News | May 16, 2019

This is the CUBE, the Army’s new DIY bunkhouse

Patent-pending design is available via license agreement to qualified U.S. businesses for manufacturing, sales

The Common Uniform Building Envelope, or CUBE, is a modular, single-story facility made of panelized wood that was designed by the Army Corps of Engineers' Center for Nonpermanent Facilities.

Army illustration

The Army Corps of Engineers has invented a small house that can be assembled without special equipment in about five hours.

The Common Uniform Building Envelope, or CUBE, is actually a rectangle measuring 16-feet wide and 24-feet long (384 square feet), which is plenty of room for deployed troops or visiting in-laws.

Its mono-pitched roof stands 15-feet on the tall side. The entire building is wood, including the foundation, and comes with detailed instructions on how to put it together using the included hardware.

On Thursday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published the Army’s patent application for the CUBE, listing engineers Dale Hartmann and Tara Colleen Paxton as the inventors. The design is part of a larger project by the Corps’ Center of Standardization for Non-Permanent Facilities.

By their calculations, the sturdy CUBE’s cost per square foot is $26, making the total unit cost around $10,000, which they contrast to a military tent’s cost of $500 per square foot. But the CUBE is also meant to replace the flimsy B-huts that housed thousands of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“The CUBE structure may be used for disaster recovery efforts through FEMA or other agencies or entities as well as refugee operations through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,” according to the patent application. “CUBE structures may be used for other humanitarian relief efforts for internally-displaced persons and refugees, housing for homeless persons, storage shed for homeowners, expandable housing for low-income persons, or trailer mounted houses.”

The first prototype CUBE was built, disassembled, and reassembled by U.S. Army soldiers during a training exercise last year at Camp Trzebien in Poland. But more recently, a group of Marines at Camp Pendleton constructed most of a CUBE in just four hours and 26 minutes (one wall and the roof remained). You can watch the time-lapse video at the bottom of this story.

With the application now public, the Army’s patent-pending invention can be licensed by companies who would make, use, or sell it commercially. That means companies large and small, from Ikea to your landlord, can start making and selling the DIY houses after they negotiate an Army patent license agreement.

TechLink, a non-profit partnership intermediary, guides businesses through the evaluation of military technology like the CUBE, and then helps them navigate the patent licensing process.

Quinton King, the senior technology manager at TechLink who works with the Army Corps of Engineers’ Office of Research and Technology Applications, is the point of contact for licensing related CUBE inquiries.

“The Corps’ architecture and engineering is going to save taxpayers and our troops from paying for lesser facilities,” King said. “Like with many of the Corps’ inventions, there’s probably a big business opportunity here.”

King said that evaluating and licensing Army inventions can be tricky for small and medium-sized businesses who are new to the technology transfer process.

“But that’s why we’re here. TechLink has helped hundreds of companies license technologies like this so that they can become new products in the marketplace,” King said. “Just last month we helped a construction company exclusively license a patented concrete formula from the Corps of Engineers and they’re set to begin sales.”


Licensing inquiries can be sent to Quinton King at quinton.king@montana.edu or he can be reached at 406-994-7795.