Title:
BUILDING STRUCTURE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An improved building structure is provided that is relatively inexpensive, easy to assemble and provides stable and sufficient shelter to inhabitants. The structure includes a plurality of support beams with each beam having an arch beam and a cross beam. The arch beam is in the form of a downward opening arch having first and second ends and defines radially inner and outer surfaces. The cross beam spans the arch and a loft may be supported on the cross beams. A skin is supported on the support beams forming the walls and ceiling for the structure. The skin engages the outer surface of the arch beam of each support beam and extends between the ends of the arch beam. End panels may be coupled to a support beam at either end of the structure to enclose the interior space.



Inventors:
Messman, Gerald (Tampa, FL, US)
Sharp, Douglas Ray (Des Moines, IA, US)
Application Number:
11/780893
Publication Date:
01/24/2008
Filing Date:
07/20/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04B7/04
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
TRIGGS, ANDREW J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DYKEMA GOSSETT PLLC (BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MI, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A building structure, comprising: a plurality of support beams, each of said support beams having a arch beam in the form of a downward opening arch, said arch beam having first and second ends and defining radially inner and outer surfaces; and, a cross beam spanning said arch and having first and second ends coupled to said arch beam at first and second points distant from said first and second ends of said arch beam; a skin supported on said plurality of support beams, said skin engaging said outer surface of said arch beam of each of said plurality of support beams and extending between said first and second ends of said arch beam of each of said plurality of support beams; and, a loft supported on at least two of said cross beams of said plurality of support beams.

2. The building structure of claim 1 wherein said arch beam is in the form of a catenary arch.

3. The building structure of claim 1 wherein said first and second ends of said cross beam are coupled to said arch beam at first and second points on said arch beam equidistant from an apex of said arch beam.

4. The building structure of claim 1 wherein said first and second ends of said cross beam are coupled to said radially inner surface of said arch beam.

5. The building structure of claim 1 wherein said skin is formed from a corrugated metal.

6. The building structure of claim 1 wherein said skin includes a translucent panel.

7. The building structure of claim 6 wherein said translucent panel is disposed between an apex of said skin and an end of said skin.

8. The building structure of claim 1 wherein said skin defines an opening configured to receive a vent stack.

9. The building structure of claim 1 wherein said loft defines an opening configured to receive a vent stack.

10. The building structure of claim 1, further comprising a bed suspended from at least two of said arch beams of said plurality of support beams.

11. The building structure of claim 10 wherein a first lateral end of said bed is disposed against said inner surface of said at least two arch beams of said plurality of support beams and a second lateral end, opposite said first lateral end, is suspended from said at least two arch beams of said plurality of support beams, said second lateral end movable into engagement with said inner surface of said at least two arch beams of said plurality of support beams.

12. The building structure of claim 1, further comprising an end panel coupled to a first support beam of said plurality of support beams, said end panel defining a doorway.

13. The building structure of claim 1, further comprising an end panel coupled to a first support beam of said plurality of support beams, said end panel defining a window.

14. The building structure of claim 1, further comprising an end panel coupled to a first support beam of said plurality of support beams, said end panel including a retractable awning.

15. The building structure of claim 14 wherein said awning is disposed over a doorway formed in said first end panel.

16. The building structure of claim 1, further comprising: a plurality of floor beams, each of said floor beams coupled to at least one of said plurality of support beams proximate one of said first and second ends of said at least one support beam; and, a floor supported on said plurality of floor beams.

17. The building structure of claim 16 wherein said floor is formed from a shipping container for said building structure.

18. The building structure of claim 1, wherein a first support beam of said plurality of support beams includes: a base beam extending between said first and second ends of said arch beam; and, first and second vertical beams extending between said cross beam and said base beam and forming a doorway therebetween.

Description:

This application claims priority to pending U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/820,034 filed on Jul. 21, 2006, the entire disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates to building structures and, in particular, to a building structure that is relatively inexpensive and easy to assemble yet provides strong and adaptable shelter for inhabitants or other users of the structure.

2. Discussion of Related Art

A lack of adequate and affordable housing is a long-standing problem that plagues many communities throughout the world. In economically disadvantaged areas, individuals have difficulty locating adequate shelter and communities have difficulty organizing. Similarly, in existing communities where natural disasters have struck, individuals and communities struggle to rebuild and reorganize. The lack of adequate and affordable housing has effects that go beyond the immediate lack of shelter for individuals. A lack of housing makes education, community organization and other goals more difficult to reach because of the transitory nature of a homeless population and the need for resources to support the population.

Numerous attempts have been made to develop affordable and adequate housing including the development of improved building structures. Building structures that are inexpensive to create, however, are frequently weak and offer poor weather resistance. Conversely, stronger building structures are often prohibitively expensive and are more difficult to construct.

The inventors herein have recognized a need for a building structure that is affordable and easy to create, but that also provides strong and adaptable housing for the inhabitants.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a building structure that is affordable, easy to manufacture and assemble, and provides strong and adaptable housing for inhabitants.

A building structure in accordance with the present invention includes a plurality of support beams. Each of the support beams includes a arch beam in the form of a downward opening arch. The arch beam has first and second ends and defines radially inner and outer surfaces. The support beam further includes a cross beam spanning the arch and having first and second ends coupled to the arch beam at first and second points distant from the first and second ends of the arch beam. The building structure further includes a skin supported on the plurality of support beams. The skin engages the outer surface of the arch beam of each of the plurality of support beams and extends between the first and second ends of the arch beam of each of the plurality of support beams. The structure further includes a loft supported on at least two of the cross beams of the plurality of support beams.

A building structure in accordance with the present invention offers many advantages. The structure is relatively inexpensive. The structure is also easy to manufacture and assemble and can be made from materials found locally in most instances. The ease of assembly makes the structure relatively portable. The structure is also scalable. The structure is also relatively strong and weather resistant. Further, the structure is adaptable allowing inhabitants to personalize the structure. The improved structure not only results in improved housing stock, but also facilitates communication organization and community goals by facilitating solutions to homelessness.

These and other advantages of this invention will become apparent to one skilled in the art from the following detailed description and the accompanying drawings illustrating features of this invention by way of example.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the exterior of a building structure in accordance with the present invention.

FIGS. 2-3 are perspective views of the exterior and interior of a building structure in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a portion of a building structure in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 5 is an enlarged perspective view of a portion of a building structure in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the exterior of a building structure in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a portion of a building structure in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 8 is a elevational view of a building structure in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention.

FIGS. 9-11 are cross-sectional views of the building structure of FIG. 8 taken along lines 9-9, 10-10 and 11-11, respectively.

FIG. 12 is a top plan view of the building structure of FIG. 8.

FIG. 13 is a cross-sectional view of the building structure of FIG. 8.

FIG. 14 is a partial cross-sectional view illustrating a portion of the building structure of FIG. 8.

FIG. 15 is a partial cross-sectional view illustrating a portion of the building structure of FIG. 8.

FIG. 16 is a partial cross-sectional view of a ladder used in the building structure of FIG. 8.

FIGS. 17-18 are front and rear plan views of the building structure of FIG. 8.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

Referring now to the drawings wherein like reference numerals are used to identify identical components in the various views, FIGS. 1-3 illustrates a building structure 110 in accordance with the present invention. Structure 110 is primarily designed to serve as residential housing (permanent or temporary). It should be understood, however, that structure 110 may be used for a wide variety of purposes including a storage shed, a workshop, a playhouse, etc. Structure 110 includes a plurality of support beams 112, a skin 114 and end panels 116, 118. Structure 110 may further include floor beams 120, 122 (best shown in FIGS. 4-5), a floor 124, a porch 126, a loft 128, a stove 130, a vent stack 132 and beds 134.

Support beams 112 provide structural support for structure 110. Beams 112 may be made from conventional metals and metal alloys. As shown in the illustrated embodiment, beams 112 may be square or rectangular in cross-section. It should be understood, however, that the cross-sectional shape of beam 112 may vary. Referring to FIG. 4, each beam 112 includes an arch beam 136 and a cross beam 138.

Arch beam 136 is in the form of a downward opening arch. In particular, beam 136 is in the form of a catenary arch that directs forces into the ground directly along the line of the arch. Beam 136 defines ends 140, 142 and an apex 144 equidistant from ends 140, 142. Referring to FIG. 5, beam 136 also defines radially inner and outer surfaces 146, 148 (facing the interior living space and the exterior, respectively). One or more of the beams 112 (e.g., the beam 112 on either end of structure 110) may include posts (not shown) at ends 140, 142 to secure structure 110 to the ground.

Referring again to FIG. 4, cross beam 138 provides improved structural support and also supports loft 128. Cross beam 138 spans the arch formed by arch beam 136. Cross beam 138 may be formed with arch beam 136 as a unitary structure or beam 138 may be coupled to arch beam 136 as a separate member. Beam 138 is substantially straight and defines longitudinal ends 150, 152. Ends 150, 152 may be coupled to arch beam 136 at points on arch beam 136 distant from ends 140, 142 of arch beam 136 and preferably at points that are equidistant from apex 144 of arch beam 136. Ends 150, 152 may be coupled to the radially inner surface 146 of arch beam 136.

Referring again to FIG. 1, skin 114 forms a ceiling and a wall for structure 110. Skin 114 may be made from corrugated metal. Alternatively, skin 114 may made from reinforced fiberglass panels in a variety of colors allowing personalization of structure 110. Skin 114 may also be insulated. Skin 114 may be a unitary structure or may be made from multiple members coupled together. Skin 114 is supported on beams 112. Skin 114 engages the outer surface 148 of arch beam 136 of each support beam 112. Skin 114 extends between ends 140, 142 of each arch beam 136. Referring to FIG. 6, skin 114 may include one or more translucent panels 154 to allow additional light into the interior space of structure 110. Panel 154 may be located at an apex of the arch formed by skin 114 upon assembly to arch beams 136. Referring again to FIGS. 1-3, skin 114 may define an opening 156 configured to receive vent stack 132.

End panels 116, 118 enclose either longitudinal end of structure 110. End panels 116, 118 may be made from aluminum in a honeycomb structure. End panels 116, 118 are secured to one of beams 112 at either longitudinal end of structure 110.

Referring to FIG. 1, end panel 116 may form an entranceway to structure 110 and may include a doorway 158 configured to receive a door 160 (with or without a window 162). Panel 116 may further include one or more windows 164. In the illustrated embodiment, panel 116 includes three windows 164 arranged vertically and another window 164 centered proximate the apex of panel 116 above the loft 128 to allow light and ventilation to the interior spaces of structure 110. Panel 116 may further include a retractable awning 166 that is disposed over doorway 158 and provides shade and shelter for porch 126. When retracted, awning 166 may cover the window 164 above loft 128. Awning 166 may be made from honeycombed aluminum panels.

Referring to FIG. 2, end panel 118 may enclose the rear of structure 110. Panel 118 may include one or more windows 168. In the illustrated embodiment, panel 118 includes three windows 168 arranged horizontally and a window 168 proximate the apex of panel 118 above the loft 128 to allow light and ventilation to the interior spaces of structure 110. It should be understood, however, that the number and arrangement of windows may be modified. Panel 118 may also include a retractable awning 170 which again may cover the window 168 above loft 128 when retracted. Referring to FIG. 3, end panel 118 may support shelves 172 used for interior storage and display. In the illustrated embodiment two sets of four vertically arranged shelves 172 are shown. It should again be understood, however, that the number and arrangement of shelves 172 may vary.

Referring again to FIG. 6, in an alternate embodiment of the invention, a structure 110′ may include an end panel 116′ having a doorway 158′ configured to receive multiple doors 160 (i.e., a double door). Panel 116′ may again include a retractable awning 166′, but awning 166′ may assume a rectangular shape to provide shelter to the area just outside of the enlarged doorway 158′. In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, the end panels 116, 118 may assume a variety of forms depending on the intended function of structure 110 or the wishes of the inhabitants. In this manner, structure 110 is easily adaptable.

Referring again to FIGS. 4-5, floor beams 120, 122 are provided to support floor 124. Beams 120, 122 may be made from conventional metals and metal alloys. Referring to FIG. 5, beams 120 may extend longitudinally between support beams 112. In particular one beam 120 may connect the ends 140 of beams 112 while another beam 120 may connect the ends 142 beam 112. Beam 120 may be substantially C-shaped in cross section, opening upward and defining a bottom wall 174 and side walls 176, 178. Side wall 176 may be angled inward slightly to match the contour of inner surface 146 of arch beam 136. Beams 120 may be coupled to beams 136 using conventional fasteners such as screws or bolts.

Beams 122 may comprise cross beams extending between beams 120. Referring to FIG. 4, beams 122 may be laterally spaced from one another with beams 122 aligned with beams 112 and interposed between beams 112 it should be understood, however, that the number of cross beams 122 may vary. Referring again to FIG. 5, beams 122 may be coupled to beams 120 through slits 180 formed proximate the ends of each beam 122 that are configured to receive a sidewall 176 of beam 120. Beams 122 may also be C-shaped in cross-section (opening in an opposite direction (i.e., downwardly) relative to beams 120) or square in cross-section or take another form. Beams 122 may also be hollow or solid.

Floor 124 provides a flat surface above the ground to protect the interior of structure 110 from water and insects. Floor 124 is supported on beams 120, 122. Floor 124 may be made from plywood or cork tiles or other flooring materials. In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, the shipping container for structure 110 provides the material for floor 124 (and possibly loft 128) thereby improving packaging and reducing waste material.

Referring again to FIGS. 1-3, porch 126 provides a gathering space outside of structure 110. Porch 126 may be made from the same materials used to construct floor 124 including plywood, cork tiles, etc. Alternatively, porch 126 may be made from concrete tiles.

Referring to FIGS. 2-3, loft 128 increases the usable interior space of structure 110 and may be used for a variety of purposes including storage or sleeping quarters. Loft 128 may be made from plywood or wood boards that are supported on cross beams 138 of support beams 112. Loft 128 defines an aperture 182 configured to receive vent stack 132. Loft 128 may also define an aperture 184 (which may be formed as part of aperture 182 or be a separate aperture) used for access to loft 128. A ladder 186 may extend from floor 124 through aperture 184 for access to loft 128. Solar powered lights 188 may be suspended from the underside of loft 128 to light the interior space between floor 124 and loft 128. Lights 188 may alternatively be suspended from cross beams 138.

Stove 130 is provided for cooking and or heat and is conventional in the art. Referring to FIG. 2, stove 130 may be supported on a base 190 on floor 124. Base 190 may be made from heat resistant/non-combustible materials and may be made from concrete for example.

Vent stack 132 is be used to exhaust heat and combustible gases from stove 130. Stack 132 may include a hood 192 at one end configured to direct exhaust heat and gases into a flue 194 which may be a double wall flue. Vent stack 132 extends through apertures 182, 156 in loft 128 and skin 114, respectively.

Beds 134 provide a resting place for inhabitants of structure 110 and may also function as seating. Beds 134 are suspended two or more arch beams 136 and, in particular, may be suspended from inner surface 146 of beams 136. Referring to FIG. 7, one lateral end 196 of the bed 134 is disposed against surface 146 of beam 136 while the opposite lateral end 198 is normally suspended from beam 136 (as shown in FIGS. 2-3). Bed 134 may be moved by folding the bed upward such that the suspended lateral end 198 of bed 134 is brought into engagement with surface 146 of beam 136.

Referring now to FIGS. 8-13 and 17-18, a building structure 200 in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention is illustrated. Like structure 110, structure 200 is primarily designed to serve as residential housing (permanent or temporary). It should be understood, however, that structure 200 may be used for a wide variety of purposes including a storage shed, a workshop, a playhouse, etc. Structure 200 includes a plurality of support beams including center support beams 202 (FIG. 9) and end support beams 204 (FIG. 10), 206 (FIG. 11), a skin 208 and a loft 210. Structure 200 may further include a ladder 212, doors 214, 216, end panels 218, 220, 222 (FIG. 10) and 224, 226, 228 (FIG. 11), awnings 230 (FIG. 10) 232 (FIG. 11), and a floor 234.

Referring to FIG. 9-11, support beams 202, 204 and 206 provide structural support for structure 200. Referring to FIGS. 12-13, in the illustrated embodiment a pair of center support beams 202 are disposed between end support beams 204, 206 and these four support beams define the interior space of structure 200. It should be understood, however, that the number of support beams 202, 204, 206 can vary to allow variation in the size of structure 200. Referring again to FIG. 8, an additional support beam 202 may be used to support awning 232. Beams 202, 204 and 206 may be made from conventional metals and metal alloys. Beams 202, 204, and 206 may be square or rectangular in cross-section. It should be understood, however, that the cross-sectional shape of beams 202, 204, 206 may vary. Beams 202, 204, 206 may be made from powder coated metals. Referring to FIGS. 9-11, each beam 202, 204, 206 includes an arch beam 236 and a cross beam 238. Arch beam 236 and cross beam 238 are substantially similar to arch beam 136 and cross beam 138 in beam 112 of structure 110 and reference may therefore be had to the above description of arch beam 136 and cross beam 138 for a more detailed description of arch beam 236 and cross beam 238. Referring to FIGS. 10 and 11, end support beams 204, 206 may further include base beams 240, 242, respectively, and vertical beams 244, 246 an 248, 250, respectively.

Base beams 240, 242 provide additional structural support for structure 200. Base beams 240, 242 provide a portion of the frame supporting doors 214, 216, respectively, and end panels 218, 220 and 224, 226, respectively. Base beams 240, 242, also may be used to secure structure 200 relative to the ground. Referring to FIG. 14, angle brackets 252 may be disposed against base beams 240, 242 on the interior side 254 of beams 240, 242. Fasteners 256 may extend through brackets 252 into the interior side 254 of beams 240, 242 and into a ground mounting structure such as a concrete slab. Base beams 240, 242 may be integrally formed with corresponding arch beams 236 such that base beams 240, 242 form a unitary structure with a corresponding arch beam 236 or may be formed as a separate component that is coupled to a corresponding arch beam 236.

Vertical beams 244, 246 and 248, 250 also provide structural support for structure 100. Beams 244, 246 and 248, 250, provide a portion of the frame supporting doors 214, 216, respectively, and end panels 218, 220 and 224, 226, respectively. Beams 244, 246, extend between cross beam 238 and base beam 240 of support beam 204 and define a doorway 258 therebetween. Likewise, beams 248, 250, extend between cross beam 238 and base beam 242 of support beam 106 and define a doorway 260 therebetween. Vertical beams 248, 250 are spaced more widely from one another than vertical beams 244, 246 to allow for the use of a double door. It should be understood, however, that the use and spacing of beams 244, 246 and 248, 250 may vary depending on the application of structure 200. Vertical beams 244, 246 and 248, 250 may be integral with corresponding base beams 240, 242 and cross beams 238 so as to form unitary structures. Alternatively, vertical beams 244, 246 and 248, 250, may be formed as separate components that are coupled to corresponding base beams 240, 242 and cross beams 238.

Referring again to FIG. 8, skin 208 forms a ceiling and a wall for structure 200. Skin 208 may be a unitary structure or may include a plurality of members allowing for variations in design and application of structure 200. In the illustrated embodiment, skin 208 includes members or panels 262, 264, 266 (it will be understood that similar members or panels may be disposed on the opposite side of structure 200). Members 262, 264, 266 may be made from various metals, metal alloys and plastics. In the illustrated embodiment members 262, 266 are made from corrugated metal that may be galvanized to prevent corrosion. Member 264 may be made from a corrugated plastic that is translucent to allow additional light into the interior space of structure 200. In the illustrated embodiment, member 264 is disposed between the apex and end of skin 208. Skin 208 may be insulated and is supported on beams 202, 204, 206. Referring to FIG. 9, skin 208 engages the outer surface 268 of arch beam 236 of each support beam 202, 204, 206 and extends between the ends 270, 272 of each arch beam 236 in a manner similar to skin 114 of structure 110 as described hereinabove. Skin 208 may be fastened to arch beams 236 using fasteners (not shown) that extend through aligned apertures in skin 208 and the outer surface 268 of arch beams 236. Members 262, 264, 266 may overlap one another such that a common fasteners secure multiple members to beams 236. Referring to FIG. 15 each end of skin 208 may be received within a channel 274 formed in a generally C-shaped gutter 276 that may be affixed to the outer surface 268 of each arch beam 236 and extend longitudinally along structure 200.

Referring now to FIGS. 12-13, loft 210 is provided to increase the usable interior space of structure 200 and may be used for a variety of purposes including storage or sleeping quarters. Loft 210 may be made from plywood or wood boards that are supported on cross beams 238 of support beams 202, 204, 206. Alternatively, loft 210 may be made from metals or metal alloys, plastics or other conventional materials. In the illustrated embodiment, loft 210 includes two members 278, 280 disposed at either longitudinal end of structure 200. Member 278 is supported on cross beams 238 of end support beam 204 and an adjacent center support beam 202. Member 280 is supported on cross beams 238 of end support beam 206 and an adjacent center support beam 202. The vertical space in the interior of structure 200 between the two center support beams 202 is therefore left open. It should be understood, however, that loft 210 could be arranged in a number of ways depending on the desired application of structure 200. Loft 210 may be supported directly on cross beams 238. Alternatively, loft 210 may be supported indirectly by brackets (not shown) affixed to cross beams 238. For example, angle brackets (not shown) may be connected with one leg extending vertically and affixed to a vertical side wall of cross beam 238 and another leg extending horizontally to support loft 210. Loft 212 may be accessed using a ladder 212.

Ladder 212 is provided to allow access to loft 210. Referring to FIG. 16, ladder 212 may taper in a longitudinal direction. Ladder 212 may be made from wood painted with a fire retardant coating. Ladder 212 may be supported on a pair of feet 282, 284, using bolts or other fasteners 286 (with corresponding nuts and washers) to allow ladder 212 to rotate about an axis 288 extending parallel to the ground or floor of structure 200. In this manner, the top of ladder 212 can be moved between members 278, 280 of loft 210 to allow access to either member 278, 280 of loft 210. Feet 282, 284 may be secured to the ground or floor of structure 200 in a conventional manner (e.g., by using bolts extending through feet 282, 284 and into a concrete slab).

Referring now to FIG. 17-18, doors 214, 216 are provided to allow access to the interior of structure 200. Doors 214, 216 may be made from wood, metals or plastics. Door 214 is a single door and is disposed within a frame formed by cross beam 238, base beam 240, and vertical beams 244, 246 of support beam 204. Door 216 is a double door and is disposed within a frame formed by cross beam 238, base beam 242, and vertical beams 248, 250 of support beam 206. Doors 214, 216 may be configured in a variety of ways depending on the application of structure 200. For example, door 214 may include an aperture 290 configured to receive a window 292 or a hinged door (formed from door 214) and may include a counter (not shown) mounted along the bottom wall of the aperture. Doors 214, 216 may include conventional door knobs or pulls and latches or locks for security.

End panels 218, 220, 222 and 224, 226, 228 are provided to enclose the interior of structure 200. Panels 218, 220 are disposed within a frame formed by arch beam 236, cross beam 238, base beam 240 and a corresponding vertical beam 244 or 246 of end support beam 204. Similarly, panels 224, 226 are disposed within a frame formed by arch beam 236, cross beam 238, base beam 242 and a corresponding vertical beam 248 or 250 of end support beam 206. Panels 218, 220 and 224, 226, may be secured to support beams 204, 206 using fasteners (not shown) extending through panels 218, 220 and 224, 226 and into brackets (not shown) welded onto beams 204, 206. Panels 218, 220 and 224, 226, may be from a ribbed thermoplastic sold by General Electric Plastics B.V. Corp. under the registered trademark “THERMOCLEAR.” It should be understood, however, that panels 218, 220 and 224, 226 may be made from a variety of materials including glass. Panel 222 is disposed within a frame formed by arch beam 236 and cross beam 238 of end support beam 204. Similarly, panel 228 is disposed within a frame formed by arch beam 236 and cross beam 238 of end support beam 206. Panels 222 and 228 may again be secured to support beams 204, 206 using fasteners (not shown) extending through panels 222 and 228 and into brackets (not shown) welded onto beams 204, 206. Panels 222, 228, may be made from plywood, but also may be made from metals and plastics. Panels 222, 228, may define apertures 294, 296, respectively configured to receive louvers 298, 300, respectively, or a glass window.

Awnings 230, 232 are provide to shelter the entryways to structure 200. Awning 230 may be a retractable awning that is disposed over door 214. When retracted, awning 230 may cover the louver 294 in end panel 222. Awning 230 may be made from a variety of conventional metals, plastics or wood. Referring to FIG. 18, awning 230 is supported by metal rods 302, 304 that may be threaded at either end for receipt into corresponding threaded bores in awning 230 and arch beam 236 of end support beam 104. Awning 232 is disposed over door 216. Awning 232 may be made from corrugated metal or plastic and is supported on a support beam 202. Awning 232 may extend beyond beam 202 to provide additional covering for a porch. Awning 232 overlaps skin 208 and may be secured to the radially outer surface 268 of arch beam 236 of end support beam 206 using the same fasteners used to connect skin 208 to beam 206.

Floor 234 provides a flat surface above the ground to protect the interior of structure 200 from water and insects. Floor 234 may comprise rubber padding laid over a concrete slab. Alternatively, floor 234 may be formed in from wood or cork tiles as detailed above with respect to floor 124 of structure 110.

A building structure 110 or 200 in accordance with the present invention provides numerous advantages. Structures 110 and 200 are affordable, easy to manufacture and assemble. The ease of assembly makes structures 110 and 200 relatively portable such that structures 110 and 200 can be disassembled and reassembled as needed. Structures 110 and 200 are also scalable. In the illustrated embodiment, four support beams 112 or 202, 204, 206 define the length of structures 110 and 200, respectively. Additional support beams 112 or 202 could be used to lengthen structures 110 or 200, however. Structures 110 and 200 are also made from lightweight, inexpensive and widely available materials. Structures 110 and 200 are also very compact for shipping purposes, capable of fitting in a box measuring 1.22 meters by 3.66 meters by 0.61 meters. Despite the low cost of structures 110 and 200, structures 110 and 200 are also very strong given the inherent strength of the arch formed by structures 110 and 200 and are weather resistant. Structures 110 and 200 may also be customized by inhabitants through use of different skins 114, 208, respectively, and end panels 116, 118 and 218, 220, 222, 224, 226, 228, respectively. In addition to providing affordable yet strong and adaptable housing for inhabitants of structures 110 and 200, structures 110 and 200 foster community organization and goals by providing affordable permanent housing stock.

While the invention has been shown and described with reference to one or more particular embodiments thereof, it will be understood by those of skill in the art that various changes and modifications can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.