Building Safe Structures

Burning Man Artist Guide to Structural Considerations

Questions regarding structures on playa can be emailed to Art Support Services:

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

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 is sequenced in such a way as to maintain a safe building environment.

Following are the types of information about your art project that Burning Man Arts will likely ask to see to help you think through the process of building safe art.

Documentation Guidelines:

  1. If the structure is between 0-10 feet tall and does not have any static or dynamic platforms for human interaction, please provide:
    • A 3D model or hand drawn diagram of the structure
    • Your installation plan
    • Your deinstallation plan 
  2. If the structure is between 11-15 feet tall and does not have any dynamic platforms for human interaction OR if the structure is between 0-10 feet tall and DOES have static or dynamic platforms for human interaction, please provide:
    • Architectural drawings
    • Materials list
    • Sizes and quantity of all structural elements
    • Number and capacity of your anchors and bearing plates, and detailed information on how the anchor(s) will be connected to the structure. (Burning Man can provide/install/remove 4ft long screw-in type anchors with a vertical load limit of 3000 lbs. See details below.)
    • Uplift and bearing calculations
    • Your installation plan
    • Your deinstallation plan 
  3. If the structure is between 16-20 feet tall and does not have any dynamic platforms for human interaction OR if the structure is between 11-15 feet tall and DOES have dynamic platforms for human interaction:
    • Items 1-7 from Section 2
    • Construction drawings
    • 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.
    • 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. 
  4. If the structure is above 20 feet tall OR if the structure is between 16-20 feet tall and has dynamic platforms for human interaction: 
    • Items 1-4 from Section 3.
    • The engineering calculation package (if available). It can be done in any format, hand calculation or 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.
    • 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.

Ground Anchors

Artwork must be sufficiently secured against the sustained winds and intense weather conditions that often arise on the playa. (Note: if guy wires are necessary to the installation they must be flagged and lit at night.)

Burning Man provides the use of ground anchors, and we can install and remove them for you. You must talk to Art Support Services (ASS) in advance about your anchoring plan and the number of ground anchors you need. Here are the details:

  • The type we can provide are 4-feet long steel anchors with an eyehook at the top and a spade at the bottom (cannot be installed through a base plate).
  • They have an observed failure point of 3,000 pounds each (in vertical tension, 90 degrees to the ground). If your engineer determines your loads are in excess of this, let ASS know and we can direct you to alternate solutions.
  • If you plan to use another type of anchor (American Penetrators, helical piers, etc.), you must provide, install and remove them yourself.
  • Anchors must be placed at least 3 feet apart (per our agreement with the Bureau of Land Management), and they cannot be ganged together.
  • You must provide all rigging required to connect to ground anchors. If you do not know rigging, ASS will consult, but you must provide the correct rigging and verify that it can support the loads your structure will place on it.
  • Ideally you should have a structural engineer create your anchor plan.


Check out this helpful list of architectural and structural terminology.