History of the Prefab: Quonset Huts

  • 29 Aug 2019

The old saying ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’ could reasonably apply to Quonset huts. 

Originally designed to cater to the logistical needs of World War II, the basic design lives on and is still a staple of prefabricated metal hut design. These days modern Quonset huts fulfill a multitude of uses including garages, aircraft hangers, bulk storage facilities, small business premises and even homes.

The evolution of Quonset huts:

The need for portable huts in wartime

When it was clear the US would be entering World War II then a key priority was logistics; how to effectively provide easy to put up and highly transportable storage and shelter for military personnel and supplies.

In the First World War, the British had pioneered the use of transportable structures with the Nissan hut; this acted as the inspiration for the US military.

Quonset huts created

The military went to George A. Fuller – a construction company in New York – with a request to build suitable structures within two months. The company obliged by setting up a production facility at Quonset Point, Rhode Island (hence the name of the huts) and started production.

The design

The huts had to be strong, durable and easy to assemble.

The semi-circular section design was settled on and achieved with a basic ‘skeleton’ of semi-circular ribs covered in corrugated sheet metal; the whole set on a steel frame foundation with a plywood floor.

The overall design was perfect for the use it was intended for; they were easy to put up and take down requiring only basic hand tools and no specialist knowledge, could be transported in easy to handle kit form and – because of their semi-circular cylindrical design – provided robust protection against even severe weather such as hurricanes and blizzards.

Due to the absence of support beams and uprights, there was plenty of space inside for maximum storage and accommodation of personnel.

These Quonset huts saw use in all sorts of military settings such as on airstrips and barracks, and in one example several were strung together to create a 54,000 square foot warehouse.

After the war

Some 170,000 Quonset huts were built during the war and lived on after the conflict ended in 1945.

Some were sold to civilians to create homes not unlike the prefab housing options becoming popular in the US, some universities turned them into student accommodation, and small businesses found Quonset huts an ideal low-cost way to set up shop. The Sacramento Peak observatory based itself in Quonset huts in 1948 and there was even a play written about them: ‘Tents of Tin’ by Robert Finton.

Enduring design

Far from being a relic of the war, the Quonset hut is arguably a design icon like the Jeep and it certainly still plays a key role in prefabricated structural design.

The basic effect of the original design allied to modern technology means they can still be transported and put up quickly and easily as per their original design remit, but 21st-century prefabricated structure techniques mean they can perform a myriad of functions as discussed earlier.

Leave a Reply

Latest news

DensDeck
Mitsubshi Electric

Family Day Workshop by Mitsubishi Electric

If you are an architecture or environmental enthusiast, bring your children along to a family day of fun and educational activities at the Building Centre on Saturday 22nd June – Mitsubishi Electric will deliver its award-winning programme, The Learning Curve (with a few twists), designed to teach children about energy use and energy efficiency.

Posted in Articles, Building Industry Events, Building Industry News, Building Products & Structures, Building Services, Facility Management & Building Services, Heating Systems, Controls and Management, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning - HVAC, Pipes & Fittings, Plumbing, Retrofit & Renovation, Sustainability & Energy Efficiency

Keller

Keller Kitchens excels in Kiwa assessment

Keller Kitchens has been reassessed by Kiwa, a European institute that is involved in the certification of processes, products, employees and organisations. Once again, the company passed with flying colours!

Posted in Articles, Building Associations & Institutes, Building Industry News, Building Products & Structures, Building Regulations & Accreditations, Building Services, Interior Design & Construction, Interiors, Kitchens, Research & Materials Testing, Restoration & Refurbishment, Retrofit & Renovation, Sustainability & Energy Efficiency

National Ventilation

National Ventilation’s Operations Director Completes D-Day 44 Challenge

Alan Parkinson, Operations Director at National Ventilation, has completed the D-Day 44 Challenge in aid of Combat Stress, the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health.

Posted in Air Conditioning, Articles, Building Industry Events, Building Industry News, Building Products & Structures, Building Services, Charity work, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning - HVAC