Title:
MODULAR BUILDING FOR DEPLOYMENT IN DISASTER REGIONS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A modular building structure is provided. The building structure has a support framework comprising a pair of longitudinally extending beams, a plurality of vertically and transversely extending identical arched ribs spaced apart from one another, a plurality of level one joists coupled at each transverse end to one of the ribs and one of the beams, a plurality of level two joists coupled at each transverse end to one of the ribs at a location above the level one joists, and a plurality of longitudinally extending hat bars coupled to the transverse insides of all of the arched ribs. The hat bars may have a generally trapezoidal cross-section. The beams, arched ribs, level one joists, level two joists, and hat bars are preformed and provided with pre-drilled holes for coupling to other components of the support framework. Methods and kits for building a modular building structure are also provided.



Inventors:
Campbell, Ronald Weldon (Saint Michael, BB)
Application Number:
12/312674
Publication Date:
03/11/2010
Filing Date:
12/21/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
52/745.13, 52/653.1
International Classes:
E04H1/02; E04B1/19; E04H12/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MAESTRI, PATRICK J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Domestic Tecnologies International Inc (21 Pine Road, Belleville Saint Michael, 11113, BB)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A modular building structure comprising a support framework, the support framework comprising: a pair of longitudinally extending beams, spaced apart from one another in a transverse direction; a plurality of vertically and transversely extending identical arched ribs spaced apart from one another in a longitudinal direction, each arched rib comprising a pair of identical opposing curved members, each curved member coupled to an angled member at an apex of the arched rib; a plurality of transversely extending identical level one joists spaced apart from one another in the longitudinal direction, each level one joist coupled at its transverse ends to longitudinal sides of the lower ends of the curved members of a corresponding arched rib and coupled at each of its transverse ends to a corresponding one of the beams; a plurality of transversely extending identical level two joists spaced apart from one another in the longitudinal direction, each level two joist coupled at its transverse ends to the longitudinal sides of the curved members of a corresponding arched rib at a location above the level one joists; and a plurality of longitudinally extending identical hat bars coupled to the transverse insides of all of the arched ribs, the hat bars having a generally trapezoidal cross-section; wherein each of the beams, curved members, level one joists, level two joists and hat bars is preformed, pre-cut to length and provided with pre-drilled holes for coupling to other components of the support framework.

2. A structure according to claim 1 wherein the support framework comprises a plurality of transversely extending identical level three joists spaced apart from one another in the longitudinal direction, each level three joist coupled at its transverse ends to the longitudinal sides of the curved members of a corresponding arched rib at a location above the level two joists.

3. A structure according to claim 2 comprising external wall/roof sheeting coupled to the transverse outsides of the arched ribs, wherein the external wall/roof sheeting comprises longitudinally extending corrugations that extend between the longitudinally outermost arched ribs and wherein each external wall/roof sheet is precut to size and pre-drilled with holes at locations of the arched ribs for mounting the external wall/roof sheet to the arched ribs.

4. A structure according to claim 3 wherein lowermost edges of each external wall/roof sheet overlap uppermost edges of the wall/roof sheet immediately therebelow.

5. A structure according to claim 3 comprising level one sub-floor sheeting coupled to the upper sides of the level one floor joists, wherein the level one sub-floor sheeting comprises longitudinally extending corrugations that extend between the longitudinally outermost arched ribs and wherein each level one sub-floor sheet is precut to size and pre-drilled with holes at locations of the level one joists for mounting the level one sub-floor sheet to the level one joists.

6. A structure according to claim 5 comprising spacers coupled between the longitudinally outermost level two joists and the longitudinal sides of the curved members of the corresponding longitudinally outermost arched ribs, such that the longitudinally outermost level two joists are longitudinally inwardly spaced apart from the longitudinal inward sides of the corresponding longitudinally outermost arched ribs.

7. A structure according to claim 6 comprising level two sub-floor sheeting coupled to the upper sides of the level two floor joists, wherein the level two sub-floor sheeting comprises longitudinally extending corrugations that extend between the longitudinally outermost level two joists and wherein each level two sub-floor sheet is precut to size and pre-drilled with holes at locations of the level two joists for mounting the level two sub-floor sheet to the level two joists.

8. A structure according to claim 7 comprising level three sub-floor sheeting coupled to the upper sides of the level three floor joists, wherein the level three sub-floor sheeting comprises longitudinally extending corrugations that extend between the longitudinally outermost arched ribs and wherein each level three sub-floor sheet is precut to size and pre-drilled with holes at locations of the level three joists for mounting the level three sub-floor sheet to the level three joists.

9. A structure according to claim 7 comprising a central end wall framework, the central end wall framework comprising a plurality of studs that extend from a horizontal and transversely extending lower channel coupled to the level one sub-floor sheeting, through spaces between the longitudinally outermost level two joists and the longitudinal inward sides of the corresponding longitudinally outermost arched ribs, and to a horizontal and transversely extending upper channel coupled to undersides of the level three joists.

10. A structure according to claim 8 comprising a plurality of longitudinally extending third floor hat bars coupled to the lower edges of the level three joists, the third floor hat bars having a generally trapezoidal cross-section, and further comprising a central end wall framework, the central end wall framework comprising a plurality of studs that extend from a horizontal and transversely extending lower channel coupled to the level one sub-floor sheeting, through spaces between the longitudinally outermost level two joists and the longitudinal inward sides of the corresponding longitudinally outermost arched ribs, and to a horizontal and transversely extending upper channel coupled to the undersides of the third floor hat bars.

11. A structure according to claim 9 wherein each of the plurality of studs in the central end wall framework is pivotally coupled to the upper and lower channels and is telescopically expandable and collapsible such that the central end wall framework may be collapsed to a collapsed configuration by telescopically collapsing the studs and pivoting the studs in a first angular direction with respect to both the upper and lower channels and such that the central end wall framework may be expanded to an expanded configuration by pivoting the studs in a second angular direction with respect to both the upper and lower channels and telescopically expanding the studs.

12. A structure according to claim 11 wherein the upper channel of the central end wall framework is pre-drilled with holes at locations of the level three joists and the undersides of the level three joists are pre-drilled with corresponding holes for coupling the upper channel of the central end wall framework to the undersides of the level three joists and wherein the lower channel of the central end wall framework is pre-drilled with holes at transversely spaced apart locations and the longitudinally outermost ends of the level one sub-floor sheeting are pre-drilled with corresponding holes for coupling the lower channel of the central end wall framework to the level one sub-floor sheeting.

13. A structure according to claim 11 wherein the central end wall framework comprises a plurality of transversely and vertically extending intermediate frame elements and a plurality of transversely and horizontally extending intermediate frame elements and wherein the intermediate frame elements define, at least in part, one or more window and door openings in an end wall of the structure.

14. A structure according to claim 11 comprising a pair of transverse end wall frameworks, each transverse end wall framework comprising a plurality of end wall studs that extend from a horizontal and transversely extending lower channel coupled to the level one sub-floor sheeting, through spaces between the longitudinally outermost level two joists and the longitudinal inward sides of the corresponding longitudinally outermost arched ribs, and to a horizontally and vertically angled and transversely extending upper channel coupled to the longitudinally outermost arched ribs.

15. A structure according to claim 14 wherein each of the plurality of end wall studs in each transverse end wall framework is pivotally coupled to the upper and lower channels and is telescopically expandable and collapsible such that the transverse end wall framework may be collapsed to a collapsed configuration by telescopically collapsing the end wall studs and pivoting the end wall studs in a first angular direction with respect to both the upper and lower channels and such that the transverse end wall framework may be expanded to an expanded configuration by pivoting the end wall studs in a second angular direction with respect to both the upper and lower channels and telescopically expanding the end wall studs.

16. A structure according to claim 15 wherein the upper channel of the transverse end wall framework is pre-drilled with holes and the longitudinally outermost arched ribs are pre-drilled holes with corresponding holes for coupling the upper channel of the transverse end wall framework to the longitudinally outermost arched ribs and wherein the lower channel of the transverse end wall framework is pre-drilled with holes at transversely spaced apart locations and the longitudinally outermost ends of the level one sub-floor sheeting are pre-drilled with corresponding holes for coupling the lower channel of the transverse end wall framework to the level one sub-floor sheeting.

17. A structure according to claim 15 comprising external end wall sheeting coupled to the longitudinal outsides of the central and transverse end wall frameworks wherein the external end wall sheeting comprises transversely extending corrugations that extend between the longitudinally outermost ends of the external wall/roof sheeting and wherein each external end wall sheet is precut to size and pre-drilled with holes at locations of the studs in the central end wall framework and the end wall studs in the transverse end wall frameworks for mounting the external end wall sheet to the central and transverse end wall frameworks.

18. A structure according to claim 17 wherein the transverse edges of at least some of the external end wall sheets are precut to conform to the shape of the arched ribs and the upper edge of at least one of the external end wall sheets is precut to conform to the shape of the arched ribs.

19. A structure according to claim 1 comprising internal wall/roof sheeting coupled to insides of the hat bars, wherein each internal wall/roof sheet is precut to size and pre-drilled with holes at locations of the hat bars for mounting the internal wall/roof sheet to the hat bars.

20. A kit for building a modular building structure, the kit comprising: a pair of longitudinally extending beams, capable of being spaced apart from one another in a transverse direction; a plurality of identical arched ribs capable of extending vertically and transversely at locations spaced apart from one another in a longitudinal direction, each arched rib comprising a pair of identical opposing curved members, each curved member coupled to an angled member at an apex of the arched rib; a plurality of identical level one joists capable of extending transversely and being spaced apart from one another in the longitudinal direction, each level one joist coupleable at its transverse ends to longitudinal sides of the lower ends of the curved members of a corresponding arched rib and coupleable at each of its transverse ends to a corresponding one of the beams; a plurality of identical level two joists capable of extending transversely and being spaced apart from one another in the longitudinal direction, each level two joist coupleable at its transverse ends to the longitudinal sides of the curved members of a corresponding arched rib at a location above the level one joists; and a plurality of identical hat bars capable of extending longitudinally and coupleable to the transverse insides of all of the arched ribs, the hat bars having a generally trapezoidal cross-section; wherein each of the beams, curved members, level one joists, level two joists and hat bars is preformed, pre-cut to length and provided with pre-drilled holes for coupling to other components of the building structure.

21. A method for building a modular building structure comprising a support framework, the method comprising: providing a pair of longitudinally extending beams and spacing the beams apart from one another in a transverse direction; assembling a plurality of vertically and transversely extending identical arched ribs and spacing the arched ribs apart from one another in a longitudinal direction, wherein assembling each arched rib comprises coupling a pair of identical opposing curved members to an angled member at an apex of the arched rib; providing a plurality of transversely extending identical level one joists, spacing the level one joists apart from one another in the longitudinal direction, coupling each level one joist at its transverse ends to longitudinal sides of the lower ends of the curved members of a corresponding arched rib, and coupling each level one joist at each of its transverse ends to a corresponding one of the beams; providing a plurality of transversely extending identical level two joists, spacing the level two joists apart from one another in the longitudinal direction, and coupling each level two joist at its transverse ends to the longitudinal sides of the curved members of a corresponding arched rib at a location above the level one joists; and providing a plurality of longitudinally extending identical hat bars and coupling the hat bars to the transverse insides of all of the arched ribs, the hat bars having a generally trapezoidal cross-section; wherein each of the beams, curved members, level one joists, level two joists and hat bars is preformed, pre-cut to length and provided with pre-drilled holes for coupling to other components of the support framework.

Description:

This application claims the benefit of the priority of U.S. Application No. 60/872,907 which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

1. Technical Field

The current invention relates to modular building structures which can be easily erected. While the modular buildings of the invention have many applications, particular embodiments provide modular buildings which can be erected quickly in response to disasters.

2. Background

World conditions including weather, economics and politics are changing rapidly. For example, in 2005, several hurricanes, including Rita and Katrina, caused devastating effects in the United States and in the Caribbean. Many building structures are not capable of withstanding the effects of hurricanes and other natural disasters, such as earthquake's, flooding or the like. Manmade disasters (e.g. war, bombing or the like) can also destroy building structures.

In a disaster, where building structures are destroyed, or in a wide variety of other circumstances, there is a need for providing human beings with shelter. In disaster relief applications and in a wide variety of other applications, it is desirable to erect emergency shelters relatively quickly. In a disaster or in a wide variety of other circumstances, the need for shelter may be exacerbated by a lack of skilled tradespeople capable of erecting buildings. It is also generally desirable that disaster relief shelters themselves be resistant to further disasters.

There is a general desire to provide building structures that may be deployed to provide humans with shelter and to overcome or at least ameliorate some of the aforementioned issues.

SUMMARY

In one aspect, the invention provides a modular building structure comprising a support framework. The support framework has a pair of longitudinally extending beams, spaced apart in a transverse direction, a plurality of vertically and transversely extending identical arched ribs spaced apart from one another in a longitudinal direction, each arched rib comprising a pair of identical opposing curved members, each curved member coupled to an angled member at an apex of the arched rib. The support framework also has a plurality of transversely extending identical level one joists spaced apart from one another in the longitudinal direction, each joist coupled at its transverse ends to longitudinal sides of the lower ends of the curved members of a corresponding arched rib and coupled at each of its transverse ends to a corresponding one of the beams. The support framework also has a plurality of transversely extending identical level two joists spaced apart from one another in the longitudinal direction, each level two joist coupled at its transverse ends to the longitudinal sides of the curved members of a corresponding arched rib at a location above the level one joists. The support framework also has a plurality of longitudinally extending identical hat bars coupled to the transverse insides of all of the arched ribs, and the hat bars have a generally trapezoidal cross section. Each of the beams, curved members, level one joists, level two joists and hat bars is preformed, pre-cut to length and provided with pre-drilled holes for coupling to other components of the support framework.

In another aspect, the modular building structure may comprise a plurality of transversely extending identical level three joists spaced apart from one another in the longitudinal direction, each level three joist coupled at its transverse ends to the longitudinal sides of the curved members of a corresponding arched rib at a location above the level two joists.

In another aspect, the invention provides a kit for building a modular building structure. The kit has a pair of longitudinally extending beams capable of being spaced apart from one another in a transverse direction; a plurality of identical arched ribs capable of extending vertically and transversely at locations spaced apart from one another in a longitudinal direction, each arched rib comprising a pair of identical opposing curved members, each curved member coupled to an angled member at an apex of the arched rib; a plurality of identical level one joists capable of extending transversely and being spaced apart from one another in the longitudinal direction, each level one joist coupleable at its transverse ends to longitudinal sides of the lower ends of the curved members of a corresponding arched rib and coupleable at each of its transverse ends to a corresponding one of the beams; a plurality of identical level two joists capable of extending transversely and being spaced apart from one another in the longitudinal direction, each level two joist coupleable at its transverse ends to the longitudinal sides of the curved members of a corresponding arched rib at a location above the level one joists; and a plurality of identical hat bars capable of extending longitudinally and coupleable to the transverse insides of all of the arched ribs, the hat bars having a generally trapezoidal cross-section. Each of the beams, curved members, level one joists, level two joists and hat bars is preformed, pre-cut to length and provided with pre-drilled holes for coupling to other components of the building structure.

In another aspect, the invention provides a method for building a modular building structure comprising a support framework. A pair of longitudinally extending beams is provided and the beams are spaced apart from one another in a transverse direction. A plurality of vertically and transversely extending identical arched ribs are assembled and spaced apart from one another in a longitudinal direction, and the step of assembling each arched rib comprises coupling a pair of identical opposing curved members to an angled member at an apex of the arched rib. A plurality of transversely extending identical level one joists are provided and spaced apart from one another in the longitudinal direction. Each level one joist is coupled at its transverse ends to longitudinal sides of the lower ends of the curved members of a corresponding arched rib, and each level one joist is coupled at each of its transverse ends to a corresponding one of the beams. A plurality of transversely extending identical level two joists are provided and spaced apart from one another in the longitudinal direction. Each level two joist is coupled at its transverse ends to the longitudinal sides of the curved members of a corresponding arched rib at a location above the level one joists. A plurality of longitudinally extending identical hat bars having a generally trapezoidal cross-section are provided and coupled to the transverse insides of all of the arched ribs. Each of the beams, curved members, level one joists, level two joists and hat bars is preformed, pre-cut to length and provided with pre-drilled holes for coupling to other components of the support framework.

Other features and aspects of specific embodiments of the invention are described below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In drawings which depict non-limiting embodiments of the invention:

FIG. 1 is an outside isometric view of a building structure according to a particular embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is an isometric view of several of the frame components of the FIG. 1 building structure including the arches, level one joists, level two joists, level three joists and support beams;

FIG. 3 is another isometric view of several of the frame components of the FIG. 1 building structure including the arches, level one joists, level two joists, level three joists, support beams and hat bar-shaped reinforcing members;

FIG. 4A is closeup isometric view showing how the level one joists of the FIG. 1 structure are coupled to a beam and how the arched ribs of the FIG. 1 structure are coupled to the level one joists;

FIG. 4B is a closeup isometric view showing how the center level one joist is coupled to a beam and to an arched rib in some embodiments of the FIG. 1 structure;

FIG. 4C is a closeup isometric view showing how space may be provided between the outermost one of the level two joists and its corresponding arched rib in some embodiments of the FIG. 1 structure;

FIG. 5 is a closeup drawing showing how the arch members of the FIG. 1 structure are coupled to the angled member to form an arched rib;

FIG. 6 is a closeup plan view showing how a hat bar is mounted to the interior of an arched rib in the FIG. 1 structure;

FIG. 7A is a close up isometric view showing how the sub-floor sheeting is mounted to the level one joists of the FIG. 1 structure;

FIGS. 7B, 7C and 7D respectively depict the individual sheets of sub-floor sheeting used to form the level one, level two and level three sub-floors of the FIG. 1 structure according to a particular embodiment;

FIG. 8A is an isometric view showing the central level one joist and the beams of the FIG. 1 structure mounted on a telescoping tripod post type foundation;

FIG. 8B is a plan view of a telescoping tripod post of the FIG. 8A foundation according to a particular embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 9A is a plan view showing the end wall framework of the end walls of the FIG. 1 structure according to a particular embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 9B schematically depicts the layout of the individual sheets of exterior end wall sheeting on the end walls of the FIG. 1 structure according to a particular embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 10A is a top plan view of level one showing optional internal walls, stairs, furniture and fixtures for the FIG. 1 structure according to a particular embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 10B is a partial exploded isometric view of the stairs between level one and level two of the FIG. 1 structure;

FIG. 11 is a partial isometric view of several of the frame components of the FIG. 1 building structure at the assembly stage including a temporary stabilizing hat bar.

FIGS. 12A through 12D schematically show the central folding/extending end wall framework and a window framework element. FIG. 12A shows the central folding/extending wall framework and a window framework element in a relatively compressed configuration. FIGS. 12B and 12C show the central folding/extending wall framework and a window framework element in partially expanded configurations. FIG. 12D shows the central folding/extending wall framework and two window framework elements in the fully expanded configuration.

FIGS. 13A, 13B and 13C schematically show the transverse folding/extending end wall frameworks. FIG. 13A shows the transverse folding/extending end wall framework in a relatively compressed configuration. FIG. 13B shows the transverse folding/extending end wall framework in a partially expanded configuration. FIG. 13C shows the transverse folding/extending end wall framework in the fully expanded configuration.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Throughout the following description, specific details are set forth in order to provide a more thorough understanding of the invention. However, the invention may be practiced without these particulars. In other instances, well known elements have not been shown or described in detail to avoid unnecessarily obscuring the invention. Accordingly, the specification and drawings are to be regarded in an illustrative, rather than a restrictive, sense.

A building structure 10 according to a particular embodiment of the invention is shown in FIG. 1. Building 10 (as shown in FIG. 1) is completely assembled and provides a reinforced structure (as explained in more detail below) that is resistant to both earthquakes and hurricanes. Additionally, embodiments of building 10 weigh less than the equivalent structure constructed of wood, and some embodiments may weigh approximately ¼ of the weight of an equivalent wood structure. Building 10 includes a pair of longitudinally (arrow 101) extending arched walls 12 and transversely (arrow 102) extending end walls 14. Building 10 is completely self-supporting upon a pair of beams 24. Building 10 may be erected such that beams 24 are placed upon or coupled to any suitable foundation, although a foundation is not strictly necessary. Suitable foundations for building 10 upon which beams 24 may be placed or coupled include, without limitation: two or more pads on the ground, a plurality of posts made from suitable structural material (e.g. concrete), two or more pontoons or other buoyant members, and a plurality of tripod posts. Building 10 may be erected in one place and moved in its assembled form (e.g. by crane) and set down in another location.

FIG. 8A shows beams 24 of structure 10 mounted on a plurality of foundation elements 38A, 38B, 38C and 38D (collectively, foundation elements 38). In the FIG. 8A embodiment, foundation elements 38 comprise telescoping tripod apparatus 61. Foundation elements 38 may be positioned at suitable locations, such that each beam 24 may be mounted to two or more foundation elements 38. As explained in more detail below, beams 24 may be coupled to foundation elements 38 by suitable fasteners (which may include threaded anchor bolts and corresponding nuts). Such fasteners may project through pre-drilled holes at suitable locations in beams 24 and/or in foundation elements 38.

In the particular embodiment of FIG. 8A, foundation elements 38 comprise telescoping tripod apparatus 61. FIG. 8B is a plan view of a telescoping tripod apparatus 61 according to a particular embodiment of the invention. Apparatus 61 comprises a central post 69, a collar 75, a plurality of legs 67A, 67B, 67C (collectively 67) and an optional base 77. In the illustrated embodiment, post 69 comprises a vertically spaced apart series of apertures 71A and collar 75 comprises at least one corresponding aperture 71B. Collar 75 is slidable up and down post 69 and pin 73 is inserted through aperture 71B and a corresponding one of apertures 71A to fix the position of collar 75 on post 69. Legs 67 may be coupled to collar 75 via upper coupling joints 79A, 79B, 79C (collectively, upper coupling joints 79) and optionally to base 77 at lower coupling joints 82A, 82B, 82C (collectively, lower coupling joints 82). In some embodiments, upper coupling joints 79 and/or lower coupling joints 82 allow pivotal motion of their corresponding legs 67 with respect to collar 75 and/or base 77 respectively. In some embodiments, upper coupling joints 79 and/or lower coupling joints allow adjustment of the length of their corresponding legs 67. In some embodiments, post 69 may also be coupled to optional base 77 via coupling joint 84. This is not necessary, however, as the lowermost extent of post 69 may be above base 77.

As discussed above, in other embodiments, foundation elements 38 may comprise features other than telescoping tripod apparatus 61. For example, foundation elements 38 may comprise suitably formed concrete posts (e.g. similar to those used to anchor decks), a complete concrete foundation, one or more pontoons or other buoyant members or a frame that is otherwise attached to the pontoons or buoyant members.

Building 10 incorporates a structural frame 104 fabricated from light weight galvanized steel components. Preferably, although not necessarily, the galvanized steel components of structural frame 104 are fabricated by forming pre-drilled holes using computer aided manufacturing when the metal is flat and then roll bending the metal to provide the desired cross-section. In the illustrated embodiment, the various components of structural frame 104 shown in FIGS. 2 and 3 and include: a pair of identical beams 24; a plurality of identical floor joists including level one floor joists 26 and level two floor joists 20; one optional level one floor joist 26A with cut-outs on its ends so that it may be positioned centrally within structure 10; one level two floor joist 20A that is smaller than level one floor joists 26 and other level two floor joists 20 to accommodate stairs; a plurality of identical level three joists 32; a plurality of identical arch members 16 which may be joined together in pairs by angled members 17 to provide arched rib assemblies 16A (also referred to as arched ribs 16A); and a plurality of identical hat bar-shaped reinforcing members 30 (referred to herein as hat bars 30).

Together the components of structural frame 104 form an exceptionally strong framework that is resistant to hurricane force winds and to significant earthquakes. In particular: opposed pairs of arch members 16 which form arched ribs 16A provide vertical strength and strength in transverse direction 102; beams 24 and hat bars 30 provide strength in longitudinal direction 101; and the three levels of joists 26, 20, 32 also provide strength in transverse direction 102. Together, these components of structural frame 104 provide multiple layers of strength in both longitudinal and transverse directions 101, 102. For example, beams 24 and hat bars 30 provide multiple layers of strength in longitudinal direction 101 and joists 26, 20, 32 and arched ribs 16A provide multiple layers of strength in transverse direction 102. Building 10 may also be provided with additional strength by sub-floor sheeting 28, exterior roof/wall sheeting 46, and exterior end wall sheeting 63. In some embodiments, building 10 may be provided with additional strength by coupling hat bars 30 to joists 26, 20 or 32.

Preferably, building 10 is delivered with all of the parts of structural frame 104 in a state that is ready for assembly. All of the parts of structural frame 104 may be fabricated to size (i.e. such that no cutting of any components of structural frame 104 is required). All of the parts of structural frame 104 may be fabricated with engineered holes (referred to as pre-drilled holes) at suitable locations for fastener connection as described below (i.e. such that no drilling is required). Because the various parts of structural frame 104 are identical, any of the various identical parts of structural frame 104 may be interchanged for one another during the construction of building 10 without further modification of the component. By way of non-limiting example, any of the arch members 16, hat bars 30, level one joists 26, level two joists 20 or level three joists 32 may be substituted for one another.

As shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, the other components of structural frame 104 are supported on beams 24. Beams 24 may comprise C-channel, 12 gauge or 14 gauge steel beams. Beams 24 may be pre-drilled with holes for connection to level one joists 26. Beams 24 may also be pre-drilled with holes at various locations to accommodate anchor bolts from various types of foundations. Beams 24 may be oriented such that they extend in the longitudinal direction 101 and that the openings of their C-channel construction may open outwardly (i.e. in one of the transverse directions 102).

FIG. 4A is a closeup isometric view showing how level one joists 26 are coupled to, and supported by, beams 24. Level one joists 26 may comprise C-channel, 16 gauge steel beams. Level one joists 26 are provided with pre-drilled holes 19C at their ends. As discussed above, beams 24 are also provided with corresponding pre-drilled holes (not shown) at spaced apart locations along one of their flanges. Fasteners 21C (which may comprise suitable bolt and nut combinations) project through these pre-drilled holes to secure level one joists 26 to beam 24. The attachment of level one joists 26 to the opposing beam 24 may be substantially similar to that shown in FIG. 4A.

FIG. 4A also shows how beams 24 may be pre-drilled with holes (not shown) to accommodate fasteners 40 for connection of beams 24 to foundation element 38. In the FIG. 4A illustration, foundation element 38 comprises a concrete pillar. In other embodiments, foundation element 38 may comprise a component of any of the other foundation types described above, including, without limitation: pads on the ground, pontoons or other buoyant members or a tripod telepost and pan frame.

The vertical aspect of structural frame 104 is provided by arched ribs 16A. Arched ribs 16A are formed from pairs of arch members 16 connected to one another at their ends by angled members 17. Arch members 16 may be fabricated from 17 gauge four-sided steel track which is bent to provide the arch shape shown in FIGS. 2 and 3. Arch members 16 are provided with pre-drilled holes as described in more detail below. Arch members 16 may have open ends.

Detail of the connection between arch members 16 and angled members 17 is shown in FIG. 5. Ends 17A, 17B of angled members 17 may respectively extend into the bores at the open ends of a pair of arch members 16. Arch members 16 and angled members 17 may be pre-drilled with holes to accommodate connection of a pair of arch members 16 to a corresponding angled member 17 by threaded fasteners 23A, 23B (which may comprise suitable bolt and nut combinations). In some embodiments, particularly where susceptibility to wind is a concern, the interior angle φ at the apex of angled members 17 may be relatively sharp (e.g. less than about 75 degrees). In other embodiments, particularly where susceptibility to cold weather is a concern, the interior angle φ at the apex of angled members 17 may be relatively wide (e.g. more than about 115 degrees). In some embodiments, arch members 16 may be coupled to one another in some other suitable construction to form arched ribs 16A. For example, arch members 16 may be coupled to a top beam that extends in the longitudinal direction 102.

FIG. 4A is a close-up isometric view showing how arched ribs 16A are connected to level one joists 26. Level one joists 26 are provided with pre-drilled holes 19A, 19B at their ends. The bottom ends of arch members 16 are provided with pre-drilled holes (not shown) corresponding to holes 19A, 19B in level one joists 26. Fasteners 21A, 21B (which may comprise suitable bolt and nut combinations) project through these pre-drilled holes to secure level one joists 26 to the sides of arched ribs 16A. The other ends of arched ribs 16A may be connected to level one joists 26 in a substantially similar manner.

Although not shown in the illustrated view, level two joists 20 and level three joists 32 may be attached to arched ribs 16 in a manner substantially similar to that of level one joists 26—i.e. arch members 16, level two joists 20 and level three joists 32 may be provided with pre-drilled holes for accommodating suitable fasteners such that level two joists and level three joists 20, 32 are coupled to the sides of arched ribs 16A as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3.

In some embodiments, arched ribs 16A and structure 10 are shaped such that the first and second floors are substantially the same size—i.e. arched ribs 16A can initially extend transversely outwardly as they extend upwardly from beams 24 such that the first and second floors are the same size. In such embodiments, level one joists 26 and level two joists 20 may be identical to one another. These joists 20, 26 may be fabricated from C-channel, 16 gauge, 18 gauge or 20 gauge steel beams, for example. While having a different size due to the different transverse size of the third floor, level three joists 32 may also be fabricated from C-channel, 16 gauge, 18 gauge or 20 gauge steel beams. In other embodiments, level three joists 32 may be fabricated from lighter (e.g. 22 gauge) steel. The ends of joists 26, 20, 32 may be beveled or otherwise shaped such that joists 26, 20, 32 do not project transversely outwardly beyond the transverse extent of arched ribs 16A. Having arched ribs 16A project transversely outwardly further than joists 26, 20, 32 facilitates coupling of external wall panels to arched ribs 16A as explained in more detail below. In some embodiments, arched ribs 16A are shaped such that the second floor is smaller than the first floor. In such embodiments, level one joists 26, level two joists 20 and level three joists 32 may be different than one another.

In some embodiments, a central level one joist 26A may be provided with optional cutouts 27 at its ends such that such that its corresponding arched rib 16A may be mounted precisely in the center of structure 10. FIG. 4B is a closeup view showing how a central arched rib 16A is mounted in cutout 27 of central level one joist 26A. Central level one joist 26A is coupled to beam 24 using suitable fastener 21C which projects through pre-drilled hole 21C in level one joist 26A and a corresponding pre-drilled hole in beam 24. Fastener 21C is shown in FIG. 4A, but is obscured from view in FIG. 4B as it extends into the bore of the open end of arch member 16. As shown in FIG. 4B, a lower end of arch member 16 of the central arched rib 16A extends into cutout 27 and is coupled to central level one joist 26A using fasteners 21A, 21B which project through pre-drilled holes 19A, 19B in central level one joist 26A. No changes are required to central arched rib 16A (i.e. central arched rib 16A is identical to other arched ribs 16A). With the configuration of FIG. 4B, central level one joist 26A and central arched rib 16A are directly aligned with the center of structure 10.

Although not shown in the FIG. 4B illustration, a central level two joist 20A may optionally be provided with a similar cutout at one of its ends and a central level three joist 32A may optionally be provided with a similar cutout at both of its ends, such that the central level two joist 20A and the central level three joist 32A may be aligned with central arched rib 16A and the center of structure 10. As shown best in FIG. 2, central level two joist 20A may be cut short to allow for an opening for stairs between floors and may be installed with a cross member 50 that extends between the adjacent level two joists 20 on either side of central level two joist 20A. Cross-member 50 may be supported between a pair of level two joists 20 on either side of central level two joist 20A and to central level two joist 20A using cleats (not shown). These cleats may have L-shaped cross-sections and may be similar to cleats 79 used for stairs 73 which are described in more detail below. Fasteners may project through pre-drilled holes in these cleats and through corresponding pre-drilled holes in the pair of level two joists 20 on either side of central level two joist 20A and in central level two joist 20A to mount cross-member 50 thereto.

As shown in FIG. 4A, other (non central) arched ribs 16A are coupled to the sides of their corresponding level one joists 26 (as well as to the side of the corresponding level two joists 20 and their corresponding level three joists 32). In some embodiments, the side on which arched ribs 16A are coupled to their corresponding joists 26, 20, 32 depends on their orientation relative to central joists 26A, 20A, 32A. For example, in some embodiments, non-central arched ribs 16A are coupled to the insides of their corresponding non-central joists 26, 20, 32, such that arched ribs 16A are always closer to the center of structure 10 than their corresponding joists 26, 20, 32. In other embodiments, non-central arched ribs 16A are coupled to the outsides of their corresponding non-central joists 26, 20, 32, such that joists 26, 20, 32 are always closer to the center of structure 10 than their corresponding arched ribs 16A. This helps to maintain a precise spacing between joists 26, 20, 32 relative to central joists 26A, 20A, 32A and a precise spacing between arched ribs 16A relative to central arched rib 16A which, in turn, allows other components to be provided with pre-drilled holes for fasteners as explained in more detail below.

In some embodiments, the outermost level two joists 20 may be spaced apart slightly from their corresponding arched ribs 16A. An example of such spacing is shown in FIG. 4C, where an outermost level two joist 20 is spaced apart from its corresponding arched rib 16A by spacers 29A, 29B, which provide a space 31 of about 2 inches. In the illustrated embodiment, fasteners 21A′, 21B′ extend through corresponding pre-drilled holes in level two joist 20 and arch member 16 and through spacers 29A, 29B. In the illustrated embodiment, providing space 31 does not require changes to outermost level two joists 20—i.e. outermost level two joists 20 are the same as other level two joists 20 and space is provided by spacers 29A, 29B and relatively long fasteners 21A′, 21B′. It will be appreciated that there are a wide variety of techniques for providing space 31 between outermost level two joist 20 and its corresponding arched rib 16A. The invention should be understood to incorporate any such spacing techniques. Space 31 may accommodate the framing of end walls 14 as described in more detail below.

Structural frame 104 also comprises hat bars 30 which are horizontally oriented and which extend in longitudinal direction 101. As shown in FIG. 3, hat bars 30 are mounted to the insides of arched ribs 16A at vertically spaced apart intervals. The length of hat bars 30 is preferably precut such that hat bars 30 extend between the outer edges of the outermost pairs of arched ribs 16 as shown in FIG. 3. FIG. 6 provides detail of how hat bars 30 are coupled to arched ribs 16A. Hat bars 30 may be fabricated from 20 gauge steel and may be fabricated to have the generally trapezoidal cross-section shown in FIG. 6. In cross-section, hat bars 30 are shaped to provide a pair of generally co-planar mounting flanges 28B which are spaced apart from one another to form an open end between mounting flanges 28B and a pair of side walls 28D that extend between mounting flanges 28B and base portion 28C to define the boundaries of channel 28A. Preferably sidewalls 28D extend toward one another as they extend from mounting flanges 28B toward base portion 28C to provide channel 28A with a generally trapezoidal shape in cross-section. Hat bars having this cross-sectional shape are advantageous because their trapezoidal profile provides excellent strength (comparable to the shape of a curved or triangular cross-section) together with convenient surfaces (i.e. base portion 28C and mounting flanges 28B) for fastening. Hat bars 30 may likewise be mounted to joists 26, 20 and 32 in similar fashion.

Hat bars 30 may be pre-drilled with vertically aligned pairs of holes that are spaced apart in longitudinal direction 101, such that one of each pair of vertically aligned holes is located on a corresponding one of mounting flanges 28B and each pair of vertically aligned holes in hat bars 30 is aligned with a corresponding pair of pre-drilled holes in a corresponding arched rib 16A. Suitable fasteners 25A, 25B (which may comprise self tapping screws) may project through these pre-drilled holes in flanges 28B of hat bar 30 and into arched ribs 16A. Preferably, hat bars 30 are mounted in substantially horizontal orientations and are regularly spaced apart from one another along the insides of arched ribs 16A. The spacing between hat bars 30 may be approximately 16 inches along the insides of arched ribs 16A. Hat bars 30 may also be mounted to joists 26, 20 and 32 in similar fashion. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 3, third floor hat bars 30A have been mounted in substantially horizontal orientation along the lower sides of joists 32. The installation of hat bars 30A in this fashion provides even greater strength to building 10.

Structural frame 104 may be further reinforced by sub-floor sheeting 28 and by exterior roof/wall sheeting 46. Sub-floor sheeting 28 and exterior roof/wall sheeting 46 may be provided by corrugated sheet metal panels with corrugations which extend in longitudinal direction 101 (i.e. parallel to beams 24 and orthogonal to joists 26, 20, 32 and arched ribs 16A). These longitudinally extending corrugations in sub-floor sheeting 28 and exterior roof/wall sheeting 46 provide extra strength and support to structural frame 104 and structure 10 in longitudinal direction 101.

FIG. 7A shows the longitudinally extending corrugations of sub-floor sheeting 28 according to a particular embodiment of the invention. Sub-floor sheeting 28 may be fabricated from 18 or 20 gauge steel, for example. In the illustrated embodiment, sub-floor sheeting 28 comprises longitudinally extending corrugations which are shaped to provide: substantially flat horizontal upper faces 39A; substantially flat horizontal lower faces 39B; trapezoidally cross-sectioned, downwardly opening channels 39C; and trapezoidally cross-sectioned, upwardly opening channels 39D. Advantageously, as described further below, flat horizontal lower faces 39B facilitate mounting of sub-floor sheeting 28 to floor joists 26, 20, 32 and flat horizontal upper faces 39A facilitate mounting of floor covering 42 to sub-floor sheeting 28. The trapezoidal cross-sections of channels 39C, 39D provide sub-floor sheeting 28 with structural integrity.

FIG. 7A shows a closeup view of how a particular sub-floor sheet 28A of sub-floor sheeting 28 is coupled to level one joists 26 to form level one sub-floor 41 according to a particular embodiment of the invention. Horizontal lower faces 39B may comprise pre-drilled holes 35 at the locations of level one floor joists 26. It may be recalled from the above description that the location of central level one joist 26A is known to be in the exact center of structure 10 and the location of the other level one joists 26 on the respective sides of their corresponding arched ribs 16A is also known. Accordingly, pre-drilled holes 35 in sub-floor sheeting 28 may be placed at the precise location of level one joists 26. Level one joists 26 may be provided with corresponding pre-drilled holes 37 at the locations of horizontal lower faces 39B of sub-floor sheeting 28. Once pre-drilled holes 35, 37 are aligned, suitable fasteners 33 (which may include self-tapping screws) may project through holes 35, 37 to couple sub-floor sheeting 28 to level one joists 26.

It will appreciated that sub-floor sheeting 28 may be attached to other level one joists 26 in a similar manner to that shown in FIG. 7A. Similarly, sub-floor sheeting 28 may be attached in a similar manner to level two joists 20 to form level two sub-floor 43 and to level three joists 32 to form level three sub-floor 45.

In currently preferred embodiments, sub-floor sheeting 28 is provided in a plurality of individual sheets having longitudinal lengths which are sufficient to span their corresponding regions of application. Sub-floors e.g. level one sub-floor 41, level two sub-floor 43 and level three sub-floor 45 may comprise a plurality of sub-floor sheets which are aligned edge-to-edge in transverse direction 102. FIGS. 7B, 7C and 7D respectively depict the individual sheets of sub-floor sheeting used to form level one sub-floor 41, level two sub-floor 43 and level three sub-floor 45 in accordance with a particular embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 7B shows that level one sub-floor 41 comprises a plurality of sub-floor sheets 28A-28F, where sub-floor sheets 28A-28E are the same size, extend the length of structure 10 in longitudinal direction 101 and are aligned edge-to-edge in transverse direction 102. In the illustrated embodiment, level one sub-floor 41 also comprises a sheet 28F which also extends the length of structure 10 in longitudinal direction 101 but which is narrower than sheets 28A-28E in transverse direction 102. In other embodiments, the sheets that form level one subfloor 41 may be designed such that they are all the same size.

FIG. 7C shows that level two sub-floor 43 comprises a plurality of sub-floor sheets 28G-28O, where sheets 28G-28L are the same size and sheets 28M, 28N are the same size. In the illustrated embodiment, sheet 28O has the same longitudinal dimension as sheets 28M, 28N, but is narrower in its transverse dimension. In other embodiments, sheets 28M-28O may be identical. Sheets 28G-28L are aligned as shown in FIG. 7C to provide a space 47 for a staircase between level one and level two. In addition to providing stairwell space 47, sheets 28G-28O of level two sub-floor 43 are sized such that they do not extend the full length of structure 10 in longitudinal direction 101—i.e. to provide transversely extending spaces 49A, 49B at the ends of structure 10. As explained in more detail below, spaces 49A, 49B accommodate the framing of end walls 14.

FIG. 7D shows that level three sub-floor 45 comprises a plurality of sub-floor sheets 28P-28S, where sheets 28P, 28Q are the same size and sheets 28R, 28S are the same size. Sheets 28R, 28S are aligned as shown in FIG. 7D to provide a space 51 for an entrance to an attic (level three). In the illustrated embodiment, sheets 28P-28S are smaller than the dimensions of level three of structure 10 and provide spaces 53A, 53B at their transverse ends. Typically, spaces 53A, 53B are acceptable for use of level three as an attic. However, if it is desired to use space on level three for other purposes, then sheets 28P-28S may be sized to eliminate spaces 53A, 53B.

Once sub-floors 41, 43, 45 are installed, sub-floors 41, 43, 45 may be covered by any suitable flooring material. In currently preferred embodiments, flooring material for each of the level one and level two floors is provided in plurality of pre-dimensioned sheets of suitable sheeting material (e.g. plywood or another rigid material having similar characteristics to plywood) and is pre-covered with vinyl or laminate flooring to provide finished flooring surfaces. In some embodiments, the interior size of the level one and level two floors is 16′×16′. In such embodiments, the level one flooring material can be provided in eight identical 4′×8′ sheets and the level two flooring material can be provided in four identical 4′×8′ sheets and four smaller sheets that are dimensioned to accommodate stairwell space 47 (FIG. 7C). As with level two sub-floor 43, the flooring material used for the level two floor is dimensioned to provide spaces 49A, 49B through which the framing of end walls 14 may extend, as explained in more detail below. In some embodiments, it may also be desirable to provide suitably sized sheets of flooring material for the level three floor (i.e. the attic).

In some embodiments, exterior wall/roof sheeting 46 may be fabricated from identical material to that of sub-floor sheeting 28. This is not necessary, however, as exterior wall/roof sheeting 46 is not load bearing and may be made out of lighter grade material (e.g. 24 or 26 gauge steel). Also, while it is desirable to provide exterior wall/roof sheeting 46 with corrugations that extend in longitudinal direction 101, there is no requirement to mount anything on the exterior of exterior wall/roof sheeting 46. Consequently, the corrugations on exterior wall/roof sheeting 46 may have non-flat shapes on their exterior.

Exterior wall/roof sheeting 46 may be mounted to arched ribs 16A in manner similar to that which is used to mount sub-floor sheeting 28 to joists 26, 20, 32. More particularly, exterior wall/roof sheeting 46 may be provided with pre-drilled holes (not shown) which align with corresponding pre-drilled holes (not shown) in arched ribs 16A and suitable fasteners 57 (which may comprise self-tapping screws) may project through these aligned holes to mount exterior wall/roof sheeting 46 to arched ribs 16A (see FIG. 6).

In currently preferred embodiments, exterior wall/roof sheeting 46 is provided in a plurality of individual sheets having longitudinal lengths which are slightly longer than the dimension of structure 10 in longitudinal dimension 101. In this manner, exterior wall/roof sheeting 46 forms an eave 55 (FIG. 1) which overhangs the longitudinal ends of structure 10 to provide some protection against rain water. Preferably, exterior wall/roof sheeting 46 is dimensioned such that the overhang of eave 55 in longitudinal direction 101 is between 1-6 inches beyond end walls 14. An eave having this amount of overhang provides protection from rain while minimizing wind-induced upward force on exterior wall/roof sheeting 46.

The exterior of structure 10 may comprise a plurality, of exterior wall/roof sheets which are aligned edge-to-edge along arched ribs 16A. FIG. 1 shows a plurality of exterior wall/roof sheets 46A-46F used to form arched wall 12. In some embodiments, the lower edges of sheets 46B-46F may overlap the upper edges of the next lower sheet 46A-46E in a manner common to building siding to help prevent the entrance of moisture into structure 10. The peak of structure 10 may be capped with a angled piece of corrugated sheet metal 460 similar to sheets 46A-46F, except that angled peak cap 46G is bent to extend down both arched walls 12. The lower edges of angled peak cap 46G may overlap the next lowest sheet (e.g. sheet 46F) of exterior wall/roof sheeting 46 in a manner common to building siding. In some embodiments, angled peak cap 46G may be coupled to sheet 46F in a manner that provides venting apertures which provide venting to an interior of arched wall 12. Another venting aperture to the interior of arched wall 12 may be provided at the bottom of arched wall 12 (i.e. where sheet 46A meets beam 24).

Structure 10 comprises a pair of end walls 14. In the illustrated embodiment, front end wall 14A and rear end wall 14B are substantially identical to one another. End walls 14 comprise an end wall framework 106. FIG. 9A schematically depicts a particular embodiment of an end wall framework 106 suitable for use with structure 10. In the illustrated embodiment, each end wall framework 106 comprises: a central folding/extending end wall framework 91; a pair of folding/extending transverse end wall frameworks 93A, 93B (collectively, transverse end wall frameworks 93); and a level three end wall framework 95.

Central folding/extending framework 91 and transverse folding/extending frameworks 93 may be made according to the folding extending frameworks disclosed in co-invented U.S. Pat. No. 5,735,100, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

Central folding/extending framework 91 comprises an upper channel 52 and a lower channel 54 which have a plurality of telescoping studs 34 pivotally coupled thereto. Central folding/extending framework 91 can be configured to a compressed configuration where studs 34 are telescopically collapsed and pivoted (relative to channels 52, 54) such that studs 34 approach the orientation of channels 52, 54 (shown schematically in FIG. 12A). Central folding/extending framework 91 may also be configured to an expanded configuration where studs 34 are pivoted (relative to channels 52, 54) such that studs 34 approach an orientation orthogonal to channels 52, 54 (shown in FIG. 12C) and then studs 34 are telescopically expanded to the desired height, as shown in FIG. 12D. FIG. 12B shows central folding/extending framework 91 at an intermediate stage when studs 34 are being pivoted relative to channels 52, 54.

In the illustrated embodiment, lower channel 54 is coupled to level one floor 41 by projecting fasteners (e.g. self-tapping screws) through pre-drilled holes in lower channel 54 and corresponding pre-drilled holes in level one sub-floor sheeting 28. When central folding/extending framework 91 is configured, to its expanded configuration, studs 34 extend telescopically from lower channel 54 (at level one floor 41), through spaces 31 between outermost level two joists 20 and outermost arched ribs 16A (FIG. 4C) and up to the underside of level three joists 32. The extension of studs 34 through level two floor 43 is shown in FIG. 9A, where level two floor 43 is shown schematically as a horizontal dashed line. Space 31 provided by fasteners 21A′ and 21B′ accommodates the extension of studs 34 through level two floor 43. When expanded in this manner, upper channel 52 may abut against the underside of level three joists 32 and upper channel 52 may be coupled to level three joists 32 by projecting fasteners (e.g. self-tapping screws) through pre-drilled holes in upper channel 52 and corresponding pre-drilled holes in level three joists 32. In embodiments that include third floor hat bars 30A mounted on the lower sides of joists 32, upper channel 52 will abut the third floor hat bars 30A rather than joists 32, and upper channel 52 will be coupled to third floor hat bars 30A by projecting fasteners (e.g. self-tapping screws) through pre-drilled holes in upper channel 52 and corresponding pre-drilled holes in third floor hat bars 30A.

In the embodiment illustrated schematically in FIGS. 12A-12D, central folding/extending end wall framework 91 comprises two window framework elements 97. Window framework elements 97 comprise two horizontal framework elements 97A and 97B, and one vertical framework element 97C. Vertical framework element 97C is pivotally coupled to horizontal framework elements 97A and 97B. Window framework element 97 may therefore be configured to compressed configurations and expanded configurations. FIG. 12A shows window framework element 97 in a relatively compressed configuration, FIG. 12B shows window framework element 97 in an intermediate configuration, and FIGS. 12C and 12D show window framework element 97 in the fully expanded configuration. Window framework element 97 may include brackets, shown schematically in FIG. 12C as brackets 99, at the distal ends of horizontal framework elements 97A and 97B. Window framework element 97 is coupled to central folding/extending endwall framework 91 at an appropriate location between upper windows (83A and 8313) and lower windows (83C and 83D) by projecting fasteners (e.g. self-tapping screws) through pre-drilled holes in brackets 99 and corresponding pre-drilled holes in studs 34.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 12A-12D, central folding/extending endwall framework 91 also includes two additional telescoping studs 98 pivotally coupled to upper channel 52 and lower channel 54. Studs 98 may be provided approximately 5 inches from outermost studs 34 of central end wall framework 91, and are substantially similar in design to studs 34.

Transverse folding/extending end wall frameworks 93 are substantially similar to one another and, in many respects, are similar to central folding/extending end wall framework 91. Transverse folding/extending frameworks 93 comprise an upper channel 92 and a lower channel 94 and a plurality of telescoping studs 34 pivotally coupled thereto. Transverse folding/extending end wall frameworks 93 can also be configured to compressed configurations (as shown schematically in FIG. 13A) and expanded configurations (FIG. 13C) in a manner similar to central folding/extending end wall framework 91. FIG. 13B schematically shows a transverse folding/extending end wall framework 93 at an intermediate stage of extension. Transverse folding/extending end wall frameworks 93 differ from central folding/extending end wall framework 91 in that when configured to the expanded configuration, upper channels 92 have the angled orientation shown in FIG. 9A.

Lower channels 94 of transverse end wall frameworks 93 are coupled to level one floor 41 in a manner substantially similar to lower channel 54 of central end wall framework 91. When transverse folding/extending frameworks 93 are configured to their expanded configuration, studs 34 extend telescopically from lower channel 94 (at level one floor 41), through spaces 31 between outermost level two joists 20 and upward to the level of outermost arched rib 16A. The extension of studs 34 through level two floor 43 is shown in FIG. 9A, where level two floor 43 is shown schematically as a horizontal dashed line. When expanded in this manner, upper channel 92 may be coupled to outermost arched rib 16A by projecting fasteners (e.g. self-tapping screws) through pre-drilled holes in upper channels 92 and corresponding pre-drilled hole in outermost arched ribs 16A.

In the illustrated embodiment, studs 34 of central end wall framework 91 are provided at 32 inch centers and studs 34 of transverse end wall frameworks 93 are provided at 16 inch centers. End wall framework 106 may also comprise a plurality of intermediate frame elements 96 which may be used to define windows 83 (shown as windows 83A, 83B, 83C, and 83D in FIG. 9A) and/or door 85 and to provide additional strength and connection points to end walls 14. In the embodiment of FIG. 9A, intermediate frame elements 96 are horizontally or vertically oriented. In the illustrated embodiment, intermediate frame elements 96 provide additional connection points between the 32 inch centers of studs 34 of central end wall framework 91. Intermediate frame elements 96, may be mounted to the elements of central end wall framework 91 (and, in some embodiments, to the elements of transverse end wall frameworks 93) by projecting fasteners (e.g. self tapping screws or other threaded fasteners) through pre-drilled holes.

In the illustrated embodiment, end wall framework 106 also comprises a plurality of intermediate frame members 96 above level three floor 45 to provide level three end wall framework 95. Level three floor 45 is shown schematically in FIG. 9A as a horizontal dashed line. A horizontally extending one of these intermediate frame members 96 may be coupled to sub-floor sheeting 28 of level three floor 45 by projecting fasteners (e.g. self-tapping screws) through pre-drilled holes. Vertically extending ones of these intermediate frame members 96 may be coupled to the horizontally extending intermediate frame member 96 and to outermost arched rib 16A by projecting fasteners (e.g. self-tapping screws) through pre-drilled holes.

End walls 14 may be covered by exterior end wall sheeting 63. In some embodiments, exterior end wall sheeting 63 may be substantially similar to exterior wall/roof sheeting 46 described above and may comprise substantially horizontally oriented corrugations which extend in transverse direction 102. Exterior end wall sheeting 63 may be provided in sheets which extend in transverse direction 102. Individual sheets of end wall sheeting 63 may be pre-cut at their transverse edges and/or upper edges to accommodate the shape of arched walls 12 and to accommodate windows and doors in end walls 14.

Exterior end wall sheeting 63 may be mounted to the various elements of end wall framework 106 (e.g. studs 34, channels 52, 54, 92, 94 and/or intermediate frame elements 96) in a manner similar to that which is used to mount exterior wall/roof sheeting 46 to arched ribs 16A. More particularly, exterior end wall sheeting 63 may be provided with pre-drilled holes (not shown) which align with corresponding pre-drilled holes (not shown) in the elements of end wall framework 106 and suitable fasteners 57 (which may comprise self-tapping screws) may project through these aligned holes to mount exterior end wall sheeting 63 to end wall framework 106.

FIG. 9B depicts the layout of the individual sheets 63A-63S of exterior end wall sheeting 63 on end walls 14 according to a particular embodiment. In the illustrated embodiment, exterior end wall sheeting 63 may be identical for front end wall 14A and rear end wall 14B and end walls 14 may each comprise four windows 83A, 83B, 83C, 83D (collectively, windows 83) and one door 85. Exterior end wall sheeting 63 may be pre-cut on its transverse edges and/or upper edges to conform to the shape of arched walls 12. In the illustrated embodiment, the upper edge of panel 63A and the transverse edges of panels 63B, 63C, 63E, 63F, 6H, 63K, 63L, 63M, 63N, 63, 63R, 63S may be pre-cut in this manner. Exterior end wall sheeting 63 may also be pre-cut as shown in FIG. 9B to accommodate windows 83 and door 85.

Arched walls 12 may be provided with insulation 44. Insulation 44 is shown in hidden lines in FIG. 6, as insulation 44 is located behind arched rib 16 in the illustrated view. In currently preferred embodiments, vertically extending strips of insulation 44 are installed on the exterior of hat bars 30 and between arched ribs 16. Adjacent strips of insulation 44 may abut against one another and/or overlap one another in edge to edge relationship in longitudinal direction 101 (i.e. along their vertically extending edges) and in a vertical direction (i.e. along their longitudinally extending edges). Adjacent abutting and/or overlapping strips of insulation 44 may be taped to one another. Insulation 44 may additionally or alternatively be taped to elements of structural frame 104 (e.g. hat bars 30 and/or arched ribs 16A) and/or to the elements of various floors (e.g. sub-floor sheeting 28). Strips of insulation 44 may be pre-notched to accommodate intersections between arched ribs 16A and hat bars 30.

End walls 14 may also be provided with insulation 44 which may be installed in vertically extending strips of insulation 44 extending between studs 34. As with insulation 44 on arched walls 12, adjacent abutting and/or overlapping strips of insulation 44 may be taped to one another. End walls 14 may abut against one another and/or overlap one another in edge to edge relationship in longitudinal direction 101 (i.e. along their vertically extending edges) and in a vertical direction (i.e. along their longitudinally extending edges). Adjacent abutting and/or overlapping strips of insulation 44 may be taped to one another. Insulation 44 may additionally or alternatively be taped to elements of end wall frames 106 (e.g. studs 34 and/or end wall frame channels 52, 54) and/or to the elements of various floors (e.g. sub-floor sheeting 28). The top edge of insulation 44 in end walls 14 may be precut to conform to the arched shape of arched walls 12.

In some embodiments, insulation 44 may be reflective and may be designed to insulate structure 10 from heat and/or cold. A suitable form of insulation is sold under the brand name Reflectix™ sold by Reflectix, Inc. of Markleville, Ind. In some applications additional insulation may be required and may be provided by any form of insulation material, such as a suitable foam or the like. Preferably such insulation material is sufficiently thin that there can be room for venting in arched walls 12 between insulation 44 and exterior wall/roof sheeting 46 and/or in end walls 14 between insulation 44 and exterior end wall sheeting 63. Preferably, there is also room in end walls 14 and/or arched walls 16 for electrical and plumbing on an interior of insulation 44.

Prior to finishing the interior of arched walls 12 and end walls 14, suitable electrical components and wiring (not shown) and/or plumbing components and conduits (not shown) may be installed and run between arched ribs 16A (for arched walls 12) or studs 34 (for end walls 14). Such electrical components and plumbing are preferably pre-cut to length and are assembled in accordance with a plan. Preferably, the plumbing and electrical components are standard to particular applications of structure 10 and may be assembled according to one of a plurality suitable plans (i.e. one plan for each of a plurality of different applications for building 10). The electrical system can be configured for normal grid supply or for solar and/or wind-power systems. The plumbing piping is preferably located in one area of building 10 so as to simplify installation. Structure 10 may be provided with one or more sinks, showers, toilets.

After installation of plumbing and electrical, interior wall/roof sheeting may optionally be mounted to arched walls 12, interior wall sheeting may optionally be mounted to end walls 14 and ceiling sheeting may optionally be mounted under level two joists 20 and under level three joists 32. In embodiments that include third floor hat bars 30A, ceiling sheeting may be mounted to third floor hat bars 30A rather than to level three joists 32. In general, this interior sheeting may comprise any suitable material and may be erected in any suitable sheet pattern. In some embodiments, this interior sheeting comprises horizontally extending corrugations, although this is not necessary.

In currently preferred embodiments, the interior wall/roof sheeting on arched walls 12 is pre-drilled with a plurality of series of holes that correspond to the spacing of hat bars 30 along arched ribs 16A and which are spaced apart in longitudinal direction 101. Hat bars 30 are also pre-drilled with holes at locations spaced apart in longitudinal direction 101. Suitable fasteners (which may comprise self-tapping screws) may project through these pre-drilled holes to secure the interior wall/roof sheeting of arched walls 12 to hat bars 30. The interior wall/roof sheeting on arched walls 12 may be pre-cut (e.g. notched) to accommodate joists 26, 20, 32.

In a similar manner, interior wall sheeting for end walls 14 may comprise a plurality of series of pre-drilled holes which correspond to the spacing of end wall studs 34 in transverse direction 102 and which are vertically spaced apart from one another. Studs 34 are also pre-drilled with holes at vertically spaced apart locations. Suitable fasteners (which may comprise self-tapping screws) may project through these pre-drilled holes to secure the interior wall sheeting of end walls 14 to end wall studs 34. In some embodiments, the interior wall sheeting of end walls 14 may also be coupled (via fasteners projecting through pre-drilled holes) to horizontally extending end wall frame channels 52, 54. The interior sheeting of end walls 14 may be pre-cut on its transverse and/or upper edges to conform to the shape of arched walls 12. Also, the interior sheeting of end walls 14 may be pre-cut to accommodate one or more window(s) and one or more door(s).

Ceiling sheeting may be mounted under level two joists 20 and/or under level three joists 32. Such ceiling sheeting may comprise pre-drilled holes which correspond to the locations of joists 20, 32. The undersides of joists 20, 32 may comprise similarly spaced apart pre-drilled holes. Suitable fasteners (which may comprise self-tapping screws) may project through these pre-drilled holes to secure the interior ceiling sheeting to joists 20, 32. In embodiments including third floor hat bars 30A, ceiling sheeting may be mounted in a similar manner to the undersides of hat bars 30A. Alternatively, ceiling sheeting may be mounted between the joists, leaving the joists exposed as a beamed ceiling. In embodiments having the joists exposed as a beamed ceiling, ceiling sheeting is mounted to sub-floor sheeting 28 of sub-floors 43, 45, rather than to joists 20, 32.

One or more window(s) 83 and one or more door(s) 85 may be installed in end walls 14. In the illustrated embodiment, each of end walls 14 comprises four windows 83 and one door 85. Preferably, doors 85 and windows 83 are prefabricated so that they may be mounted to end wall studs 34 using suitable fasteners (e.g. self-tapping screws). The sides of studs 34 and window/door frames may comprise pre-drilled holes to accommodate these fasteners.

End walls 14 may be fabricated with plastic molding to cover joints between their various parts and/or between end walls 14 and other components of building 10. Such molding may also help to help seal structure 10. Plastic molding may be used at the joint between end walls 14 and arched walls 12. Such molding may be used between the interior wall sheeting of end walls 14 and arched walls 12 and/or between the exterior wall sheeting 63 of end walls 14 and arched walls 12. Plastic molding may also be used at the interior end wall sheeting and/or exterior end wall sheeting 63 around the windows and doors.

Various optional features may be added to the interior of structure 10. For example, in the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 10A, structure 10 comprises: interior walls 71 which divide the interior of structure 10 into multiple rooms; stairs 73 which extend between level one floor 41 and level two floor 43; and various furniture and fixtures 75A, 75B, 75C, 75D, 75E (collectively, furniture and fixtures 75). By way of non-limiting example, furniture and fixtures 75 may include: seat (e.g. a couch and/or chairs), beds, cabinetry, one or more sinks, a toilet and the like.

Interior walls 71 may comprise upper and lower channels having U-shaped cross-sections which may be respectively mounted to the ceiling and floor of structure 10 at the level in which an interior wall 71 is desired. For example, if it is desired to have an interior wall 71 on level one, then a lower channel my be coupled to sub-floor sheeting 28 of level one floor 41 and an upper channel may be coupled to level two joists 20 and/or to the ceiling paneling mounted to level two joists 20. These upper and lower channels and the sub-floor sheeting, ceiling sheeting and/or joists to which the channels are mounted may be pre-drilled with holes for receiving threaded fasteners. Upper channels that attach to arched walls 12 are preferably curved to the shape of the wall.

Interior wall panels may then be mounted between these upper and lower channels to form interior walls 71. These interior wall panels may comprise a rigid foam interior with a facing made from suitable material (e.g. vinyl, wood, steel panel, or the like). These interior wall panels may be pre-cut to size, which may be slightly less (e.g. 1 inch) than the height between the floor and ceiling. The corners and edges of these interior wall panels may comprise steel edges toward the doors and between the panel sections to strengthen interior wall 71. These edges may be 22 gauge steel channels and may be thin enough steel to take screws to anchor the doors in place.

Stairs 73 may comprise a pair of stringers 77 which may comprise steel beams with optionally beveled ends (not shown) and with four-sided cross-section or C-shaped cross-section. Stringers 77 may comprise 18 or 20 gauge steel for example. As shown in the partial exploded view of FIG. 10B, horizontally oriented cleats 79 having L-shaped cross-sections may be mounted to stringers 77 at regular intervals to support treads 81 of stairs 73. Cleats 79 and stringers 77 may be provided with pre-drilled holes (not specifically enumerated) for accepting fasteners (e.g. bolts and/or self-tapping screws) to mount cleats 79 to stringers 77. Cleats 77 and treads 81 may be provided with pre-drilled holes (not specifically enumerated) for accepting fasteners (e.g. bolts and/or self-tapping screws) to mount treads 81 to cleats 79. Stairs 73 may optionally be provided with a handrail (not shown) which may be mounted to the outside of stringers 77 using pre-drilled holes and suitable fasteners. In the illustrated embodiment, stairs 73 also comprise a landing 87 (FIG. 10A) which may be raised above level one floor 41. The height of landing 87 may depend on the desired slope of stairs 73.

Assembly of structure 10 is now described. First, if an optional foundation is used, then beams 24 are coupled to foundation elements. Beams 24 are then spread and squared. Central level one joist 26A is mounted to the center pre-drilled hole of each beam 24, as shown in FIGS. 8A and 4B. Arched ribs 16A are then assembled and coupled to level one, two and three joists 26, 20, 32 while arched ribs 16A are in a flat orientation (e.g. on the ground). More particularly, arch members 16 are coupled to one another using angled members 17 to form arched ribs 16A, as shown in FIG. 5. While still in a flat orientation, joists 26, 20, 32 are coupled to arched ribs 16A as shown in FIGS. 4A and 4C. It should be noted that the outermost level two joists 20 are spaced apart from arched ribs 16A as shown in FIG. 4C and that no level one joist is coupled to central arched rib 16A yet, as central level one joist 26A is used to space apart beams 24.

Arched ribs 16A (with their joists 26, 20, 32 mounted as described above) are then stood upright and coupled to beams 24. Preferably, arched ribs 16A (with their joists 26, 20, 32 mounted as described above) are stood upright and coupled to beams 24 in order. More particularly, a first arched rib 16A at a first end of structure 10 is stood upright and coupled to the pre-drilled holes in beam 24. As the first arched frame 16A (with its joists 26, 20, 32 mounted as described above) is stood upright and mounted to beam 24, the first arched rib 16A may be secured in an upright orientation using a temporary stabilizing hat bar 56 running from the first arched rib 16A to beam 24.

When a second arched rib 16A (with its joists 26, 20, 32 mounted as described above) is stood upright and coupled to beam 24, one or more hat bars 30 on each side of structure 10 may be coupled into the pre-drilled holes in the first and second arched ribs 16A to stabilize arched ribs 16A as they are erected. This hat bar 30 extends the length of structure 10 in longitudinal direction 101 and as each arched rib 16A (with its joists 26, 20, 32 mounted as described above) is lifted into a standing position and coupled to beams 24, this hat bar 30 is anchored to arched rib 16A to stabilize arched ribs 16A. Once a sufficient number of arched ribs 16A have been erected, temporary stabilizing hat bar 56 may be removed from structure 10.

When all arched ribs 16A are standing, the level one sub-floor sheeting 28 may be coupled to the pre-drilled holes in level one floor joists 26. Hat bars 30 may also be coupled (via pre-drilled holes in hat bar 30 and in arched ribs 16A) between level one floor 41 and level two floor 43. Level two sub-floor sheeting 28 may then be secured to level two joists 20 via pre-drilled holes. Hat bars 30 may then be coupled to arched ribs 16A between level two floor 43 and level three floor 45. Third floor hat bars 30A, if used, may then be coupled to the undersides of level three joists 32. Level three sub-floor sheeting 28 and hat bars 30 above level three floor 45 may then be installed.

Insulation 44 may be installed in arched walls 12 at this time.

Structural frame 104 is then reinforced by applying exterior wall/roof sheeting 46 to arched ribs 16A. As discussed above, the corrugations on exterior wall/roof sheeting 46 run in the longitudinal direction 101 to provide structure 10 with an additional layer of cross-bracing. On the interior, wall/roof sheeting may be coupled to hat bars 30. Interior wall/roof sheeting may add another layer of cross-strengthening to the frame of structure 10.

At this stage, structure 10 is now series of arched ribs 16A (i.e. opposing arched members 16) with reinforced strength resulting from hat bars 30, beams 24 and corrugations of wall/roof sheeting in the longitudinal direction 101 and from joists 26, 20, 32 in the transverse direction 102.

Folding/extending end wall frames 91, 93 are then expanded to their expanded configurations and installed on structure 10 as described above. Intermediate end wall frame elements 96 and window framework elements 97, if used, may be coupled to folding/extending end wall frames 91, 93 through pre-drilled holes, so as to complete end wall framework 106. Insulation 44, plumbing and electrical are then installed in end walls 14. Exterior end wall sheeting 63 and interior end wall sheeting may then be mounted to end wall framework 106 as described above.

Windows 83 and doors 85 may then be mounted, stairs 73 may be assembled and installed, interior walls 71 may be assembled and installed and furniture and fixtures 75 may be added as desired to complete the assembly of structure 10.

As discussed above, it is preferable that all of the components used to form structure 10 are preformed, pre-cut and provided with pre-drilled holes to make it as easy as possible to erect structure 10 (even for a non-skilled person). In some embodiments, all of the components of structure 10 may be delivered in a single container. In some embodiments, the container itself may be fabricated using components that will eventually be used to fabricate structure 10. By way of non-limiting example, some of the floor joists 26, 20 may be used to form the framework of the container and some of the sheeting (e.g. exterior wall/roof sheeting 46) may be used to form the lining of the container. In this manner, one aspect of the invention may be provided as a kit for assembling structure 10 comprising components that are preformed, pre-cut and provided with pre-drilled holes.

As will be apparent to those skilled in the art in the light of the foregoing disclosure, many alterations and modifications are possible in the practice of this invention without departing from the spirit or scope thereof. For example:

    • In the illustrated embodiment hat bars 30 are provided with the generally trapezoidal profile shown in FIG. 6. In other embodiments, hat bars 30 may have other types of cross-sectional profiles. Preferably, however, hat bars 30 have a cross-sectional profile which provides a pair of spaced apart mounting surfaces (e.g. mounting flanges 28B and base portion 28C) and hat bars 30 have a cross-sectional profile which provides strength.