Container Houses Above Ground Decks

Roof Deck Container House

How to design container houses above ground decks:

Who wouldn’t like to relax while lying on a lounger just under the open sky, have calm senses with a bird-eye view of surrounding nature, and experience the joy of sunrise or the warmness of sunset? Well, you can certainly experience it all on an above the ground deck (BTW – these days it’s known as the “Rooftop” trend). In fact, there must be something special that rooftop locations can offer – probably an overwhelming feeling of detachment from the “earthly” problems, somehow less visible from the “above”. Whatever it is, container-based houses with flat roofs are ideal places for scenic “look-out” points, for secluded, detached from everyday life oases of peace and serenity, for living dreams under the starry sky….

Rooftop Deck Container Home
Horizon is the limit….. Source: Alternative Living Spaces

Roof Deck
Sky seems to be the limit (although the starry sky behind the Milky Way is rather limitless Source: Tomecek Studio

Container Home Roof Deck Top
Can you feel the fresh breeze from the lake? Source: Grand Designs Australia

Container Houses Above Ground Decks
Concept of container-based house with Bridge-Roof over the center area and rooftop deck. Source: Off-Grid World

Practical Notes:

Container roofs are not designed to withstand extra loads over their surface.

a.  Separate Support should be built

The rooftop deck should be built as a free-standing structure supported by corner posts and rails.The rails along the modified walls (with cutouts for windows, doors, etc) must be reinforced to be able to support the weight of the deck itself, features (furniture, plants…), and people. The bottom line is – you do not want to apply any load directly on the corrugated roof.

b. Air gap is necessary

An adequate air gap must be left between the deck’s structure and the container’s roof. It is important to allow for unobstructed airflow. It will help to prevent the accumulation of moisture as well as to improve the container’s ventilation.

c. Waterproofing

Before the installation of the deck, the roof should be extra waterproofed and protected from corrosion. The original container’s roof is designed as a waterproof barrier preventing the accumulation of stagnant water by channeling it towards sides. However, once the deck is installed, the original roof will be inaccessible for inspection, maintenance and eventual repairs.  Extra waterproof can be provided by an extra layer of coating or sloped water membrane etc…. (it’s especially important if the deck is built over the roofs of two adjacent containers).

d. Barriers

For security reasons, side barriers must be installed along the perimeter of the deck and it must comply with local laws.

e. Choice of decking materials

The right choice of decking materials is of the utmost importance. Typically, rooftop decks are exposed to tougher weather conditions compared to ground-level ones (direct sun exposure, UV, wind, temperatures, etc…).  The most popular treated wood does not meet fundamental eco-requirements. Hardwood (tropical, red …) not only is not an eco-friendly option, but is also expensive, maintenance requiring, and prone to deformation after exposure to large swings of temperature, moisture, scorching sun (you name it).
Composite Decking will address most of these requirements (although it’s also pricey and when exposed to direct sun – uncomfortably hot for bare feet). To its advantage let’s mention that composite decking materials are already proven, long-lasting, and easy to install.

Thermally Modified Wood (Thermwood) is another viable possibility. Like composite materials, thermwood, it is a durable, low-maintenance one. Fully natural, (offers the beauty of traditional wood), it nicely ages to silver-grayish colors, and (unlike composites) it can be used for all elements of the deck (flooring but also railings, benches, pergolas…).

For those unfamiliar – Thermally Modified Wood is a natural wood (often softwood) that is cured at high temperatures (> 180 degC/360 degF) in absence of oxygen. Such a curing process changes the structure of cellulose making the wood more durable, and less prone to warping, and splitting as well as insect & microorganisms (decay) resistant. As it is not chemically treated and based mostly on softwoods (faster growing than tropical hardwoods), Thermowood is rather eco-friendly.

Container Houses Above Ground Decks
Modified wood. Source: Kebony (Architect: Werner Nasahl, Dipl.-Ing. Architekt Photo by: Salih Usta)

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