Pre-fabs to Storage Containers: A History

Temporary buildings, be they homes, offices or schools, have played a vital part in the development of the construction industry in the past 50 years. The notion of transportable homes is by no means a new one (yurts have been used in Central Asia for three thousand years), but the sturdier transportable building as we know it today emerged from America in the early 1960s – and it’s just as well it did.

Prefab housing

Often cited as the backbone of British housing, prefabricated homes and offices were the nation’s saving grace after WWII as they provided much needed accommodation during the period’s housing shortage. The brain child of Winston Churchill, prefabs were part of the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act of 1944, but the reality is that temporary accommodation has become much more permanent than ever imagined!

Elements of this boom in prefab housing still exist in pockets around the UK today, most notably in Bristol, as many more were installed as a temporary measure after heavy bombing in the war.

Temporary and modular buildings

Prefab housing paved a way for other uses of temporary buildings – most notably as additional space for growing schools. In this use, the classrooms are far sturdier than the early prefab versions thanks to development in the materials and processes used during their construction progress. However, the base notion remains the same – these are buildings that can last for the short term, and are easily installed and removed from the required location.

Development and converted units

In more recent history, the less-than-conventional storage container has grown to be a modern alternate to prefab buildings. Though the units themselves can match the prefabs by taking the shape of accommodation and classroom units, they are also a medium through which extremely creative conversions can take place.

From affordable housing to high end hotels, the highly portable storage container has successfully filled the gap between 60s based prefab options and more modern solutions has allowed for the freedom to account for more modern luxuries. Today, businesses such as Mobile Mini-sponsored Burger Bear make inventive use of storage units – but what do we think the future could bring for portable buildings?

Future uses

The future looks inherently interesting for portable buildings of all kinds. Namely, with the development of better buildings materials, it may transpire that – like the Bristol hub of prefab housing – these structures aren’t so temporary after all.

Whether the future of portable buildings is in humanitarian aid efforts providing portable hospitals or creating homeless shelters over the winter months, the innovative nature of this modular medium is something that’s sure to continue for years to come!