Eco Green Shipping Container Roofs are gaining popularity in urban environments. And it happens for at least one big reason – they create so much-needed oases of nature in the sea of concrete and asphalt.
No wonder, they also found their way into cargotecture, although the motivation, in this case, is a bit different. Mostly located in the countryside (if not in the middle of nowhere), container houses are usually surrounded by nature. And that somehow reduces the need for the oasis-like island of greenery on the roof. There are however other arguments for green roofs:
It’s not only driven by the need to reduce energy bills but also by growing eco-consciousness and often by necessity. In fact, many container houses are located in off-grid environments with limited energy resources. In such cases, green roofs thanks to their ability to isolate the roof from direct exposure to the sun can minimize the need for an energy-hungry A/C cooling process.
The roof of this container house located next to Athens (Greece) serves as a “Sun-Barrier”. It’s designed as a low-maintenance one, planted with horizontally expanding vegetation that eventually will overgrow the roof providing a sort of living “umbrella”. Source: Cocoon Modules (Greece)
b. Esthetics needs
While most likely your roof garden will not match the biblical Hanging Gardens of Semiramis, having your own, ground garden may have many merits. If it is easily accessible, it can provide a relaxing environment with possibly beautiful vistas…
c. Pragmatic needs (Veggie garden)
Fresh, organic veggies out of reach of most “crawling creatures” maybe also a tempting idea. It may be especially attractive in remote areas. There the perspective driving for miles to the nearest grocery shop often reduces your appetite for veggies. (not to mention the presence of wildlife that is always ready for a fiesta in your traditional garden).
This 6-containers “Lettuce House” is part of the Sustainable Living Lab experiment . Location Shunyi, Beijing, China. Source: Prefab Container Homes, photo: Li Minfei).
Whatever the reason for the green roof, once you decide to go for it, the container’s roof must be reinforced by steel beams. Also, it will be crucial to spread the extra load evenly across the roof (usually by using plywood). Add to that roots’ membrane, a waterproof barrier, and an adequate drainage system to prevent the accumulation of water.
Example of a 1000 sf (3 x 40′ container) roof framing layout for green roof. Left: Reinforcement works in progress (frame and plywood), Right: Details of the roof’s structure. Source: Residential Shipping Container Primer
Another example of the green roof’s structure can be the concept of the Green Bike Box proposed by students, local partners and
fabricators for university research and outreach opportunities (Cleveland, Ohio, USA).
Each of these examples outlines the critical steps and gives an idea about the framework.
Source: Journal of Living Architecture Vol. 4 Number 2, 2017 (Deploying shipping containers for innovative living design architecture)
However attractive maybe green roofs, are not for everybody and not for any climate zone. The first limitation is obvious (if you didn’t like gardening, there is little chance that it will change). The geographical (or climate zone) has more serious implications. Green roofs exposed to the sun will need frequent watering (at least in its “garden-version”). That means you will need good access to water. That may be a problem in many off-grid locations with a scarcity of water. In zones with abundant rains, rainwater will probably wash out organic sediments from the planting soil. Note that such a process does not happen at the ground level (or at least it has a much lower intensity). Unfortunately, not much can be done to prevent an accelerated erosion of soil (filters may lead to water overflow during intensive rains.
More reasons to choose containers as roofing elements:
Sustainable and Stylish
One innovative use that combines sustainability and style is the eco-green shipping container roof. By turning shipping containers into rooftop gardens, solar arrays, or green roofs, you can enhance the energy efficiency, aesthetic appeal, and environmental performance of your building.
Shipping containers are made of durable steel and designed to withstand harsh weather, saltwater corrosion, and heavy loads. They are also modular, stackable, and readily available in various sizes and shapes. These qualities make shipping containers ideal for repurposing as roofing elements that can serve multiple functions:
A green roof, also known as a living roof, is a layer of vegetation and soil that covers the top of a building. Green roofs can improve air quality, reduce the urban heat island effects, absorb stormwater runoff, provide insulation, and create a habitat for birds and insects. By using shipping containers as the structural support and water storage for a green roof, you can enhance the biodiversity and resilience of your building.
A solar array, a photovoltaic (PV) system, is a group of solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity. Solar arrays can reduce the carbon footprint of a building, lower energy bills, and provide backup power during outages. That way ou can maximize the efficiency and output of your renewable energy system.
A rooftop garden is a landscaped area that can provide food, recreation, and beauty for building occupants. Rooftop gardens can also reduce stormwater runoff, mitigate the heat island effects, and promote biodiversity. By using shipping containers as rooftop gardens you can create a modular and movable system that can adapt to different crops and seasons.
How to Design and Build Eco-Green Container Roofs:
Designing and building eco-green shipping container roofs requires careful planning, engineering, and coordination. Here are some key steps to consider:
Assess the feasibility:
Before you start designing your eco green shipping container roof, you need to assess the structural capacity, weight limits, and local codes and regulations of your building. You also need to consider the orientation, shading, and wind exposure of your rooftop, as well as the access and maintenance requirements.
Choose the components:
Depending on the type of eco green shipping container roof you want to create, you need to choose the appropriate components, such as:
Vegetation, soil, drainage layer, filter fabric, waterproof membrane, insulation, and edge protection.
PV panels, racking system, wiring, inverters, and monitoring system.
Planter boxes, soil, irrigation system, plants, seating, and lighting.
Plan the installation:
Once you have chosen the components, you need to plan the installation process, including:
Site preparation: Clearing debris, leveling the surface, and protecting the existing roof membrane.
Anchoring the containers to the roof, aligning them to the desired layout, and sealing the gaps.
Installing the green roof layers, mounting the solar panels, or filling the planter boxes.
Maintenance and monitoring:
Regularly inspecting and maintaining the eco-green shipping container roof to ensure its performance and longevity.
Conclusion: Benefits of Eco-Green Shipping Container Roofs:
Eco-green shipping container roofs are a creative and stylish use of repurposed materials. They are also a smart and sustainable solution for enhancing the energy efficiency, aesthetic appeal, and environmental performance of buildings. By turning shipping containers into rooftop gardens, solar arrays, or green roofs, you can reap a range of benefits that go beyond the traditional functions of roofs. Here are some of the key benefits of eco-green shipping container roofs:
Energy Efficiency (as mentioned above)
By adding insulation and vegetation to your roof, you can reduce the heat transfer between your building and the outside environment. This can lower your heating and cooling costs, as well as increase the lifespan of your roof membrane. Green roofs, in particular, can also reduce the urban heat island effect, which is a phenomenon where cities are significantly warmer than their surrounding rural areas due to the absorption and retention of heat by buildings and pavement.
By capturing and absorbing rainwater on your roof, you can reduce the runoff. Runoff can overwhelm the municipal sewer system and cause flooding, erosion, and pollution. Green roofs, in particular, can retain up to 90% of the rainfall that falls on them. That can reduce the stress on the stormwater infrastructure and improve the water quality of nearby streams and rivers.
By adding vegetation to your roof, you can absorb pollutants and carbon dioxide from the air, as well as emit oxygen and moisture. This can improve the air quality of your building and surrounding area, as well as mitigate the negative impacts of climate change on public health and ecosystems.
By creating a habitat for plants, insects, and birds on your roof, you can enhance the biodiversity and resilience of your local ecosystem. Green roofs, in particular, can provide a refuge for native species that have lost their natural habitats due to urbanization and development.
By installing a solar array on your roof, you can generate clean and renewable electricity that can power your building and reduce your carbon footprint. Shipping containers, in particular, can serve as a sturdy and modular support structure for solar panels, as well as a storage space for batteries and inverters.
Beauty and Recreation:
By creating a rooftop garden on your roof, you can add a beautiful and relaxing space for building occupants to enjoy. Rooftop gardens, in particular, can provide a source of fresh produce, herbs, and flowers, as well as a place for socializing, exercising, and connecting with nature.
Innovation and Inspiration:
By using shipping containers as roofing elements, you can showcase your creativity, innovation, and commitment to sustainability. Eco-green shipping container roofs can attract attention, media coverage, and awards, as well as inspire others to adopt similar practices and designs.
The bottom line: Eco-green shipping container roofs
A suitable climate zone is essential for the success of the rooftop garden. Note that general-type green roofs with temperature and drought-resistant plants are less vulnerable to the climate. A good example can be low-growing sedum plants (also known as “stonecrop”). Easy to care for, and not demanding, they spread along on the ground providing a sort of living, green umbrella (“sunbrella” in this case). They also do not require as much organic soil as flowers or veggie gardens (as a matter of fact they are great for rock gardens!
Eco-green shipping container roofs offer a range of benefits that can improve the quality of life. They also reduce the environmental impact and enhance the value of buildings. You can join the growing movement of sustainable and resilient architecture and contribute to a better and greener future for all.
Examples of low-growing sedum plants. Source: Gardening Express (UK)