What are Temporary Structures?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Temporary structures are structures which are erected to fill a temporary need, lasting for hours, days, weeks, and sometimes months instead of years. There are a number of uses for temporary structures, ranging from camping trips to temporary housing for refugees. These structures come in a range of forms designed for different applications, and they are manufactured by a number of companies around the world.

Temporary structures are used in coordination with other disaster relief efforts.
Temporary structures are used in coordination with other disaster relief efforts.

A typical temporary structure is designed to provide shelter to people, products, equipment, animals, or anything else which needs to be sheltered. These structures may fill a temporary need, as seen when temporary structures are erected on farms during the harvest for the purpose of storing goods, or they may be used to provide shelter until permanent shelter can be built. For example, people who lose a home in a fire may install a trailer or another form of temporary structure to live in while the house is rebuilt.

Disaster relief crews may build temporary structures as part of a site cleanup.
Disaster relief crews may build temporary structures as part of a site cleanup.

Many companies make modular temporary structures which are reusable in addition to being easy to put up and take down. Modular structures can be moved easily all over the world, making them popular with campers, disaster relief crews, refugee initiatives, and so forth. They can usually be put up in less than a day to provide immediate shelter, and some may be very inexpensive as well.

Schools sometimes use temporary structures to create more classroom space if they have to accommodate more students than usual or if they are expanding their student bodies. Manufacturers use such structures to house overstocked products, equipment, and other errata when their own facilities are not large enough or are under renovation. Temporary structures can also be used to create offices, factory floors, and other types of workplaces when a workplace is being renovated or is under repairs. Likewise, they can be used on construction sites to create offices for construction crews, and in other locations like battlefields and the wilderness to create command posts which can be taken down when they are no longer needed.

The cost of a temporary structure varies. Some things which can influence cost include what the structure is made out of, whether it can accommodate plumbing, electricity, and other amenities, whether it is mobile or not, how easy it is to erect, and the purpose it is designed for. For example, a mobile operating room can be quite expensive due to the special features it needs, while a basic tent may be fairly inexpensive by comparison.

Temporary structures might help with the distribution of goods.
Temporary structures might help with the distribution of goods.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I was grateful to have a temporary structure while selling my artwork at a local festival. I had gotten the tent for shade to lower the temperature a bit and guard against the sun, but I wound up needing it for a totally different reason.

The day had started out partly cloudy but pleasant. By midday, the wind picked up, and during the afternoon, I heard a few drops of rain on the roof of my tent. Within minutes, rain began to pelt the area heavily.

If not for my tent, my artwork would have been damaged beyond repair. Just a few drops of rain could have altered its appearance. I drew with chalk pastels, and any sort of liquid will leave dark spots on it. The paper would have bunched up and warped as well.


A lot of times, disaster relief workers will put up shade structures on their home base. Those who have lost homes can get shelter from the sun, and the workers can do their job without worrying about sunburn or overheating.

I lost my home during a hurricane in August. I had nowhere to go but to the outdoor relief base. Their temporary structure gave me a place to avoid the hot, damaging sun while figuring out what I was going to do next.

Many people who had lost everything had small children or babies. One lady even had a newborn. These babies would have been badly damaged by the sun and heat if not for the shade structure.


Another example of temporary structures are those tents that cemetery workers put up over new graves for the family. When they go to the grave to see their loved one lowered into the ground, any sort of shelter provides a little comfort.

Whether it provides shade from the piercing sun on a hot day or a dry place in the midst of a rainstorm, this type of temporary structure is of great help. It is easy to erect and remove, and it helps shield the onlookers from additional stress.

If the family chooses to have a graveside service, they really need the tent. These services can go on for thirty minutes or more. I remember when my grandmother died, the family sat in chairs under the tent. Though some people could not fit under it, those of us who were experiencing the most grief got to sit down in the shade.


The fifth and six grade classes were held in a temporary structure at my school for years. They needed a place to put students while they saved up enough money to expand the school building.

I remember being in fourth grade and knowing that I would soon be having class in the trailer out back. At least it had a bathroom and air conditioning. I did worry about what we would do if a tornado hit, though. I guess they would have just made us run to the main building.

I was glad when I made it to seventh grade and got to go to the big brick building every day. It just felt safer.


I once went inside this Camel cigarette truck that was set up at a music festival. I could not believe how much stuff they had set up inside.

I guess it was about the size of a big RV, but the inside was very silver and spaced aged looking. It had four different areas, each staffed by 4 or 5 girls paid to be enthusiastic. There were TVs, everywhere and probably 25 or 30 people inside at each time.

I was a smoker at the time and got some free smokes so I thought it was pretty cool. I also couldn't believe how much they had done on the inside. You could easily forget that you were at a festival at all.


I guess you could say that I have lived in a temporary structure for over a decade of my life. At first I only intended for it to be temporary, but I think after that long its more rightly called a permanent residence.

I've been living in a camper shell on a couple of acres next to a buddy's place for all those years now. Sometimes you get stuck in a place. And sometimes you like a place more than you expected. I don't which is the case for me, but here I am.

Its not so bad. I've definitely slept in worse places. I hope I'm not here for another decade but we will see.


I have been to burning man a few times and that must be the coolest place in the world to see temporary structures.

They whole point of the festival is just music and art and people being free, free and ambitious. People go all out and bring huge sculptures, crazy tents, the coolest shacks you've every seen, psychedelic RVs, weirdo gazebos and everything else you can think of. It like people trying to make their own little worlds for a week out in the middle of the desert.

The creativity and craftsmanship is incredible. Some of the guys and gals are true geniuses (or completely quacked in the head!). If you want to see how much a person can do with some basic supplies and a lot of imagination check out burning man for sure.


Every year we attend a week long family camp in the mountains. This is a rustic place and there are not very many permanent structures on the grounds.

Every year a temporary stage is set up for the services which are held on a hillside. They also put up large temporary shade structures to help keep out some of the sun where the morning services are held.

A lot of work is done to put up and take down these temporary structures every year, but they have quite a bit of help. You can't put a price on the memories that have been made through the years though.


When my son was in junior high, they put up some temporary buildings for extra classroom space. Our school enrollment was growing at such a fast pace that they were running out of space.

Plans were being made to build a new school, but in the mean time, they needed to use these temporary structures to accommodate everyone. These temporary buildings were used for several years until the new school was finished.

I don't know if they left them on the grounds for storage when they no longer needed the classroom space, or had them removed.

By that time, my son had graduated and I didn't pay as much attention to what was happening at school.

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