Tiedown straps are incredibly functional. Truck drivers use them to secure cargo to flatbed trailers. Overlanders rely on tiedown straps to keep their gear secure as they travel off the road. Even homeowners use the straps to transport things like dirt bikes and lawnmowers. But what about home construction? Could you build a cabin with just lumber and tiedowns?
It turns out you can. And in fact, an architectural firm in the Netherlands did just that over the summer. They built a temporary – and habitable, by the way – cabin in Veenhuizen, a small town of only 800 in the northern corner of the country. They did it to celebrate the town’s heritage of craftsmanship on it 200th birthday.
The cabin is no work of art to anyone but an architect. Amazingly. it utilizes absolutely no nails, screws, or glue. The entire structure is held together with ratchet straps. The straps not only add an interesting visual texture to the structure, but they also allowed for assembling the cabin without damaging any of the materials. All the materials were returned unharmed to those who supplied them.
If you are wondering how all of this is possible, perhaps a lesson in physics would help. Regardless of how you might build a cabin, separate pieces are held together by friction. The only question is what creates that friction.
Driving a nail through a 2×4 and into another piece of lumber creates friction at multiple points. There is friction between nail and the 2×4. There is also friction between the 2×4 and the second piece of lumber. A single nail doesn’t create enough friction to hold an entire house together. But the combined friction of hundreds of pieces of lumber and the nails that hold them in place is more than enough.
There are lots of ways to create friction for construction purposes. If it is not nails, it’s screws. And of course, you can attach all sorts of plates to lumber using a variety of fasteners. In Veenhuizen, they created friction with tiedown straps.
The designers of the Rollercam brand of tiedowns explain that a tiedown strap creates friction through force applied to either the top or sides of an object. Think of an overlander securing a kayak to the top of his truck with two Rollercam cam straps.
Tightening the straps puts downward force on the kayak. This creates friction at two points: between strap and kayak and between kayak and truck roof. The combination of downward force and friction keeps the kayak in place. Now, apply the same principle to the temporary cabin in the Netherlands.
The architectural firm behind the temporary cabin applied tiedown straps at every joint. As such, photographs show the straps running both horizontally and vertically over the structure. Straps hold the walls together. They hold the roof down. They anchor the cabin to its temporary foundation.
It is also worth noting that the straps themselves are made from webbing material. As you might already know, webbing material is incredibly strong and resilient. Once it is tightened down with the proper amount of force, it is not going anywhere.
Lumber and tiedown straps wouldn’t be appropriate for building permanent structures. But for a temporary cabin, they worked just fine. And once the cabin was disassembled, all the materials were returned to be used for other jobs. It was an interesting concept that actually proved a rather salient point: architecture and construction are always open to new ideas.