There are many advantages to using freight containers in construction, including the recycling of old metal containers, the savings in costs for home builders and the creation of unique and interesting designs. One of the simplest methods of creating a new space is simply to construct a roof across two or more freight containers. Before getting too committed to your ideas it would be wise to consult with a licensed architect early in the planning process about your local building codes and requirements.
Use Freight Containers as a Roof
Plan a design utilizing shipping containers as a roof which spans over other containers. These steel crates are rugged and painted to withstand harsh weather conditions. The "Quik House" by architect Adam Kalkin shows how three containers may be used to span over two containers to create a spacious home.
Construct a reinforced concrete foundation, according to approved building plans, in order to handle the heavy loads. Then lift the shipping containers into place with a crane. Weld the containers together at the joints for strength and waterproof the joints between the containers with a permanently flexible sealant in order to keep water from seeping down through the cracks.
Add extra waterproofing layers and drainage onto the roof for rainwater collection or to prepare for a custom roof garden. Many people choose to leave the containers simply as they appear, as an artistic and environmental statement. However, the containers do tend to rust, so this is not the most practical solution.
Use Trusses as a Roof
Hire an engineer to design trusses for the span of your roof between two shipping containers. Trusses are structural triangles with zig-zag supports which provide for large spans. The three-container house in the references at Container-houses.com used eleven galvanized metal channel trusses for the roof structure.
Load the constructed trusses one by one onto the containers by lifting up one side first and then the other. Then slide them to their respective positions and flip them to their proper positions when ready for mounting.
Attach metal purlins (long metal channels) perpendicular to the tops of the trusses and then affix metal roofing sheets using a power drill and stainless steel screws. Metal roofing sheets are usually installed in a vertical orientation and panels should be seamless from the top of the peak to lower overhang edge. Attach a metal ridge to the crown of the roof, then trim and add gutters as required.