Helena Partnership, In-depth View Moss Bank

Helena Partnerships is the largest social landlord in St Helens taking ownership of around 13,000 homes. The partnership was formed in 2002, when a large portion of the local councils housing stock was transferred into the care of the partnership.

Helena chose to undertake and fulfill ambitious targets both in the building of new affordable homes and the refurbishment of the existing housing stocks, in order to bring them into line with current standards. Many social landlords choose to undertake only the bare minimum of renovation requirements to existing BISF houses. Helena chose to go much further than this and viewed the project as the perfect time to make a real difference, not only for their residents but for the environment also by installing energy efficient systems that would drastically reduce the CO2 footprint of each property and offer reduced energy bills for the occupants.


It is this kind of collaborative and proactive approach that makes the Helena Partnership a success, not only for the community it serves but for the greater good on the environment. We believe that more social housing groups should follow this example in the renovation and upgrade of UK housing stocks and particularly the BISF properties. We already know that BISF houses are hugely popular with owners and tenants alike due to the generous rooms sizes and ease of renovation upgrades that can be applied. The main area of concern with BISF properties has always related to the levels of insulation inside the buildings which fail to meet modern day standards as well as overall aesthetics which are not the most attractive.

What Helena has proved is that it is possible to give these buildings a whole new lease of life, making them much warmer, more efficient and far more appealing at kerb level which provides a huge positive impact for the community, whilst offering increased longevity for the buildings and increased pride to those that reside inside.

Helena_Partnership bisf house before renovation
Pre-Renovated BISF Propery


•2% of global carbon is generated by the UK • 28.3% of carbon comes from housing (DECC) • 26 million homes in UK • 18% in social sector • Fuel poverty 5.5 million homes in 2009 • Widely expected to be 7.5 m+ 2013 • Slowest new build programme since 1923 • Existing homes are very inefficient in terms of energy compared to new •Decent homes did not go far enough in terms of energy saving • Government has a “warmer homes greener homes strategy” for 2020 • 2020 strategy aims to reduce CO2 output from homes by 29% compared to 1990 • 2050 carbon reduction target aims to reduce overall CO2 output by 80% compared to 1990 • 2020 strategy means that over 7 million homes to be insulated/treated by that date • This is more than 800,000 homes per year.

Helena’s Response was to ,Insulate all cavity walls, insulate all lofts, provide double glazing to all properties, replace old gas boilers with “A” rated boilers, undertake early adopton of gas saver technology, Externally insulated 400 no fines properties, Retrofitting 49 BISF properties.

Helenas View

“New build is fine as far as it goes BUT over 70% of homes going into the next century are already built. The challenge is to make the existing stock fit for purpose in respect of sustainabilty and energy use”. (Helena Partnership)

BISF: Moss Bank. St Helens

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. The BISF (British Iron & Steel Federation) was an association of steel producers, formed in 1934 in order to provide central planning for the industry, it was prominent in coordinating output through World War II. Post-war, the Federation played  a key role in the new Ministry of Works Emergency Factory Made housing programme. The houses were designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd who also designed the “Howard” homes. BISF are very popular with residents due to the internal space offered and the arrangement of the rooms. They are a steel framed home originally clad with an asbestos sheet to roof, the Lower walls were rendered on expanded metal lathe at ground floor The properties in St Helens had already been re -clad in 1976 and were now due for an upgrade.

BISF homes are not known to suffer from corrosion of the steel frame and that is the case at St Helens BUT they do offer poor thermal performance through low levels of insulation. The Insulation update provided in 1976 was minimal and after 30 years the 1976 replacement cladding was beginning to detach from the frame which was considered to be a potential health and safety issue.  A report was commissioned which highlighted the risk and recommended action be taken with a number of options to consider. Helena’s Board chose to use the BISF properties to demonstrate what could be achieved and then consider what is replicable in terms of technologies and cost. The in-house team who have considerable experience in none traditional properties, were commissioned to deliver the scheme. The Board also wanted to further extend the life of the properties by greatly improving insulation, securing the structure, making them wind and weather tight, reducing CO2 output / carbon footprint.

The look of the neighbourhoods would be improved by enhancements to the exterior of properties and improvements in local environment (hard and soft landscaping). The Board also wanted certification for the scheme BRE Eco homes secure by design.The in-house team (transferred from the Council) had previously helped achieve beacon status in respect of procurement (partnering)and had delivered a National Demonstration housing project. In order to achieve best value and innovation the team decided to embark on a collaborative process and have the view that early engagement with all stakeholders is key to a successful project involving residents, Board members and neighbourhood officers from day one. Stakeholders were involved in the tendering process, and selection of contractor

Contractor Selection

•Contractor selected via an OJEU process on a cost/quality basis with points being awarded for innovation and experience
•Following the award various teams (such as design, communication, and cost groups) were set up to build up the scheme


Resident involvement was critical and input both at the beginning and during the scheme was found to be very beneficial as they felt that they had played a part and had a degree of ownership in the project. The scheme was publicised and launched at a church hall which is very close to where the BISF properties are located which was very well attended.

The Project

Despite being supported by the Board, the project did have a budget and the team had to work to this.Following extensive design and costing exercises a project was agreed that satisfied the brief and just as importantly met resident expectations. The residents were to remain in occupation during the course of the works so the project was designed around this. The project was to involve complete over cladding of the houses which would not require any stripping off of existing materials and avoiding the need for costly tip waste materials.

The properties were re-clad with high performance external wall insulation and render with a brick slip application where required.

To further compliment the exterior renovation of the properties, Helena also chose to fit Photovoltaic panels for electricity generation, Solar hot water system where photovoltaic was not suitable due to aspect or issues with shade. New “A” rated windows to maximise the heat retention of the property in Winter and also to keep the houses cooler in Summer & new “A” rated boilers where necessary and the use of a “Zenex” gas saver unit, Positive input ventilation & sound proofing.

Extensive external ground works were also carried out to front gardens areas which included block paving, garden walls and ironwork, including gates where required. The overall result of the completed transformation was very well received by both the existing occupants and neighbouring community. The properties were truly brought into the 21st Century and extending the lifespan of these iconic homes even further.

Helena also received the coveted Green Apple Envionment Award 2010 amongst other accolades.