Portable types of buildings as we think of them have been around since the 1950s and versions of the style have been recorded for centuries. Never intended to be permanent, they’ve nevertheless carved a permanent place in our culture thanks to their versatility and practicality.
Yurts and tents.
Throughout history there have been buildings that are by their nature portable. Some, like yurts, have even been around since prehistoric times. Designed to be completely taken apart, put on a camel or other domesticated beast and moved to the next spot, a yurt is an extremely practical solution to housing. This basic idea was continued in just about every age in groups where people needed to move from one space to another, whether their homes were tents, caravans or more complicated structures.
Prefabs are often mixed up with portable buildings in people’s minds. Unlike the latter though a prefabricated building isn’t intended to be removed from site and moved to the next place it’s needed. They are, like portable cabins, built off site and like yurts they come in parts to be placed together at their destination. There is, though, some overlap as some mobile homes are also prefabricated! Similar technologies are used for both and this came into its own during and after World War 2 when Britain initially placed military personnel in them and then homed many families displaced by the war in prefab homes. Designed to last up to ten years, the housing shortage left many still in use right up to the 2000s.
Modern portable buildings, by most accounts, started in York in 1961, although a similar idea was being made in the mid fifties in the states too. It’s no great surprise then that eventually some bright spark realised the advantages of portable homes could be advantages for business. In the 1950s and 60s with modern materials at their disposal the first companies started to make portable cabins for use as office spaces for the construction industry, which more than many other business needs to be able to move quickly and easily between sites to take on the next job as efficiently as possible. In the 90s anti vandal cabins were invented, useful for vital equipment such as computers that are needed on site but must be kept secure.
Over the last 50 years or so other industries and organisations have realised the advantages of these cabins and the industry itself has responded with ease and inventiveness to the increased demand from all kinds of sectors. The ease and cost effectiveness of creating bespoke building structures according to the needs of the client lends itself not only to office buildings but also to schools, doctors surgeries, hospitals, nurseries and leisure facilities. Many people will remember having classes in these during their school days and modern techniques have improved greatly on these designs, giving us affordable, flexible, spacious classrooms.
Portable cabins and other buildings have been a practical solution to people’s needs throughout their history. Nowadays they’re still seen everywhere and though they may be less draughty, more spacious and more aesthetically pleasing nowadays they’ll always hold wonderful memories for those who grew up in and around them.
Alex has worked in a variety of lovely portable buildings, which have a special place in his heart since his school days. He writes regularly on construction for a variety of blogs and websites. In his spare time he likes to walk, take his kids to the zoo and fish.