I want to isolated build a room inside a barn. It needs to be well insulated, so that it can keep a temperature of 20+ degrees. However, since it will be protected by the roof and walls of the barn, it does not need a very sturdy exterior. Just simple plywood for interior and exterior walls would do fine. No windows needed. Size: 10*7 meters.

The idea is to use the room as a temporary office for a few people while renovating another building.

My question is: Is there a name for this type of project? Are there any good resources for ideas on how to build? I'm new and struggling to find similar projects.

  • 1
    Freestanding office space is what it is referred to in an industrial setting. You may want to consider a window or two just to eliminate the working in a closet feeling. Also consider some type of air exchange system. One person getting sick could spread to your entire team.
    – mikes
    Jan 15 at 12:12
  • 1
    Will probably need/be required to have a second exit(window or door) for fire codes. Insulation usually requires thickness of walls/ceiling, depending on climate, so a cold climate will require thicker walls.
    – crip659
    Jan 15 at 12:13
  • 4
    Life safety matters. Structurally, just needs enough to hold up the insulation, but the exits and ventilation already mentioned matter, and if you are putting a bunch of insulation in a barn the electricity should be all in metallic conduit or cable because barn rodents exist, even if you think they don't, they love insulation as nesting material, and they chew cables and cause fires. Speaking of which, the fire alarm/smoke detectors. Fire is a big problem for poorly built temporary stuff - don't do it poorly. Another vote for at least one window, or a light-tube anyway.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jan 15 at 13:57
  • 2
    Mobile temporary offices (on wheels or as a shipping container without wheels) are a thing and can be rented. Might cost less than this and can be taken away when the renovation is over.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jan 15 at 14:00
  • 1
    Is it going to rely on the barn roof, or will it have its own roof/ceiling?
    – Huesmann
    Jan 15 at 14:15

1 Answer 1


As a number of other people have noted in comments, while this is "temporary" there are real safety issues. Essentially you have to follow pretty much all the usual building codes, with the exception of structural ones (since you already have a structure). A few key items:

  • Emergency exits - With a small room you can use just one exit. With a room that size (10 x 7 meters ~ 33 x 23 feet), you should have at least two exits, on opposite sides of the building. That is primarily for fire safety. There are far too many ways for fires to happen unexpectedly - cooking, smoking, electrical, candles, etc. Even if you rule out some (e.g., a strict no-smoking policy) there are always concerns. That is too big a space to rely on a single exit that could be blocked or simply too close to a fire to be used in an emergency.

  • Ventilation - That is a pretty big room, so some active ventilation is needed - i.e., some sort of HVAC system. All the more so if you don't have any windows.

  • Electrical - In a barn you would typically need (US rules and terminology) GFCI protection on all receptacle circuits. The rules may change a bit with a building built inside the barn, so it is no longer a wet and industrial type of area. But you do need to consider local codes and you will need a real panel (even if it is technically a subpanel fed from the main building) which will typically includes:

    • Lighting circuit (two may be advisable, with lights alternating s that you can work on one circuit and still have lights)
    • At least two general purpose circuits. More depending on how many computers, printers and other equipment.
    • Bathroom circuit (unless there is no bathroom)
    • Kitchen circuits - this will vary a lot depending on whether you just have a microwave and a coffee maker or a full kitchen
  • Plumbing - That could get expensive. It is easy to run a big electrical cable between buildings. Plumbing is a bit more complicated, in my limited experience. But if you are going to have a bathroom, kitchen or even just a handwashing sink then you need hot (and a hot water heater), cold and drain. If you already have plumbing in the barn then you need to see if it is sufficient for your temporary office space.

As far as insulation and general structure: There are two different ways to do this. One is to add an inner wall to the barn - i.e., the new building will be the same size as the barn minus 6" all around - and fill the gap with insulation. The other is to build a building in the middle of the barn. The first option gives you the most usable space. The second option might make plumbing and electrical a little easier because you have access to the open outside of the walls.

Depending on how long you need this building-in-a-barn to last, what use you will have for it afterwards and other factors, it may indeed be more practical and cost-effective to rent a portable unit of some sort. Construction companies use them all the time as the on-site office when building a new building, schools use them as "temporary" overflow space, etc. They can be rented ready-to-use - just hook up electricity, cold water and drain. Not generally (in my area) quite as large as you need, but get two and put them next to each other.

  • For washroom OP could rent one and keep it in barn, if no other is available nearby. For sink drain, it could simply lead outside onto soil or a pebble pit.
    – P2000
    Jan 15 at 20:35
  • @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact Thank you so much for this detailed overview! Many good points and much useful information. Indeed, renting a portable unit may turn out to be the most practical solution. I liked the idea of building something simple from scratch, but with all the different requirements, I may have to rethink that. Thanks again!
    – Orm
    Jan 23 at 20:18

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