I haven’t worked on my steel panel building system in several years. Recently I decided to make some improvements I’ve been thinking about, and the Maker Faire in San Mateo was the motivation I needed. So about three weeks ago I started fabricating parts for the new building. I’ve made some significant changes and the building can now be assembled in one hour without any tools, and disassembled in 40 minutes. It did take five people to assemble it due to high winds, and three people to disassemble.
Porthole windows and vents simplify assembly and improve security.
Barn doors are easy to attach.
Cargo straps hold everything together for temporary installations. There are pre-punched holes for screws for a cleaner look on more permanent installs.
Everything for an 8′ x 8′ building fits in a cargo van.
Cost for this 64 square foot building is $8000 when hand built one at a time, or $125 per square foot.
The building is 8′ x 15′. It has an 8′ ceiling. There are three large windows in front and two smaller windows in back. The exterior can be painted or left natural.
The interior walls are pre-finished. For the prototype I used 1/8″ mahogany type plywood that came as packaging for sheet metal. It actually doesn’t look too bad. The metal strips are the clips used to assemble the building. Continue reading →
The primary goal of the Basic Shelter Kit was to design the minimum number of components that could be used to build a variety of shelters for disaster relief operations. With this in mind I developed a list of attributes to design towards.
Minimize the number of primary components. Ideally there should be three or fewer ‘building blocks’, and 10 or fewer auxiliary components.
None of the components should weigh more than 30 lbs. One person should be able to carry and install all components.
No components will be longer than 10′ or wider than 4′.
The components for an entire building of approximately 120 square feet should fit in a standard sized pickup.
The components for at least 12 buildings of approximately 120 square feet should fit in a standard 40′ container.
The buildings must withstand 100 mph winds and moderate earthquakes.
The roof must support 2′ of snow.
The building must be watertight, insulated, and wind-tight.
Few or no tools should be required to assemble a building, and no power tools should be required.
One person should be able to assemble a building of 120 square feet in one day.
There should be zero waste produced during the manufacturing and assembly of a building.
All materials must be recyclable and should have a high content of recycled material.
All components must be reusable. A building should disassemble quickly for shipping and installation at a new location.
The same basic components must be capable of being used to build structures of various sizes and configurations.
All of the components for a 120 square foot building should cost less than $2,000 to manufacture.
My first job after graduation from college was at Bailey Bridges, Inc. in San Luis Obispo, CA. The Bailey Bridge is an ingenious modular prefabricated truss bridge system. With just three main standard components, bridges from 10′ to 270′ in length, with no intermediate supports, can be built. The components for a bridge about 100′ in length can be transported on two standard 40′ flatbed trailers. Two people with a forklift or backhoe can assemble the bridge in 2 – 3 days if they know what they are doing. The bridge can be assembled on one bank of a river, and by bolting extra panels to the back end to add weight, it can be pushed forward on rollers until the front end reaches the other bank. While I worked at Bailey Bridges, Inc. we shipped a bridge to Antarctica, and several to Central and South America – they can be used almost anywhere.
Every time there is some type of disaster (the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile being the most recent) I wonder why no one has developed a system of modular prefabricated building components, like the Bailey Bridge system, that can be assembled into small shelters. Indeed, in the years around World War II there were a number of modular prefabricated building systems developed, including quonset huts, White Castle porcelain steel buildings, porcelain steel service stations, and the infamous Lustron houses. The Lustron debacle and the image of prefabricated buildings as cheap ‘mobile homes’ seem to have done in the industry, with a few exceptions. Continue reading →