Unconventional Shed Construction
November 19, 2020 2:33 PM   Subscribe

What are some of the most unusual and/or clever ways of building small structures?

I may need to construct a 60-120sqft shed soon. I could go the traditional stick-built route, but I really enjoy pushing the envelope on DIY projects sometimes, and I'd like to know what alternatives exist.

Ideas that need not apply:
- shipping pallets (old news)
- natural building (I already know about earth/strawbale/etc. and they don't suit this project)
- anything with fabric walls (tents and membrane tensegrity are cool, but not suitable for secure storage)

Particularly interested in:
- anything using reclaimed materials or that can be easily deconstructed and repurposed (Just because it's called a landfill doesn't mean we have to fill it!)
- bent sheets that rely on curvature for strength (bent plywood boat and aircraft construction is what initially got me wondering)

Seeking example projects, people working on similar stuff, or specific things to search for - so far, my own web searches are failing me here.
posted by sibilatorix to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
posted by porpoise at 2:45 PM on November 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you have access to a large CNC gantry mill (4x8 would be best), Fab-House can be used.
posted by aramaic at 3:17 PM on November 19, 2020 [4 favorites]

Hexayurt H17plus might interest you.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 3:26 PM on November 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Possibly not the right size but quonset hut kits are still a thing.
posted by jessamyn at 3:44 PM on November 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Its pretty boringly conventional, but just tossing corrugated steel and polycarbonate out there. I built a larger shed this spring with post & beam-ish construction. The posts are in brackets, which are cast in the concrete, so they can be reused or replaced. Most of the wall polycarbonate panels were reused from a previous owner's project I disassembled. That reduced the amount of wall structure I had to use, down to stringers to pin the panels to, and a few braces for rigidity. I used poly again for the roof, and that lead to me overbuilding a bit to carry the occasional snow - I'd imagine steel would be more forgiving, but i liked the aesthetics steel was used for some walls.
posted by wotsac at 3:52 PM on November 19, 2020

Since you're interested in reclaimed materials, there's always plastic eco-bricks? Tricky to get your hands on enough in a short period of time though.
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:15 PM on November 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

The classically unconventional shed—to mark your project as eccentric or hippy—is the geodesic dome.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:17 PM on November 19, 2020

Glass bottle walls?
posted by Charity Garfein at 4:32 PM on November 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Consider old (flat bottom) grain silos (or even new ones - a company I deal with sells a 'flatpack' kit for a 4.5mØ galv steel silo, with roof/lid (and oculus/skylight) and door for NZ$5000, if you're not putting grain in them they don't require nearly so much time to construct).

I even get offered them sometimes, "just take it away". Old ones that are a little decrepit (but still sound) are great for sheds. You do need two people to take down and put up though.

I've seen people do things with upturned boat hulls, and know a guy who's built a house from an old boat - down here there are lots of unfinished boats, mostly hull only.

Are you aware of concrete canvas? - fireproof, blast-proof in any shape you can drape? Also more ad-hoc versions of the same using shotcrete.

I have designed (but not got built yet) a public toilet using concrete water tanks laid on their sides.
posted by unearthed at 4:35 PM on November 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

Carity Garfein got me thinking about what to do with 20,000 wine bottles (mrs unearthed's blog).
posted by unearthed at 4:43 PM on November 19, 2020

Mycelium bricks.
posted by cnidaria at 4:48 PM on November 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Cardboard Cathedral is a temporary cathedral in Christchurch made out of, well, cardboard. The architect, Shigeru Ban, has worked on a lot of disaster relief and reconstruction projects, and uses unconventional building materials like paper for environmental and logistical reasons.
posted by yeahlikethat at 5:30 PM on November 19, 2020 [4 favorites]

Get an old boat hull and turn it upside down. Being designed to keep water out full time, they naturally make excellent roofs.

Like these, although most of those are wooden and will need some work to keep caulked. An old GRP yacht hull is the way to go.

Loads being disposed of all the time. Usually boats where the hull is fine but the rig and interior are long since knackered and not worth the cost of a refit.

Ask around the right places and someone may well pay you to take one away.
posted by automatronic at 6:23 PM on November 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

You could go all Primitive Technology and build it from wood hauled off from someone clearing their land to build a house. Or log-cabin something up.

My only real suggestion was if you were near a sawmill, those bark covered slices they take off when squaring up a log would make good siding (and decent cheap firewood).

Hope you come up with something cooler. :)
posted by zengargoyle at 6:26 PM on November 19, 2020

You might enjoy Lloyd Kahn's Shelter Books. His instagram has little snippets of his buildings, craftsmanship and homesteading that I find inspirational.
posted by vespabelle at 8:42 PM on November 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

posted by flabdablet at 9:45 PM on November 19, 2020

Adding to Fiasco's suggestion, there are also kits for geodesic domes. They are very inefficient to use for storage, though.

It would be possible to buy a used fiberglass boat, turn it upside down, and use it for the roof over a fairly conventional structure. Probably you would have to tear off the deck and clear out some (but not too much!) internal structure. It seems most obvious to use a squarish boat like a Boston Whaler, but a pointy end left overhanging a door or window could be a cute feature.

Lots of boat designers have designed shanty boats, but they are usually conventional sheds on a barge. You could build just the barge and turn it upside down for a roof.

The late Phil Bolger went the other way and designed some boats with square shapes, like the Watervan.

I'm skeptical about building a boat shape from scratch. A carpenter building a regular shed is going to build the roof structure in an afternoon. Most amateurs building a 15' rowboat take a couple hundred hours over the course of a year or so.

When I was in the army in Vietnam (1969-70), shipping containers approx 6'x6' were used as storage sheds. This is a smaller, modern equivalent.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:07 AM on November 20, 2020

I think you need a geodesic dome shed - link is to a series of construction stage videos. Here is the final viewing.
posted by rongorongo at 8:02 AM on November 20, 2020

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