The Basics of Portable Buildings and Structures

Wikipedia defines a portable building as any building that is set in place for temporary purposes with the intention of removing it after a time. Many city and county planning permit departments define a portable structure as any building or fabrication, constructed of any material, that is not anchored to the ground or have a foundation. It comes down to a legal issue as to whether the building is taxable revenue or is a functional portable building.

Portables have many purposes and come in many forms. Quonset huts used by the military are considered portable buildings for field use, but many found on military installation grounds have been maintained for years and would be considered by many as permanent fixtures. The same is found in Quonset huts and portable classrooms on school and university grounds originally placed as temporary extra classrooms that have become permanent fixtures.

By definition a mobile home or trailer is a portable building yet many never have left the site where they have been set for many years. The same is true of modular buildings and portable offices originally intended as an inexpensive means to temporarily add space for offices or storage that once they have become established are seldom moved. Even toll booths for roads and bridges are intended as portable structures that become busy and are rarely move.

Portables are found in many locations. At construction sites they appear as construction trailers with temporary decking and stairways. Portable toilets are found at construction and road sites, festivals, fairs, special events and tourist sites. Cabanas, huts and changing rooms can be found at resorts, special events, hotel properties, swimming and park complexes, personal homes or a number of other locations. In Las Vegas trailers are set around town for early voting polling stations during the weeks prior to regular voting.

At competitive events, traveling shows, military functions, outdoor conferences and boy scout jamborees there are often tents, shacks and other portable structures designated as command centers, check-in or registration buildings, guard shacks, medical facilities and a number of other uses.

When searching for portables structures for your area on the internet you will undoubtedly find that most manufacturers and distributors of portables have home use in mind for car ports, storage or garden units. Most of us probably don’t have temporary in mind when we have these buildings installed, whether pre-fabricated or built on site of wood or metal. This is where knowing ordinances for adding additional structures is important to most of us. After all, a non-permitted structure, temporary or permanent may affect the value and resale of our properties.

In some communities any structure, including a car or RV tent or cover, may require permits if it is anchored to the ground, regardless of whether it has a foundation or remains earth or gravel. Some outdoor garden sheds or storage buildings may follow the same rules. A shed may be fined as a permanent non-permitted structure simply for being placed on a cement slab whether anchored or not. If you’re looking to add a portable unit of any kind for home or business be sure to check local ordinances before purchasing.

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