In 1941 the U.S. navy sought to design an all purpose light weight prefabricated
building that could be shipped anywhere in the world and assembled with
unskilled labor. The commission was given to the George A. Fuller construction
company in Quonset Point, Rhode Island, and within 60 days the first quonset
hut buildings were being produced. The design was loosely based on the British
Nissen hut, a prefab building system developed for british forces during
WWI, but was modified to reduce weight and shipping size.
The prototype hut was 16 feet by 36 feet in plan and framed with arch-rib t section steel members formed to a radius of 8 feet with corrugated steel sheets for siding.The interior had a pressed wood lining, insulation, and a tongue-and-groove wood floor. The interior was open and flexible to allow for 96 different program spaces required by the military, including: shower-latrines, dental offices, isolation wards, housing, and bakeries. The building could be placed on concrete, on pilings, or directly on the ground with a wood floor. The two ends were covered with plywood. The entire assembly weighed 12-1/2 tons and could be broken down to a shipping volume of 350 cubic feet.
The design was later modified to a standard size of 20’x48' with 10' radius, varius warehouse models were also developed most common being a 40' x 100' size. During the course of WWII over 170,000 of the Quonset huts were manufactured. Although temporary in concept, the Qounset huts were well engineered structures, with all the parts acting in unison to create a building of amazing strength.
After the war the U.S. military sold the surplus Quonset huts to the public for $1000 each. The functionalty of the design led it to be adaptable to many program types. The survey documents some the Quonset Huts still standing throughout the United States more than 60 years after their fabrication.