance such as high power use that requires battery swaps, it may take more visits. LNT guidelines from BMorg are here.
    • Dis-assembly/ Strike-  You are welcomed to disassemble and remove your ramp anytime after the Man burns on Saturday night, or Sunday or Monday. Monday morning is preferable. You can NOT burn your ramp at its location.  You may cut your lumber down to sizes no larger than 2’x’2’x’4’ and burn on the man base embers as long as it is NOT PAINTED and as long as all hardware is removed. Or donate your dimensional lumber over 4’ to Burners Without Borders.  Details coming soon.

    If, at any point in time you realize that you are not going to be able to meet the basic minimums or bring a ramp to playa, please notify us right away. The StairRamps to Heaven project is a collaboration among several installations, departments, and processes.  We have other groups on standby but timing is crucial.

    Financial Sponsorship

    We have raised money to help offset your costs so grants are available. We are following the Burning Man process of letting you ask for what you want, based on your needs. Please use this (very short) 4 question form to request funding.