What is a Quonset Hut?

Mar 22, 2020 | Steel Buildings

Quonset Hut

In 1941, when the Navy needed the quick assembly of practical buildings that could be easily assembled without requiring special tools or skills, the Quonset hut was the answer. These prefabricated Arch Buildings made of corrugated steel are still in use more than 70 years later. The semicircular, semi-permanent structures provide for suitable housing, offices, storage, activity centers, production facilities, hangars and more.

The Practical Building Solution for the U.S. Navy

What is the Quonset hut? Well-known by its shape as much by its name, the Quonset Hut is a lightweight metal structure that has a semicircular cross-section. They are made of prefabricated, corrugated galvanized steel. Originally introduced by the British in World War I, they were called Nissen huts.

Following on this concept, the U.S. further developed the design giving them the name Quonset Hut after the site of their first manufacture, the Davisville Naval Construction Battalion situated at Quonset Point. Hundreds of thousands of Quonset Huts were manufactured by the George A. Fuller construction company as well as other independent contractors across the globe.

By far, the Quonset Hut was the best practical building solution for the Navy during World War II. Troops needed strong, portable housing that was easy to ship and that could go up fast wherever they were needed without skilled labor. Even better, these buildings were cost-effective. They supported an entire military camp by providing the logistic services area in the form of offices, barracks, latrines, storerooms, airplane hangars, health centers, isolation wards, mess halls, bakeries, recreational facilities and more.

Today, they are still providing useful solutions for both residential and commercial purposes such as:

  • Garages and carports
  • RV storage
  • Hangars at airports
  • Bulk storage
  • Production facilities
  • Sheds
  • Gas station shelters
  • Storage of feed for livestock
  • Design concepts for architects
  • Offices
  • Retail businesses

With steel sides and plywood ends, insulated interiors and wooden floors, they can be placed on concrete, pilings or directly onto the ground surface. There are many boomers today who remember living in Quonset Huts as kids while their dads were stationed at bases around the world.

If you are considering purchasing a Quonset Hut or need to learn more about these multi-purpose structures, there is more to know about their usefulness. They may not be the preferred choice for people looking for a traditional-style building. Considering the many differences between the two, there is enough reason to take a closer look at what the Quonset Hut has to offer.

Attributes that Make Quonset Huts Very Appealing

Most people are familiar with the open concept being very popular in interior design from the converted industrial spaces to the latest architectural designs for new home construction. The Quonset Hut was ahead of the curve with this and other advantages including:

  • The clear span interior – there are no structural supports such as walls or poles to obstruct the view inside the building.
  • Quick build – the main idea behind the utility of these structures is how easy they are to assemble from prefabricated kits with only one size of nuts and bolts. They can be erected in a matter of days.
  • Strength – between the dynamic strength in the arch design and the steel housing, they withstand the elements in all weather conditions including heavy snows.
  • Portability – key to needing to bug out when necessary. The Quonset Hut was designed to be assembled and disassembled for moving to different bases as the need arose.

The Benefits of the Quonset Hut Design and Construction

The single most significant benefit of the Quonset Hut is its strength. Made from commercial-grade steel, the classic arch delivers an all-weather building structure that can withstand strong winds and heavy rain, hailstorms and even heavy snow loads. The curved steel construct both supports the load of snow and prevents melting snow from penetrating the exterior. The Quonset Hut is even strong enough to withstand seismic activity.

Inside, they provide far more usable interior space than most wood structures. The unique clear-span design offers the option of enjoying the wide-open interior space or the opportunity to customize the interior to your own desires.

There are some furniture designs made specifically to provide separations within the open space without the need for walls, curtains or separators while still enjoying the open quality of the interior. For example, a bed with a high headboard that provides privacy or a tall bookshelf on wheels that also converts to an office space for working.

Additionally, you can rely on the strength of this structure if you plan to hang heavy items inside. The interior is open and yours to make of it what you like. You are in a better position to decide what you want to hang if you check in with your local inspector to be sure of the load requirements for the particular building you plan to purchase.

Possibly the most appealing aspect of this type of construction is that you can build it yourself. A cost-effective plan to start with, you can further save when you don’t have to hire construction crews or contractors. For larger projects, it can be a great help to hire a professional. These structures have little need for maintenance, which is even more savings down the road.

More Advantages to Buying a Quonset Hut

With the typical price ranging from $10 to $13 a square foot, you can easily figure out the expense for the size you need. While prefabricated kits tend to come in standard sizes such as 24 x 24-foot, 30 x 40-foot or 40 x 60-foot kits, it is possible to expand the width and extend the length to customize a building for your specific purposes.

Once the size is determined, decisions can be made as to lighting, windows, doors, skylights and more. It is also possible to have special roll-up doors installed if that suits your purposes. Knowing the intended use of the building will help the manufacturer ensure your design is correct and meets the local building code regulations for your location. Each of these components will add to the final cost. It is important to remember, however, that the lowest price does not always mean the best product.

When you compare today’s Quonset Hut with a traditional style building, the advantages are unmistakable. First, there is a tremendous difference in cost. Secondly, the ease of construction and the ability to customize the building gives you far more flexibility. Since the first ones were made, a lot has been put into making them as durable as they can be.

The versatility alone provides a long list of purposeful uses from garages to workshops to warehouses, storage units and even as quite comfortable homes. It is even possible to construct them from recycled steel making them environmentally friendly. With all these advantages, it is easy to see that Quonset Huts will continue to be popular for some time.

Related Questions

How long does it take to erect a Quonset Hut?
If you want to put up a structure fast, a steel Quonset Hut is one of the best options. With a few friends to help, the average size building takes but a few days to construct. With the way the quality and advantages of the structures have advanced, the same benefit of quick-build so crucial to the war effort still holds true today.

How long do these structures last?
They come with an anti-corrosive agent coating the steel and a disaster-resistant design. With their inherent strength of design and the improvements over the years, these arch buildings can last a lifetime. Check with your manufacturer. You are sure to find their warranty covers a lengthy period.

What are the changes to Quonset Huts since they were first made?
Arch buildings have only continued to improve since they were first erected. With upgraded materials and protective coatings, they now have improved durability. With the modern advances in technology today, they are even able to withstand a category 4 hurricane.

Need a Quonset Hut built?

Bruce Gardner Co. builds steel structures for residential and commercial purposes!

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