In Ernest Cline's novel Ready Player One, the main character lives in the "stacks" - a dystopian vision of what a trailer park may look like in the future. The "stacks" are primarily composed of trailerhouses stacked

... at least fifteen mobile homes high (with the occasional RV, shipping container, Airstream trailer, or VW microbus mixed in for variety). In recent years, many of the stacks had grown to a height of twenty units or more.


The trailers on the bottom level rested on the ground, or on their original concrete foundations, but the units stacked above them were suspended on a reinforced modular scaffold, a haphazard metal latticework that had been constructed piecemeal over the years.

There's also a great picture from the cover which helps visualize:

Ready Player One cover art

I'm curious how feasible this actually is. Can a typical mobile home support that much weight? Can standard steel scaffolding provide enough support? Can the ground support that much weight without a better foundation than typical for a motor home?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ That stackup doesn't look too safe in wind much above "breeze" level. Is playing dominos with these things part of the plot? $\endgroup$ Mar 23, 2015 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ @OlinLathrop - The concern about a chain collapse does come up in the book, (and has happened in the past) although I don't think one actually happens during it. $\endgroup$
    – Bobson
    Mar 23, 2015 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ @OlinLathrop I was thinking more Jenga myself $\endgroup$
    – Air
    Mar 23, 2015 at 15:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I use a program that reveals whenever certain keywords are used which is how I found this question. I wrote an article about the mobile homes of the past that have been stacked, along with concept designs that may help. Here's the link: mobilehomeliving.org/… $\endgroup$
    – user1014
    Mar 23, 2015 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Air: Huh? What's a "jenga"? $\endgroup$ Mar 23, 2015 at 15:49

1 Answer 1


Can a typical mobile home support that much weight?

No, most mobile homes are just flimsy wooden constructions where emphasis is on weight saving. If you want to stack cheap housing blocks I suggest stacking steel old shipping containers. They also come preequipped with anchor points in the corners.

Can standard steel scaffolding provide enough support?

Standard haphazard steel scaffold, probably not. Properly engineered lattice work yes.

Can the ground support that much weight without a better foundation than typical for a motor home?

No, the higher you go the higher the tipping momentum is, this will put more force on one side. This could be stabilized with tension wires between the individual towers. This will widen the effective base. (and provide a place for people to hang their laundry.)

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you - this is pretty much what I expected. Could you elaborate on the second point a bit, since (given the first answer) the scaffolding would have to support all the weight? Specifically, assuming that the original scaffolding was well designed for a small stack, would it be possible to keep extending it as the stack grew? Or would it have to be designed for the eventual height from the get-go? $\endgroup$
    – Bobson
    Mar 23, 2015 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Bobson It depends to some extent on your definition of "well designed" for the small stack. Strength and rigidity at this scale are trivial to achieve, but at some point the focus usually turns to cost and the design will be trimmed down to reduce material and fabrication costs and provide just enough support for the loading plus safety factors. A structure with 40 times the strength it needs is probably not very "well designed" from the perspective of cost, but could allow for quite a lot of "haphazard" extension. $\endgroup$
    – Air
    Mar 23, 2015 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Air - Good point. It's not addressed in the novel, but I'd guess that "just enough" would be something like "build for two extra layers", and then they went and added 10. $\endgroup$
    – Bobson
    Mar 23, 2015 at 15:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.