BISF Historical Documents Series 28th July 1944

In this series of posts we take a look at a selection of historical documents outlining the development and construction of the British Iron & Steel Federation, Steel Framed House.

We currently hold thousands of archive items that have each been photographed and in some cases converted to text form for easier searching. This conversion method is an on-going process that will take several months to complete however we hope that you will find these never before published documents to be as fascinating as we have found them to be.

Many of the documents originate from the Post-War Housing Technical Sub-Committee of 1944 and include memos, correspondence and minutes from this important period of time for Post-War house construction in the United Kingdom.
For those who may not be aware:
Frederick Gibberd (now Sir Frederick Gibberd) is the Architect of the BISF House.
Donovan Lee was the Senior Engineer.
Where possible we will show the original document followed by a transcript within the body of the post. Due to the vast amount of archive information available, not all posts will be in date order.

Minutes of the Meeting held at Steel House on Friday, 28th July 1944, at 12 noon.

Mr. C.J.Kavanagh (Chairman}
Mr. W. Brown
Mr. A. H. Edwards
Mr. W. S. Napier
Mr. T. G. Rodger
Mr. E. G. Saunders
Mr. F. Gibberd,F.R.I.B.A. Architect
(By Invitation).
Mr, Donovan Lee, M.Inst.C.E.Consulting Engineer
(By invitation).
Mr. T. Stevenson (Secretary)
Mr. D. J, Davies.

Apologies for absence were intimated from Mr. Harrison and Mr. Marshall.

2. Minutes. The minutes of the meeting held on Wednesday, 28th June, were Confirmed and signed.

  1. Visit to Northolt.
    In discussing the visit to Northolt, which had preceded the meeting, Mr. Napier referred to the porch design for the Type ‘A’ house. This he thought very good and perfectly in keeping with the* treatment of the exterior. The only alternative which occurred to him was that a single sheet in heavier gauge might be found to be an improvement.

Mr. Gibberd said that he would have preferred to use a single sheet but it was necessary to curve the ends to throw the water off and this was not practicable in heavy gauge material without welding the corners.

It was agreed that the porch was an important feature and therefore the construction of a number of alternatives for trial would be well worth while, The Committee agreed the porch for Type ‘A’ should remain and that the porch for Type *B’ should be developed on the experience gained on ‘A’.

There was also some discussion on the Colour schemes adopted internally.’ It was suggested that as these were unusual and striking, visitors might be deflected from the consideration of constructional aspects to a discussion on the decorations.

Mr. Gibberd said that in normal conditions, we should not sell a house decorated, this being left to the taste of the purchaser, but he was endeavouring to make the ‘A’ type house a show house and a little showmanship was justified. The variations in colour in each room wore to create a sense of space and the finishings which would be introduced were part of his scheme of decoration.

The Committee agreed to the Architects suggestions but decided that type ‘B’ house should be decorated on conventional lines.

Mr, Edwards referred to the corrugations on the roof sheet,of Type B house and thought that they were rather close. The Chairman reported that “approaches were being made to the Cellactite Company to produce a bolder design and sheets in one length for future schemes.

Mr. Brown mentioned the fouling of the back door and the cupboard door in the Type A’ house and it was agreed that this fault, caused by alterations in the plan and the width of door, would be rectified.

  1. Type ‘C’ House,
    The Chairman stated that the panel construction of the proposed ‘C’ type house had presented many difficulties, It tended to resolve itself Into a box like structure and careful planning and design were necessary to make a house, constructed on this prefabricated principle, acceptable. The Architect was. however, convinced that the construction had architectural possibilities and a detailed note on the requirements and the possibilities was read by the Secretary as follows:-

In the development of the Type “C.1” house, the following is necessary:-

a) Maximum construction under shop conditions and minimum construction on the site.
b) Complete standardisation of parts with strict limitation on the choice of equipment, external finish etc.
c) Maximum site of structural unit compatible with transport and erection.
d) Reasonable maintenance charges, particularly for the exterior.
e) Adoption of existing standard equipment, e.g., metal windows.
f) Simplicity of construction and erection, e.g., elimi­nation of Intricate flashing^ methods of bolting together etc.
It may be possible to meet the above requirements with a double floor wall unit on a. module of about 4 feet as indicated on drawings No’s, 160 and 161 and the perspective submitted to the Main Housing Committee, for the following reasons.

1) All units, whether wall or window, are the same size.
2) The units fit together in any combination and their Junction Is flashed by a cover fillet which seals them without complicated flashings, whether they be wall or window.
3) The external wall surface is fixed to the frame in the factory. This can obviously be more accurate and permanent than a site fixing.
4) The windows are fixed in the frame in the factory. Both this item and 3) above enable the windows to be flashed perfectly.
5) There are no horizontal flashings, always the weak joint in building.
6) Both existing standard metal window size and the existing standard sheet material size are reconciled in the design.
7) Whilst the unit embodies the maximum degree of shop fabrication, it is not too large to transport or to erect.
8) The flat metal sheet with which the panel is partially covered is suitable for paint harling; a finish proved to be satisfactory as a permanent one.
9)The wide cover fillets allow the hand hole for fixing, reduce the area of the flat sheet of the unit, reconcile the 3ft3” window width with a 4,0” inside sheeting width, and being finished in contrasting colour and texture to the wall becomes an interesting feature of the design instead of a blot.

Mr. Lee expressed the view that single storey construction would be preferable to the use of two storey units, since experience in the latter was lacking.
The Chairman said that the two storey panel was naturally much quicker and cheaper in erection but this required a well organised job, clean site, etc. The single storey panel was more flexible In every way, transport, erection etc. and was also suitable for the bungalow type of building and also for export.
Mr. Gibberd said it would be necessary to test the manufacturing possibilities and stressed the need for maximum shop fabrication.
Mr. Edwards said that the two storey panels would present no difficulty in erection but there might be transport difficulties.
The Chairman reported that the Main Committee had suggested that the panel constructed house should be completed in three months and he felt that it would be desirable to spread the work as much as possible to ensure production. It was agreed that work should proceed immediately on sample panels of both types and that Messrs. Sankeys, Blagg & Johnson, Godins and Crittalls be asked to collaborate In the manu­facture, and any other firms whose names might be suggested by the Committee.
Mr. Rodger recommended that in view of the urgency, if the sample frames were satisfactory and all problems solved, the panels for the complete house should be ordered without further reference to the Committee.
Mr. Rodger also asked If the steel covered roofs were likely to be successful on the evidence now available. It seemed to him that In view of the sheet capacity and the post-war requirements that the use of alternative roof coverings should be investigated.
The Chairman in reply said that the hand mills may not be over stressed but that it would be wise to have alternatives but not in the C type house which was a prefabricated construction.
The Committee agreed that the alternative roof coverings using slate and tile on steel supports should be considered for the substitution house.
The Committee then considered the type single storey construction and Mr. Lee recommended that the panels should be erected first and the sheeting applied at the site.
Mr. Gibberd expressed the view that the panels should be tried out, the bottom panels being completely prefabricated with sheets attached at the Works and the top panels with loose sheets to be attached at the site. Mr. Saunders enquired about the ‘C’ type plan and the Architect submitted this for examination. Mr. Saunders then deferred to the plumbing assembly, stressing the desirability of a completely prefabricated plumbing duct.
Mr. Gibberd sold that his plumbing arrangements were not yet complete; he intended to standardise the plumbing but was uncertain as yet as to whether the duet could be Installed as one complete unit. It was suggested and agreed by Mr. Saunders that he would make available to Mr Gibberd all the information and experience of Messrs. Stewarts and Lloyds on the subject and that Mr, Gibberd should collaborate closely with Mr. Saunders in the development of his design. It was agreed to defer discussion of the A1.type house to a subsequent meeting.