We have received emails from people all around the world making comments and asking questions. One of the most popular questions we receive is about which climates are suitable for shipping container buildings.
Most people do consider their local climate before deciding whether to build a shipping container building.
If they live in the tropics they are concerned that their container home will be sweltering. If they live in colder climates they are concerned that their home will be cold all year round.
Shipping container buildings are suitable for nearly all climates providing you thoroughly prepare your containers. Today we are going to look at how to prepare your containers to be suitable in both hot and cold climates.
Shipping Container Homes in Hot Climates
We’ve previously written in detail about how to keep your shipping container home cool during the warmer months.
Here we will focus on how to design your shipping container to be suitable in hot climates.
For this, let’s pick an area which is very hot and dry all year round. Panama fits this description.
The best way to keep your shipping container home cool is to not let the heat into your home in the first place.
One of the most effective ways to do this is to keep the majority of your house in the shade. This stops sunlight shining directly onto your containers which would increase the temperature inside your home.
To keep your containers in the shade, plant trees or bushes if you have the space.
Two of the fastest growing trees are the Northern Catalpa and the Hybrid Poplar. Both of these trees grow at around 8 feet each year. Within a year or so they will be much taller than your container building and provide shade.
The Northern Catalpa grows an incredibly thick canopy of leaves. This really helps to reflect the sunlight away from your containers.
If you are going to use trees as sun shades, it’s also important to consider the orientation of your building. Remember that the sun will be at its hottest during the afternoon. Where is your building located? Remember that the major sunshine could be from the west in one location, but from the south in a different location. Plant most of your shading plants in such a way as to block the afternoon sun in your location.
If the sunlight gets through your shade-blocking plants, the next best thing you can do is make sure your roof is reflecting and not absorbing heat.
An easy step is painting your roof white. White reflects the majority of wavelengths so it will reflect the sun’s rays back and away from your shipping containers.
Not only is your roof’s color important, but just as important is the material you choose for your roof.
Traditional roofs like asphalt are black. These will absorb the heat from the sun and transmit it into your containers.
Instead use a treated metal roof. These will actually reflect the majority of the heat away before it even reaches your containers.
Ventilating Shipping Container for Hot Climates
Unfortunately though, it’s inevitable that at some point the ambient heat will enter your containers. When it does, your containers need to be prepared to expel the heat and keep you cool.
Make sure your home is exceptionally good at letting heat out. Otherwise it will feel like you’re living in a sauna 24/7.
Both your insulation and ventilation should properly designed and installed.
In terms of your insulation, most people use spray-foam insulation and we talk about this in much more detail later on in this article.
In very warm climates your focus should be more on ventilation than on insulation. Ventilating can either be passive or mechanical.
Passive ventilation uses nature (wind) to cool down your house and is most commonly done with a vent or a whirly bird.
Mechanical ventilation is powered by electricity and is most commonly done with an extractor fan or dehumidifier.
Read how to ventilate your shipping container home for more help on ventilation.
Shipping Container Homes in Cold Climates
In hot climates we are trying to keep the heat out, while in colder climates it’s the exact opposite. We want the heat to stay inside our containers to keep us warm.
We’ve previously written in detail about how to keep your shipping container warm during the colder months.
This section is going to focus on how to design your shipping container to be suitable for cold climates.
Insulating Shipping Container for Cold Climates
I can’t stress this point enough. If you don’t have adequate or appropriate insulation for your location, then you won’t be able to keep your container home warm, regardless of how much money you are spending on heating bills.
If you’re familiar with shipping container insulation techniques keep reading, if not then I would recommend you read 5 Methods to Insulate Your Shipping Container Home first.
You have three main insulation choices for your containers: spray-foam, panels or blanket insulation.
When I’ve spoken with other shipping container home owners, the most often recommended is spray foam insulation.
Spray foam insulation provides a seamless vapor barrier, which is something the other two insulation choices don’t provide. Not only does a vapor barrier help keep heat in, it also helps to stop the formation of corrosion and mold inside your containers.
Spray foam insulation is normally applied internally to the containers. It can also be sprayed on the external shell of the containers to improve the containers’ thermal value.
Image From Larry Wade
When compared to panels or blanket insulation, spray foam is much quicker to install as you don’t need frames to support the insulation.
When you’re living in a cold climate, you want high R rated insulation (the R rating is the measure of how effective your insulating material is; the higher the number the better your home will retain heat).
One of the other massive benefits of spray foam is that it’s extremely flexible and can be used to seal small gaps to stop warm air escaping from the container.
Losing heat via your roof is one of the most common ways a home loses heat.
The best way to prevent this, and prepare your containers for a cold climate, is to thoroughly insulate your roof space.
Again, for insulating your loft you can use either spray foam, panels, or blanket insulation.
If cost is a concern, blanket insulation would be the ideal pick. However if cost isn’t a concern, spray foam insulation is the best choice.
When constructing a shipping container building in a cold climate, the last key thing you need to be aware of is window sizes and placement.
In addition to roofs, windows cause your container home to lose a lot of heat.
The Victorian Government of Australia states that “A single pane of glass can lose almost 10 times as much heat as the same area of insulated wall”. You can see that it’s very important to bear this in mind while you’re designing your container building.
Given that windows lose so much heat, you don’t want to design a container home with large floor to ceiling glass panes in a cold climate like Alaska. This would cause you to lose a significant amount of heat through the windows and it would be difficult to heat your home up.
It would be much more efficient to have several smaller windows.
So now you know that shipping container homes are suitable in pretty much all climates, let us know whether climate went into your decision on where to locate your building.