Brief History of The BISF House

demonstration houses northolt

The BISF house is a British Steel Framed house, designed and produced by the British Iron and Steel Federation, and erected around the country from 1946 often using prisoners and former prisoners of war.

During the Second World War, the Inter-departmental Committee on House construction, commonly called the Burt Committee, was formed. This committee was responsible for the evaluation of war-time and post war buildings and in particular, how best to replace the many thousands of homes that had been destroyed during the bombing.
The Burt Committee looked at a variety of building techniques, placing particular emphasis on re-building efficiency, economy and speed of construction. Among the first research topics was an examination of how best the use of steel and prefabricated materials could benefit the house building program.
The committee found that it was possible to standardise a limited number of designs that initially showed considerable cost savings by deploying the use of steel and reinforced concrete into the manufacture of new homes.
Factories that once produced all manner of War related products from ammunition to fighter planes now required diversification and the production of house building components was one such option.Hence, the move toward pre-fabrication was made and many new types of construction emerged including precast and insitu concrete, timber-framed and steel framed systems.
While many of the new building systems were intended to provide emergency or temporary accommodation several of the new designs included semi permanent and permanent structures. The BISF House was one such permanent design, sponsored by the influential British Iron & Steel Federation, an association of steel producers with vast resources, built through coordinating steel output throughout World War Two.

liverpool met cathedral (2)

Post-war, the British Iron & Steel Federation played a key role in the Ministry of Works Emergency Factory Made housing programme, sponsoring a variety of new steel based designs. The design we know today as the BISF House was created by the architect Sir Frederick Gibberd and engineer Donovan Lee. Sir Gibberd was also responsible for the design the Howard House and many other buildings including the outstanding Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

Sir Frederick Gibberd

The BISF House proved to be a very successful design, much of this was of course due to the backing of the British Iron & Steel federation, who could also ensure the steady supply of steel required for the manufacturing process. 
The BISF house also benefited from a guaranteed order of 30,000 units given directly by the Government in 1941 resulting in between 36,000 and 40,000 houses being built over a period of 6 years.

Some of the first prototype examples were constructed at the Ministry of Works demonstration site in Northolt, where the British Iron & Steel Federation arranged for two prototype properties to be built.

bisf prototype b house
The BISF prototype B house at Northolt.