The History Of Quonset Huts

history of quonset huts
The Quonset hut, also known as an arch steel building because of its dome shape, has quite a significant history. First off, it has evolved out of a solution which was designed strategically as a solution for the military. This design was based on the Nissen hut which was introduced back during World War I by the British. All of the surplus quonsets were then sold to the public.

In the Begining…

The US Navy needed an all-purpose but yet lightweight building, that can be shipped anywhere and with ease of assembly – without skilled labor. It was the George Fuller Construction Company that was the first producer of these huts. Back then the design used corrugated steel sheets for the sides while the ends used plywood. On the interior, it had a pressed wood lining with a wooden floor. All of this was used to help protect the hut and the contents against the weather, and natural disasters, and even protected against war.

This prototype led to the wide use of the quonset huts all over North America and even to today. Today their use still remains with the original means, in the Navy and also being used as storage, homes and even business repurposing and commercial use. This leads to the premise that the steel quonset is sure to last for well over 40 years. 

The Quonset And Nissen

Both of these huts were created to meet the Military needs during World War I and II. The Nissen hut was invented by the British in 1916 and based on it, the Quonset was later developed by the United States in 1941.


The Nissen hut is also a prefab steel structure. Initially set for military use, such as for barracks. The design here is one made from a half-cylindrical skin of iron. An internal framework that act to hold the metal sheets together is needed.


The Quonset also has a similar shape, of a semi-cylindrical cross-section. One of the key bits is that the quonset is lightweight, and therefore it can be transported. The quonset hut does not need a framework and is deemed to be simpler than the Nissen. The quonset uses an arched panel set-up. These are then bolted together and therefore remove the need for an internal framework.

In Architecture

warehouse building

Quonset Storage Building

Arches were first used in building and construction as far back as in the 2nd Millennium an Mesopotamian brick architecture. The use systematically was started by the ancient Roman, and they applied the arch in various types of structures. They have bigger advantages compared to horizontal beams or lintels when it comes to construction. It is because they can be made from small blocks of bricks or stones which can easily be carried around, compared to a massive monolithic stone lintel. It can also support a greater weight/load than a horizontal beam can support.

Benefits Today

There are numerous benefits of this structure which has been well steeped in our history. The quonset can be adapted or purposed to any workflow. For example if it is being used in agriculture, it can be customized to store just a single tractor and the rest of the space allowed for other use. However, if it needs to be large enough to house a herd of animals it can again be sized to your needs. Furthermore, if you need to have a frame-out entry or just roll-up for the doors and even walk-in doors it can be done.

Your Quonset hut is also:


– It is made of steel. That means your investment and contents have a layer of protection.


– If you need more space, it is easier to expand your metal hut as compared to the traditional wooden buildings.  

Low Maintenance

– It is easy to maintain and unlike wood buildings you won’t have to worry about issues such as rotting, nor wrapping nor even any splintering either.

quonset construction panel

Ease of Set-up

– Quonset steel huts are prefabricated. That means that within a few days you can have your structure fully installed. This is a big plus compared to traditional construction methods.

Maximum Use of Space

– There are no obstructive internal beams nor poles. Therefore the full clear span can be optimized.

If you’re interested in a modern quonset building for your space, be sure to request free no obligation prices here.