Frederick Gibberd Architect for Prototypes A, B, C Steel Houses 1943

Historical Documents


Minutes of the Meeting held at Steel House on 14th December, 1943 at 2.45 p.m.
Present:   Mr. C.J. Kavanagh (Chairman)
Mr. Spencer Summers, M.P, Hon. H.C.H. Bathurst.
Mr. W. Brown.  Mr. R. Marshall.  Mr. W.S. Napier.  Mr. T.G. Rodger.  Mr. E.G. Saunders.
In Attendance: Mr. T. Stevenson (Secretary) Mr, D.J. Davies.
The Secretary reported an alteration to the minutes as circulated. The proposed alteration was the cancellation of para­graph 3, page 4, and the substitution of the following:

Mr. Saunders referred to the use of tubular members in this construction.
Mr. Chairman stated that tubular members might be used in the roof construction, which was a self contained unit.
Mr. Napier suggested the use of tubular columns.
Mr. Saunders stated that there were admitted difficulties in marrying up the use of tubes with wall claddings which had been designed for other sections.

The Committee decided that at least one house should have a tubular roof and that consideration should be given to the use of tubes for stanchions or floor beams in the designs for the completely pre-fabricated houses.”

Subject to the above alteration, which was read and agreed, the minutes were approved and signed by the Chairman.

Apology for Absence.
The Chairman reported an apology for absence from Mr. Harrison.

Statement by Mr. Spencer Summers.
Mr. Spencer Summers reported on a meeting he had had with Lord Portal during the morning which followed an interview which Mr. Kavanagh had had with the Minister the previous day. Mr. Summers stated that Lord Portal intended, under the auspices of the Ministry of Works, to erect eight houses for demonstration and exhibition, the houses to be completed in 5 months time. Lord Portal was aware that the Steel Industry was investigating the possibilities of steel houses for post-war building and invited the collaboration of the Steel Industry in providing a steel clad house as one of the proto­types. A further meeting was taking place with the Minister on Friday at 10.30 a.m. when it was hoped that the suggestions of the Industry might be formulated and available fur discussion. Mr. Summers expressed the view that the suggested collaboration was a little early as the final design stage, in spite of the very great progress, had not yet, he understood, been readied, but he was con­vinced that the invitation should be accepted and that work should be concentrated on the best type of steel clad house. Lord Portal had stated that he would give the necessary priority in the supply of materials.

The Chairman recalled that the designs at present being evolved were based on plans received from the Interdepartmental Committee on House Construction of the Ministries of Health and Works, which were given for general guidance on approximate requirements. These plans were in the basis of 900 sq. ft. in area, whereas the Ministry of Works was today concentrating on a plan of 850 sq. ft.

The Chairman also said that he had been given particulars of six of the types of houses the Ministry would erect, as follows:

  • Normal brick construction
  • No-fines concrete
  • Foamed slag cast in situ
  • pre-cast
  • Light steel frame
  • Steel clad.
  • In regard to the latter, Lord Weir had been invited to collaborate but he had asked to be excused as the bungalow type on which he was working, was not yet completely finalised and was primarily intend­ed for the rural districts of Scotland.
  • Mr. Bathurst enquired if it was possible to build for this demonstration by the Ministry, more than one type.
  • Mr. Summers thought that in view of the shortness of time, it would be better to concentrate on one design for the Ministry, which would not of course preclude the erection independ­ently of other proto-types elsewhere.
  • The Chairman suggested that now an Architect had been appointed, he would be available for consultation as to the most suitable design for the purposes of this demonstration. He stated that the Committee’s work on the six designs was well up to schedule and would be completed by the end of December.

Mr Saunders said he doubted if the Consulting Engineer would be ready by the end of the year. In the ‘C’ design which had been circulated, there was no indication that tubes had been considered. The Director in reply stated that the examination of the possibilities of tubes was already well under weigh on the basis of information supplied by Mr. Saunders and had only to be completed for submission at an early meeting.

Mr. Summers said that the Main Committee would consider the range of designs and authorise the erection of proto-types. If it could be arranged with the Ministry, two of these might, as Mr. Bathurst had indicated, be erected on the Ministry’s site and four independently.

4. Design Progress.
The Committee then considered the amended designs of the A and B type and the proposed design of C type houses.

‘A’ ‘Type.
The Chairman stated that the A type was based on the use of hot rolled sections and was a modification of normal structural steelwork technique. This was in contrast to the B and C types based on the use of light gauge material which enter a field which had yet to be fully explored. On examination of the A type designs, M.11/30-32, classified as A3 and A4, Mr. Marshall queried the use of breeze blocks which in contact with the steelwork, would set up serious corrosion. It was agreed that foamed slag should replace the breeze blocks. As regards the structural details, the Chairman suggested that in pursuance of the policy of the Main Committee, the design Committee of the B.S.A. should be asked to consider the design and make suggestions. It was agreed that the Design Committee should be asked to comment in the course of the next few days.

On the external cladding for the A type, the Committee agreed that brickwork should be used at the bottom as shown in the drawing and Canadian Tiles in the upper portion. For the roof covering, it was agreed that Canadian Tiles should be used, the sheets being galvanised and painted. The sheets used on the wall surfaces also should be galvanised and for the colouring, the Architect should be consulted.

Mr. Bathurst pointed out that there were various types of Canadian Tiles with 3, 4 or 5 corrugations all of which were standard. It was agreed that the Architect should be asked to reconsider the particular pattern most suitable, and the industry thereafter advised.

‘B’ Type.
On the B type design M.11/31, Mr. Rodger requested parti­culars of costs. The Chairman stated that agreement must first be reached on the design and then quantities could be taken out. The weights of steel had been reduced to make the construction as economic as possible. The costs of the light gauge sections would be higher than for hot rolled sections, but the lighter weight would be a balancing factor.

For the external cladding for the Ministry’s exhibition scheme, the Committee agreed that the weatherboard pattern of steel sheet should be used from the ground floor to the eaves level and roof.

Mr. Bathurst stated that the weatherboard pattern could no doubt be manufactured in the quantity required but requested that full information should be available as soon as possible.

‘C’ Type.
The Chairman stated that the C type M. 11/25 was a com­plete departure from traditional technique and permitted the greatest amount of pre-fabrication. It was a panel-frame construction based on a standardised width and the module was selected to allow for standard metal windows etc, being incorporated in the panel. The construction used open web joists to span across the building and the weight of steel compared favourably with the B type.

Mr. Bathurst referred to his plea at the last meeting for Steel Ceilings to be used especially in the house or houses erected for the Ministry. The Chairman asked if the Committee would agree to ask Steel Ceilings Ltd, to supply the necessary units, but after discussion the Committee agreed that the Architect should be asked to provide a suitable design.

Mr. Napier and Mr. Rodger, who thought the C type showed great promise, suggested that the design should include for a pitch­ed as well as a flat roof.

With regard to external sheeting, a pattern had been shown by the Consulting Engineer to suit the design and while this was attractive, it was agreed to consult the Architect before finalising the design.Mr. Bathurst suggested that it would be useful if the C type could be included in the Ministry’s demonstration houses especially from the viewpoint of speed of assembly. Doubt was expressed as to whether the units would be ready in time for this purpose, but Mr, Summers suggested that work should proceed concurrently.

Mr. Saunders referred again to the use of tubular con­struction and the Director stated that it was proposed to use steel tubular construction for the open web girders as an alternative to the designs already prepared, and that it was hoped to include in the A and B type houses, alternative tubular construction for the roof framework.

5. Appointment of Architect.
Mr, Spencer Summers intimated that Mr. Frederick Gibberd, F.R.I.B.A, had been appointed as Architect to the Committee. Mr. Gibberd was in private practice and also was Principal of the Architectural Association School of Architecture. He was familiar with house construction and served as a member of Housing Committees of the Ministry and the R.I.B.A. The Director gave some further outline of Mr.Glbberd’s work in this field of building.

Strip Fabrication.
The Chairman intimated that in his recent contacts with fabricators such as Brockhouse, and Accles & Pollock, he understood that, these and other fabricators of strip, were forming a Technical Committee. It was suggested that the Chairman should make early contact with them in order to discuss the fabricating problems involved both in manufacture and supply.

The following firms were mentioned as likely to be of service and with whom contact might be established.
Accles & Pollock.
Brockhouse. Joe. Sankey
Metal Trim
Metal Mouldings
Warwick Rim
Art Metal Co
Ayrshire Dockyard
It was agreed, in view of the urgency of the provision of a prototype house or houses, for the Ministry, that the Chairman should, with Mr. Brown as representative of the strip interests, meet representatives of a few of these firms at an early date in order to obtain information and collaboration. It was also agreed that all arrangements be left to the Chairman in making suitable arrangements for the supply of the necessary material.

Specifications for the Cold Formed Sections.
It was agreed that the provision of a specification covering the use of light gauge structural sections in building should be discussed with the Technical Committee referred to above now being set up by the fabricators of steel strip.

Tests on Strip and Cold Formed Sections.
Mr, Davies referred to the circular letter which had been sent to the manufacturers of cold formed sections. As soon as the necessary arrangements Could be made for the supply of material, the tests would be put in hand. The results of these tests would be available in time to be incorporated in the final designs approved for mass production.

9. Next meeting.
It was agreed that the next meeting of the Committee would take place at Steele House  on Wednesday 12th January 1944 at 2.45pm.