Nissen Huts

nissen huts
The use of Quonset arch steel buildings has increased recently, but few know about one of their precursors, Nissen Huts (sometimes mistakenly called Nissan Huts). Originally created for military use, these buildings evolved into Romney Huts then their final form, the Quonset Hut. We’ll look into what they were and a bit of their history.

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What are Nissen Huts?

nissen hut homeNamed after its designer Major Peter Norman Nissen, Nissen huts are prefabricated arch style metal buildings. They are straightforward to assemble and go up quickly. This made them very useful for military use, especially as barracks for soldiers. The semi cylindrical-shaped structure needs a frame to give the necessary rigidity it needs.

Brief History Of Nissen Huts

Major Peter Norman Nissen, an inventor, and designer who was a member of the 29th Company Royal Engineers of the British, designed the Nissen huts in WW I. The structure came with specific benefits associated with metal buildings, except unhindered space. Nevertheless, its construction time was the truly impressive characteristic, as it was recorded to be built in 1 hour and 27 minutes. Additionally, it wasn’t expensive. Reportedly $1300 was enough to make it, which is very low. The short construction time and low expenses made it the perfect choice for soldiers’ use, like storage, barracks, or temporary offices.

old nissen hut buildingHowever, the design was riddled with unfortunate problems that muddied its reputation. Many tried to revive it, but over time, it got replaced with a modern counterpart: Quonset huts. Nowadays, the old Nissen huts have been repurposed into sheds or agricultural infrastructure. The construction of newer ones is rare, but the grandson of Peter Norman Nissen is trying to revive the design by making them eco-friendly structures for gardens, homes, or office areas.

Design Influences

There were two main influences that went into the concept. There was a need for it to be economical in materials as there were shortages due to the war. The building also had to be easily taken down and portable since shipping space was at a premium. It could be constructed by six men in four hours and packed away in a wagon when necessary. The world record for the construction of a Nissen Hut is one hour and twenty-seven minutes.

Construction Of Nissen Huts

These huts were made by assembling a frame for the interior out of withering wood or metal. It was then covered by metal sheets that were bolted on top. It is pretty different from the modern ones, which are not cylindrical.

Nissen Hut Today

The great-grandson of Peter Nissen is bringing these huts back today and are being designed as garden huts. He has taken out a new patent to use the huts as eco-friendly garden areas for the increasing numbers of people working from home that want a garden or a home office area. They have the same shape as the originals and are covered with corrugated iron. They can be setup up without special skills. New huts run around £13,000.

Quonset Hut Replacements

quonset hut garageThis type of building was a brilliant design, but as with most man-made items, they evolved. Over time they were superseded by Romney Huts, then the more modern; Quonset huts. Quonset huts could replace them because they are much easier to assemble, as they don’t require any interior frame.

The Quonset hut was based on the design on the Nissen hut but produced in the United States vs. the UK. The name comes from where they were first designed which is at the Quonset Point at the Davisville Naval Construction Battalion Center which is in Davisville, Rhode Island. These huts were first manufactured in 1941 so they are not as old as the Nissen design. The United States Navy needed huts that were lightweight and all-purpose. They could be set up without the need for specialized skills. The interior is quite flexible so it was used for dental offices, medical facilities, latrines, barracks, housing, bakeries, and isolation wards. During WWII, around 150,000-170,000 were manufactured and the surplus was sold for public use after the war. Many of these huts can be found around the United States today and are used for homes, businesses, outbuildings and other uses. Some of the huts are still used on U.S. military bases.

Quonset Vs. Nissen, Which Is Superior?

Quonset huts are a modern replacement of Nissen huts, and there is a reason for that.

military quonset hut buildingNissen huts were riddled with problems from its beginning. Sure, they were economical, easy to build, and just as easy to disassemble, but that didn’t hide the glaring problems. The cylindrical shape made it difficult to place any furniture. The space is not open and unhindered like it is in Quonset huts. On top of them, these structures were hot in warmer and humid climates and felt humid and stuffy. That made it quite challenging to live in these infrastructures, which decreased their popularity. They were repurposed for agricultural purposes, but they never regained their old fame.

On top of that, Nissen huts need an interior frame, but Quonset huts don’t. Because of this, Quonset huts are easier to build, as no additional work is required. So yes, Quonset huts are, in fact, superior to the Nissen hut.


Nissen huts are an affordable style of steel building. They are durable and are an eco-friendly option for your garden. However, keep in mind that the Quonset huts are superior, and there are many reasons for that. You can get all the benefits you would usually get from this former style of building and more from modern Quonsets. If it comes down to personal preference, you can get the Nissen huts, but if you want an expert’s advice, always go for Quonset huts. You will get more variety and ease of construction that way.

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