If you’re currently trying to decide between a traditional prefabricated building or Quonset hut for your next project, you probably have cost in mind. After all, most Quonset huts only cost about $6-$12 per square foot, thanks to the simplistic design. But before you go reaching for your wallet, it’s important to know exactly what a Quonset hut is, and whether or not it will truly make sense for your project.
What is a Quonset hut?
You’ve probably seen them before – they’re those corrugated steel buildings with an infamous semi-cylindrical shape. Originally, Quonset huts were designed to be the ideal building shape for protection against adverse weather conditions, like heavy snowfall. Rain and snow simply roll down the sides of the building, ensuring that the structure is never overburdened.
Quonset huts are entirely self-supporting, meaning that they don’t require internal beams. This leaves the interior floor space wide open. These buildings were often chosen for short term projects in a wide range of uses, like residential, industrial, and military.
Why are Quonset huts so inexpensive?
Almost every Quonset hut building is manufactured in the exact same way. They are pre-built in their uniform shape, easy to ship, and easy to assemble. Manufacturers simply pass those savings down to you. However, those savings are only applicable for certain sizes. As the structure you have in mind gets bigger, expect your initial cost to become more in line with that of a traditional metal building.
Historically, Quonset huts have been chosen because of their cost savings over the entire construction timeline. The straightforward set up allows a Quonset hut to be easily constructed with no skilled labor required. The semi-circular beams simply need to be attached to the outer structure, and your job is done.
The initial design and construction are fast and cheap, but what comes next might not meet your expectations.
Why do people choose metal buildings over Quonset huts?
Why would someone choose a traditional prefabricated metal building over a Quonset hut if the overall cost is lower? Well, for a variety of reasons. Let’s discuss.
- Long-term durability. Prefabricated metal buildings may require skilled labor to construct. This is because more complicated parts, like I-beams, provide a prefab metal building with a more advanced level of structural integrity. The result is a stronger connection created by a rigid steel frame. Metal buildings are ideally suited for longer-term projects because they save money over time on insurance costs and maintenance.
- Strength against the elements. The steel structure of a prefabricated metal building creates a tight seal that won’t settle over time. Quonset huts may have originally been designed for heavy rain and snowfall, but traditional metal buildings offer more strength against a wider variety of elements, such as hurricane-force winds and earthquakes.
In order to qualify for a 30-year warranty on a Quonset hut, you’ll need to attach your building to a thick concrete foundation, furthering your initial cost. And even still, since they rely solely on self-supporting beams, the building still won’t be as sturdy as a prefab metal alternative.
- Usable space. Neither type of building requires interior columns to support the structure. This leaves plenty of square footage wide open for a variety of building uses. But we’re more concerned about cubic feet. Due to the arched roof style, Quonset huts provide significantly less roof space and reduce your overall usable space per square foot.
- Limited sizing. Quonset huts are limited to a span of 80 feet. Our estimated size per square foot for Quonset huts climbs significantly for structures over 40×60, making the cost comparable to that of a traditional metal building. At that rate, you’re better off with a prefab building kit that suits all of your needs.
- Customization. If you have very specific uses in mind for your building, you can eliminate Quonset huts as an option. They offer little to no design customization, and you don’t have the option of making energy efficiency customizations. Spray foam is the only type of insulation available for Quonset huts, whereas you can choose a long-term savings option for traditional metal buildings.
While we’re talking about customizations, let’s not forget about aesthetics. Prefabricated metal buildings offer a variety of facades and other customizations including roofing materials, windows, skylights, covered entrances, and more. Each building is carefully designed for your specific needs, whether it be residential, retail, manufacturing, or anything in between. In many cases, you may not even know that the building is a prefabricated metal structure. But the infamous design of the Quonset hut and the utter lack of customization means that your little round metal building will always be just that – a little round metal building.
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