They have become icons of post-World War II life: the instantly recognisable style of the Quonset hut with its ribbed outer shell and its distinctive arched shape tells of a time when American ingenuity had to develop a quick and versatile --- and easy-to-move --- building for various uses in wartime.
What Is A Quonset hut?
A Quonset hut is a building shaped like half a cylinder and prefabricated with curved supports, or ribs, with a finish of corrugated metal for its outer shell or skin. Imagine a cylinder such as a 55-gallon drum standing on end then cut in half vertically with one half placed cut-side-down on the ground. Original uses for Quonsets arose from World War II logistics when lightweight, portable, and easy-to-assemble units were needed for storing materiel and housing troops.
Around 1941, the U.S. Navy recognised the need for movable buildings during wartime. It based its requirements on improvements of the British-designed Nissen hut used during World War I. The George A. Fuller construction company of New York assigned engineers to the task and in Quonset, Rhode Island, a manufacturing facility was set up. Production proved quick and efficient and about 170,000 huts were produced during the war. Afterward many were sold to civilians to use as homes.
Dimensions Of A Quonset Hut
The original dimensions of a Quonset hut were 16 feet wide by 36 feet long with 4-foot side walls. The Quonset design allowed for more width than the Nissen hut because the Nissen had curved sides that arched inward, taking up width. The Quonset was designed with side walls that went straight down. Soon, the 16-by-36-foot was replaced with two standards: 20-by-48-foot for personnel and offices and a 40-by-100-foot for warehouse use. Around 1943 a 4-foot overhang was added to one end of the smaller hut changing the official dimension to 20 by 56. By 1945 the overhang was deemed not useful in some areas of the world and the dimensions reverted to 20 by 48. The radius of the original supporting ribs was 8 feet.
Uses Of The Quonset
From troop housing and materiel storage Quonsets evolved into being used as kitchens, showers and latrines, administrative offices, medical offices and wards, dental clinics and aeroplane hangars.
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