Title:
PREFABRICATED BUILDING AND METHOD
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An improved prefabricated building structure is shown that is easy to assemble, and disassemble. Designs include transportability as a substantially single unit, for example, a standardized shipping container format. Designs shown further include reduction of wasted shipping material by using panels for both the container when collapsed, and the structure when assembled. Features such as fastener designs provide ease of assembly and form a robust structure when assembled.



Inventors:
Donahue, Patrick (Superior, WI, US)
Johnson, Scott E. (Lake Nebagamon, WI, US)
Application Number:
11/275576
Publication Date:
08/24/2006
Filing Date:
01/17/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04H6/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
KENNY, DANIEL J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SCHWEGMAN LUNDBERG & WOESSNER / U of M (MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A prefabricated building structure, comprising: a number of panels; a number of pre-installed fastening devices to connect the panels together, wherein the fastening devices do not require tools to perform a fastening operation; and wherein a collapsed configuration of the building structure is the size of a standardized shipping container.

2. The prefabricated building structure of claim 1, wherein selected members of the number of panels serve as an exterior shipping container structure in the collapsed configuration, and also serve as structural portions of the building structure in an assembled configuration.

3. The prefabricated building structure of claim 1, wherein the fastening devices engage in a linear motion by sliding against each other.

4. The prefabricated building structure of claim 1, wherein the standardized shipping container includes an 8 foot width and a 20 foot length.

5. The prefabricated building structure of claim 1, wherein the number of panels are made from substantially all wood.

6. The prefabricated building structure of claim 1, wherein the number of panels include balsam fir dimensional lumber.

7. A prefabricated building structure, comprising: a number of panels; a number of pre-installed fastening devices to connect the panels together, wherein the fastening devices do not require tools to perform a fastening operation; wherein a collapsed configuration of the building structure is transportable substantially as a single unit; and wherein selected members of the number of panels serve as an exterior shipping container structure in the collapsed configuration, and also serve as structural portions of the building structure in an assembled configuration.

8. The prefabricated building structure of claim 7, wherein the fastening devices engage in a linear motion by sliding against each other.

9. The prefabricated building structure of claim 7, wherein the number of panels are made from substantially all wood.

10. A prefabricated building structure, comprising: a base portion; at least one wall panel to couple to the base portion; a first fastener to hold against the base portion; and a mating fastener attached within the wall panel, wherein a fastening operation is accomplished without a need to access an interior of the wall panel.

11. The prefabricated building structure of claim 10, wherein the first fastener and mating fastener include male and female threaded fasteners.

12. The prefabricated building structure of claim 10, further including a finished interior wall surface attached to the wall panel prior to assembly of the prefabricated building structure.

13. A method of assembling a prefabricated building structure, comprising: placing a base portion in a desired location; coupling a number of wall panels to the base portion; pouring concrete into at least one region within the base portion, wherein the region contains the concrete while it hardens.

14. The method of claim 13, wherein placing the base portion in a desired location includes placing a steel framework base portion in a desired location.

15. A method of assembling a prefabricated building structure, comprising: placing a first wall panel on a base portion; placing a second wall panel on a base portion; coupling the first wall panel to the second wall panel using a post wherein the post includes a number of pre-installed fastening devices, wherein the fastening devices do not require tools to perform a fastening operation.

16. The method of claim 15, wherein the first wall panel and the second wall panel are coupled together orthogonal to each other.

17. The method of claim 15, wherein the first wall panel and the second wall panel are coupled together substantially in line with each other.

18. A method of assembling a prefabricated building structure, comprising: removing at least one floor panel from a top portion of a collapsed configuration of a building structure that is a size of a standardized shipping container and placing the floor panel adjacent to the ground to form at least a part of a base portion; coupling a number of wall panels to the base portion; and coupling the wall panels to each other using a number of fastening devices, wherein the fastening devices do not require tools to perform a fastening operation.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein coupling the number of wall panels to the base portion includes coupling wherein a fastening operation is accomplished without a need to access an interior of the number of wall panels.

20. The method of claim 18, wherein coupling the wall panels to each other includes: placing a first wall panel on the base portion; placing a second wall panel on the base portion; coupling the first wall panel to the second wall panel using a post wherein the post includes a number of pre-installed fastening devices, wherein the fastening devices do not require tools to perform a fastening operation.

Description:

This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/644,616 filed on Jan. 18, 2005, and U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/729,307 filed on Oct. 21, 2005. Both Provisional Application 60/644,616 and 60/729,307 are herein incorporated by reference.

GOVERNMENT FUNDING

The present subject matter was partially supported by the United States Department of Agriculture CSREES under Agency Grant Number 2003-34158-13838. The United States government may have certain rights in the invention.

TECHNICAL FIELD

This invention relates to prefabricated buildings. Specifically, this invention relates to prefabricated housing products and methods.

BACKGROUND

Prefabricated buildings are desirable for many applications. Prefabricated housing, for example is useful for disaster relief, where events such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, etc. destroy the homes of residents. In such as situation, a prefabricated house can be delivered quickly to the disaster site, and assembled quickly to minimize the time that disaster victims spend in mass occupancy shelters. Prefabricated housing is also desirable for temporary housing needs apart from disaster relief. Other examples of prefabricated buildings include temporary military housing, construction site housing, or temporary vacation housing, etc. Although prefabricated housing examples are discussed, the present application is also applicable to other types of prefabricated buildings including prefabricated outbuildings, garages, light commercial buildings, etc.

It is desirable for prefabricated buildings to be easy to assemble quickly, and yet be structurally robust. It is also desirable for prefabricated buildings to be compact and easy to transport from one location to another. Some previous prefabricated building designs were constructed of structural steel or other heavy materials, making it difficult for users to assemble without heavy machinery. Other prefabricated building designs assembled using fasteners such as bolts or nails that required extra time and tools to assemble. Use of nails, or welds made disassembly difficult, or impossible.

What is needed is an improved prefabricated building design and associated methods to address issues such as these and provide an easy to use, easily transportable building design. What is also needed are designs and methods that can easily be converted to a permanent structure.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a building structure according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 shows close up views of fasteners according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 3A shows a top view diagram of a portion of a building structure according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 3B shows a side view diagram of a portion of a building structure according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 4 shows another side view diagram of a portion of a building structure according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 5 shows another side view diagram of a portion of a building structure according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 6 shows an isometric view of a base portion of a building structure according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 7 shows a side view diagram of the base portion of FIG. 6 according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 8 shows a top view diagram of a portion of a building structure according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 9 shows an exploded view diagram of a portion of a building structure according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIGS. 10A-10E show an assembly operation of a portion of a building structure according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIGS. 11-1 to 11-28 show an assembly operation of a portion of a building structure according to an embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

In the following detailed description, reference is made to the accompanying drawings which form a part hereof, and in which is shown, by way of illustration, specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. In the drawings, like numerals describe substantially similar components throughout the several views. These embodiments are described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention. Other embodiments may be utilized and structural, mechanical, or logical changes, etc. may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention.

FIG. 1 shows a prefabricated building structure 100 in a partially collapsed configuration. The prefabricated building structure 100 includes a number of panels 110. In one embodiment, the number of panels 110 are housed within a main body 108 while in the collapsed configuration. A first base 112 and a second base 114 are also shown in the Figure. In one embodiment, the first base 112 and the second base 114 are used to form floor sections in an assembled configuration. In one embodiment, in a complete collapsed configuration, the first base 112 and the second base 114 are located on top of the main body 108. Roof panels are not shown in FIG. 1. In one embodiment, roof panels include insulated metal panels. Examples of metal panels include steel panels and aluminum panels. In one embodiment, roof panels include wood.

In one embodiment, the panels 110 include construction from balsam fir dimensional lumber. In one embodiment, balsam fir dimensional lumber includes advantages such as light weight, high strength to weight ratio, and dimensional integrity (such as being straighter than other lumber). In one embodiment, other components of the main body 108 are also constructed of balsam fir dimensional lumber.

In one embodiment, panels such as the first base 112 or the second base 114 serve as part of a shipping container in the collapsed configuration (such as a top portion). In one embodiment, selected panels also serve as structural portions of the building structure 100 in the assembled configuration. This design has an advantage of reduced waste of shipping materials. The shipping container itself is used as a portion of the assembled structure.

In one embodiment, the main body 108 defines standardized shipping container dimensions. The main body 108 shown in FIG. 1 includes a width 102, a length 104, and a height 106. In one embodiment, a collapsed configuration footprint includes the width 102, and the length 104. In one embodiment, the collapsed configuration footprint includes an 8 foot width and a 20 foot length. Although one collapsed configuration footprint is described, other standardized shipping container footprints and volumes are within the scope of the invention. One of ordinary skill in the art, having the benefit of the present disclosure will recognize that possible standardized shipping containers sizes include dimensions for ocean liner transportation, semi trailer transportation, railway transportation, etc. In one embodiment, the shipping container dimensions are not governed by a size standard. In non-standard shipping container embodiments, the shipping container is dimensioned such that substantially all of the component for the building can be transported as a single unit, for example by flatbed truck.

FIG. 2 illustrates one embodiment of fastening device used to assemble at least a portion of the number of panels 110 shown in FIG. 1. A first edge 210 and a second edge 212 are shown. In one embodiment, each edge includes a mating portion of a fastening device. A first mating portion 220 and a second mating portion 224 are shown in the Figure in illustration 203. In one embodiment, the first mating portion 220 includes a first engagement feature 224, and the second mating portion 224 includes a second engagement feature 226. In one embodiment, the engagement features function as a slide and lock fastener. In illustration 201, arrow 202 shows the direction that the second edge 212 slides in relation to the first edge 210 in a fastening operation. In illustration 202, the second edge 212 is shown locked against the first edge 210 as a result of the fastening motion 202 from illustration 201.

Illustration 204 shows two pairs of fastening devices located along the interface between the first edge 210 and the second edge 212. Although two pairs of fasteners are shown, the invention is not so limited. Other numbers of pairs of fasteners are also within the scope of the invention. In one embodiment, the fastener design provides advantages such as ability to assemble panels without tools. The panels are merely slid against each other to engage the fasteners. In one embodiment, the fastener design provides an advantage of center panel engagement as opposed to external surface panel engagement. Center panel fastening as illustrated in FIG. 2 provides a higher strength interface than external joining such as side plates.

FIG. 3A shows a block diagram building footprint 300. A number of channels 310 are coupled to a peripheral edge of the footprint 300. In one embodiment, a channel is coupled to all peripheral edges of the footprint 300. In one embodiment, a channel is coupled to portions of the peripheral edges. In one embodiment, a panel such as the first base 112 and the second base 114 shown in FIG. 1, include channels coupled to outside edges of the panels.

FIG. 3B shows a side view of one channel 310 to illustrate its function. A base portion 320 is shown, and a wall panel 330 is shown. In one embodiment, a bottom portion 344 of the channel 310 is included to fasten to the base portion 320. In one embodiment, an upward facing portion 342 forms the channel for the wall panel 330 to fit into. A fastener 332 is shown for illustration on a side surface of the wall panel 330. In one embodiment, the upward facing portion 342 of the channel 310 holds the wall panel 330 in place and further provides assembly of the building structure without tools. During assembly, the wall panel 330 is pushed downward into the upward facing portion 342 of the channel 310 at the same time the fastener 332 is engaged with a mating fastener portion. In this way, the wall panel 330 is securely held both by the channel at its base, and by the fastener 332 along its edge. In one embodiment, a second channel is installed along the top edges of previously installed wall panels 330 to provide additional structural robustness to the building design.

FIG. 4 shows another embodiment of a joint between a wall and a floor portion. FIG. 5 shows details of an alternative embodiment to fasten wall panels to a floor. FIG. 5 shows a base portion or floor 520 similar to the base portion 320 shown in FIG. 3B. A wall panel 530 is also shown in FIG. 5. A cutaway section in FIG. 5 reveals one possible interior detail on the wall panel 530. In one embodiment, the wall panel 530 includes side panels 532 that abut against a bottom portion 534. In one embodiment, the side panels 532 include plywood or other acceptable paneling material. In one embodiment, the bottom portion includes a wood 2×4 or similar dimensioned material. In one embodiment, a fastener 550 is included similar to fastener 332 shown in FIG. 3B and other figures discussed above.

A threaded fastener 540 such as a bolt, self tapping screw, etc. is shown in FIG. 5. In one embodiment, the threaded fastener 540 threads into a receiving fastener 542. In one embodiment, the receiving fastener 542 includes an insert such as a T-nut or other receiving fastener 542 that may be coupled to the bottom portion prior to assembly of the wall panel 530 to the floor 520. One advantage of this fastener configuration is that wall panels 530 can be prefabricated and enclosed with side panels 532 on both sides of the wall panel 530 prior to attachment of the wall panel 530 on the floor 520. This speeds up the assembly process of the building unit and allows for finished interior surfaces without any additional interior finishing operation such as drywall installation or paneling, etc.

FIG. 6 shows one embodiment of a floor frame 600. In one embodiment, the floor frame is composed of a network of a number of beams 610. In one embodiment, the beams 610 are steel beams, although other beam materials such as wood or other metals, etc. are within the scope of the invention. A number of spaces 620 are formed by the number of beams 610 in the frame 600. FIG. 7 shows a side view of an embodiment of a floor frame 600.

In one embodiment, wooden floor panels such as plywood, particle board, other laminate products, etc. are attached over the frame 600 to form a floor for the building unit. In one embodiment, the spaces 620 provide a form for holding concrete in place to form a slab-on-grade floor. In one embodiment, the frame 600 is leveled on the building site, and a slab-on-grade floor is formed. In one embodiment, the building unit is at least partially assembled before a concrete floor is poured. For example, wall sections are installed before concrete is poured in one embodiment. In one embodiment, a roof is installed after the floor is formed. Using an embodiment with a frame 600 as described above, a building unit can be erected as a temporary building, and moved a number of times before deciding on a permanent location. Once a permanent location is selected, a more permanent foundation, such as the slab-on-grade foundation described above, can be formed.

FIG. 8 shows a block diagram of one embodiment of a building unit packaged in a collapsed configuration such as a standard shipping container footprint. A number of floor panels 710 are shown along with a number of wall panels 720. In one embodiment additional floor panels are included as part of the exterior of the shipping container as will be discussed in more detail below. FIG. 9 shows one embodiment of assembly of the main box substantially as shown in FIG. 8.

FIGS. 10A through 10E show one embodiment of a building unit and method of assembly. FIG. 10A shows a floor panel 910 and a first wall panel 912 and a second wall panel 914. A corner post 920 is shown for connection of the wall panels and floor panel. FIG. 10B shows the first wall panel 912 coupled to the floor panel 910 using one of the connections methods discussed above. FIG. 10C shows the second wall panel 914 coupled to the floor panel 910 using one of the connections methods discussed above. In one embodiment, a corner post 920 is coupled between the first wall panel 912 and the second wall panel 914. FIG. 10D shows the corner post 920 put into place along direction arrow 922. In one embodiment, the downward direction facilitates use of fasteners such as 550 from FIG. 5, or 332 from FIG. 3B, or 220 from FIG. 2, etc. FIG. 10E shows a completed corner using corner post 920.

The use of posts in conjunction with wall panels has an advantage of allowing an assembler to place the heavier wall sections in place first, and maneuvering the lighter weight post 920 to complete the connection. Use of a lighter weight post is easier than moving the more cumbersome wall sections to complete a fastening operation. Although use of posts is shown only on corner sections, the invention is not so limited. In one embodiment, posts are inserted between any selected pair of wall sections. Use of posts between multiple wall sections or all wall sections provides additional floor plan flexibility. For example, walls can be assembled at right angles or in line depending on the desired shape of the room.

FIGS. 11-1 through 11-28 illustrate one possible assembly flow using in this case, 28 assembly steps. FIGS. 11-1 and 11-2 illustrate how a floor panel 1110 is used as a cover for a shipping configuration such as standard shipping container. When the building unit is assembled, the floor panel is removed from the top of the container, and placed on the ground to expand the footprint of the building unit. This packaging configuration has an advantage of structural stability without the need for additional materials. For example, shipping containers are frequently stacked for transportation such as on an ocean liner. In such a situation, the building unit must be robust enough for stacking. The floor panel 1110 is designed to withstand the physical requirements of stacking, and when the building unit is assembled, the necessary stacking strength of the floor panel 1110 is also necessary to provide structure for a building unit floor. In this configuration, heaver materials such as those necessary for floor reinforcement are not wasted. They are used to provide a strong shipping container and they double as use for a floor panel.

An improved prefabricated building structure is shown that is easy to assemble, and disassemble. In one embodiment, no tools are required for assembly of wall panels. In one embodiment, minimal use of tools is required for reversible fasteners such as wood screws that can be easily assebled and disassembled with, for example a cordless drill. Designs and methods disclosed above have advantages such as transportability in a standardized shipping container format. Selected designs and methods disclosed above reduce wasted shipping material by using panels for both the container when collapsed, and the structure when assembled. Features such as fastener designs and channels provide ease of assembly and form a robust structure when assembled. Use of materials such as balsam fir dimensional lumber in selected embodiments provide other advantages as described above, such as reduced weight. Designs such as described above have an advantage of being adaptable to several foundations types including, but not limited to helical piers, concrete blocks, crushed gravel, etc.

While a number of advantages of embodiments described herein are listed above, the list is not exhaustive. Other advantages of embodiments described above will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art, having read the present disclosure. Although specific embodiments have been illustrated and described herein, it will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that any arrangement which is calculated to achieve the same purpose may be substituted for the specific embodiment shown. This application is intended to cover any adaptations or variations of the present invention. It is to be understood that the above description is intended to be illustrative, and not restrictive. Combinations of the above embodiments, and other embodiments will be apparent to those of skill in the art upon reviewing the above description. The scope of the invention includes any other applications in which the above structures and fabrication methods are used. The scope of the invention should be determined with reference to the appended claims, along with the full scope of equivalents to which such claims are entitled.