BISF Building Foundation Images 1943

Northolt Foundations

This rare image was taken at the Northolt Ministry of works experimental Housing site in 1943.

The 6.5 acre site located just off Edward Road, Northolt, was set aside by the Ministry of Works for the construction of 13 experimental houses.

Three men can be seen busily working on the foundations of an early experimental BISF house at the Northolt sit. On the rear of the image was a handwritten note titled, ‘B.I.S.F Experimental House – Foundation Pad, Northolt 1943.

This photograph is likely to be one of the very first images ever to be taken of a B.I.S.F House foundation pad. The image was taken at the Ministry of Works experimental Building Research Station, located at Northolt, in Ealing, London.

Three labourers can be working on the specially designed foundation that for a single pair of BISF prototype BISF houses for British Steel Homes Ltd & the British Iron & Steel federation. The workers appear to be laying coarse chippings near to where the front doorstep will be situated.

Anchorage Points

Two sets of steel anchorage bolts are clearly observed in this image. Those situated around the edge of the large pad are anchor points for the stanchion supports of the main frame.
Each vertical stanchion has a drilled base plate which slides down onto the exposed securing bolt before being secured with a steel nut. The anchor points that are placed much closer together in the foreground of the side plinth, are securing points for a timber framed outhbuilding frame.

The concrete foundation pad can be seen protruding several inches above the ground. It would appear that two different forms of foundation were trialed at Northolt. One BISF property was built directly onto an open strip foundation, devoid of a concrete infill, whilst another was built directly onto a solid raised foundation pad as shown.
Unfortunately our archive images do not show the next stage of the build but it is assumed that the presence of a paired down strip foundation was used to demonstrate to the Post War Housing Committee, that these houses could be built using fewer raw materials if required.

Strip Foundation

B.I.S.F houses were generally built onto concrete strip foundations onto which a concrete slab was laid. This would form the ground floor of the house. However other images from our archives clearly show one property being built directly onto a strip foundation, with no visible floor pad. .

One of our B.I.S.F archive documents makes reference to the buildings engineer, Donovan Lee specifying the following in relation to the prototype B house:

 “Concrete footings to External and party walls with concrete ground slab over hardcore and with waterproof membrane over whole surface”.

Amazingly, these experimental homes were constructed during World War II and the Northolt Site itself fell victim to the German Luftwaffe. During our research we uncovered documentation from 1945 describing the account of a German V2 Rocket that landed just 90-100 yards away from the Northolt experimental site, near to the prototype type, BISF type C house. The bomb landed at 5.50 pm on 08/02/1945 and caused significant damage to the house and parts of its supporting frame, walls and windows, all of which needed to be replaced.

The Northolt site housed 13 blocks of various types of experimental construction homes, several of which were unfortunately demolished by the German bomb. In general though, the BISF buildings stood up well to the impact, despite the fact that the blast had caused damage to factory roofs located further away from the blast and in one case the factory roof bolts had sheared off from roof supports!

The original BISF houses built at Northolt site are still standing and occupied today. They are of great historical importance but as yet, they have not been classed as Grade II buildings, but this may change in due course.


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  2. I am hoping to buy a Bisf semi in dugdale cresent. B75 5HA. This is the first time i have heard of this type of construction. The properties in this area are outside of my budget. So when i saw this up for sale. I thought it would be ideal for myself and my son and my daughter. Especially as the schools are excellent in this area. I am currently living with my brother and his wife, so i could do with all the help regarding this property. One of the neighbour told me there may be a grant available to do a wrap around on the outside of the property to insulate it. But then another neighbour said it was only for those owned by the council. I am a bit worried in case this house has asbestos, especially for my daughter who is very young. Any help would be greatly appreciated