Quonset Hut Homes Taking Off in Detroit

Durable, affordable quonset hut homes and work spaces are gaining traction in Detroit
Durable, affordable quonset hut homes and work spaces are gaining traction in Detroit

One of our readers (J. Bowie) kindly sent me some links about new quonset hut projects in Detroit. He’s currently building his own quonset hut home and is in the process of trying to figure out the best, most practical and affordable way to build it. One tip he passed along is he’s using recycled SPF foam insulation because he reasons the outgassing has already occurred or at least will be greatly diminished. Below I summarize two projects in Detroit.

Profile #1 – Prince Concepts: With a quonset hut, you get two walls and a roof for the fraction of the time and cost of those elements, typically. You also get an elegant and novel structure. The polycarbonate end wall panels are translucent, but not transparent. The natural light in the space is abundant, the insulation is immense, and the aesthetic is inspired. The result is tough, effective, and not too precious.

Both Study Huts have sleeping lofts which were after thoughts. Upon building the spaces, it seemed like sleeping close to the “arch” of each hut would be calming, and heck, what human doesn’t want more space.

The Study proved to be a success, both huts were constructed at their budget, were immediately leased, and are currently occupied in live/work capacities. Visitors from all walks of life, colors, creeds, and socioeconomic classes respond exactly the same way to the live/work bunkers “Damn, I want one of these. This is crazy. I love it!”

Profile #2 – EC3/ True North: True North is the first ground-up mixed-use development by EC3 in the city of Detroit, which is undergoing a profound transformation to reinvent itself as an incubator for design and innovation. Located 2 ½ miles from Downtown, in a low-key, spacious residential section of the city, the project will be the first new construction in the area in over 60 years. Conceived with the aspiration to foster affordable and sustainable lifestyle, True North is pioneering for both where and what is being built.

EC3 is challenged to transform military structures for War into a welcoming, and hospitable design for the residents of Detroit today. Each prefabricated Quonset Hut is assembled on top of a 4” concrete slab with radiant floor heating integrated below the finished floor. The interior of the huts will be finished with several options of materials, such as plaster and plywood panels, to ensure thermal protection and to evoke a sense of warmth in the cold winters. The end walls will feature “hand-crafted” steel framing around polycarbonate panels that provide light, while keeping privacy and thermal value.

Being able to assemble the Quonset Huts efficiently in a matter of days has made it feasible for the Client to achieve a unit construction cost of $75 per SF, and a projected rental cost at below the market rates in Detroit.

Comment from J. Bowie: Currently I’m looking at a 750 sq ft, S Model Quonset. The S model has the straight walls. Block and concrete footer foundation. Concrete block end walls. SPF on roof and ISO rigid reclaimed on roof and end walls. ISO as interior walls with plaster finish. 1 bed room. Full kitchen. 1 full bath. Sleeping loft. There will be some earthen elements within the interior as well as reclaimed t&g wood. I think based on my price list I can do it for @ $20 sq ft or $15,000. The above is just a primer on where I’m at and where I’m heading.

9 thoughts on “Quonset Hut Homes Taking Off in Detroit”

  1. Hello, I read somewhere that you can stay in the True North hut overnight, it that is true can you please let me know I would go about booking it?

    Thanks so much

  2. Owen

    I’m looking at using reclaimed ISO Rigid Foam insulation, 3″ for interior insulation/finished walls. SPF would be sprayed as a vapor barrier, then the RF screwed into furring strips. I still have my hangups with SPF but its performance on metal roofs is hard get away from. I do like the idea of the thin plywood as shown in the True North project. I have not been a fan of plywood as an interior finish, but they show that the curvature of the Qs brings new life to plywood as a finish. There are several companies that are in the reclaimed game and the RF is half the cost of new. While quality of RRF might not be on par with new, it is still serviceable for the above application.

  3. Kelly

    Your “Carriage House” shows just how creative one can get with using a pre fab structure like a quonset. Q’s arnt the end all be all, as every building technique has its compromises. However its one option that I see speeds up the construction process if we play to a Q’s strengths. I see so many people building with alternative processes but end up spending so much time/money trying to make the alternative building look conventional. Keep up the good work guys!

  4. Quonset buildings have lots of advantages. They come in many standard shapes and sizes as you can see in this free SteelMaster PDF:

    Quonset buildings are maintenance free. Some brands have 30 year warranties.

    They can be assembled in various configurations. The steel has a high percentage of recycled content. Most buildings are erected by owners with a minimum of tools. They are bolted together fairly quickly with a cordless drill and magnetic tipped nut driver.

  5. We really appreciate reader suggestions of actual projects such as these. Please send me an email if you find a really good story.


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