Howard Steel Framed House

The Howard House Steel Framed House

Howard house prototype A front view

Manufacturer: John Howard & Co. Ltd
Alternative name: Howard
Designers: Philip Powell Eric Chick
Architect : Sir Frederick Gibberd, F.R.I.B.A., A.M.P.T.I.
Period built: 1945–50
Number built: 1500

Image: Original Howard Type A Prototype House.

The Howard house was designed by Sir Frederick Gibbered who also designed the BISF House.

The Howard House had a more industrial aesthetic design, and Gibberd was more adventurous in his use of innovative materials and technologies of the time.

Asbestos cement cladding panels are clearly expressed with metal flashings over a base course of foamed slag concrete panels, with windows and doors fitting within the module set up by the cladding. The recessed mid section was adventurous in its design, giving the outward feel of a building style more reminiscent of continental homes of the time.
Unlike the BISF House, this house proudly displays its lightweight prefab nature, but there are also technical advances that set the Howard House apart, for example the pre-cast concrete perimeter plinth that supports a suspended steel ground floor.

The Howard House was amongst the first prefabricated houses in the country to be built on a large scale. In total, 1,500 Howard Houses were built.
The living space was approximately 20 sq ft with the kitchen and utility room contained within the recessed wing on the ground floor and the Bathroom and toilet located directly above on the first floor of the house.

At the time, these houses garnered great interest both in the building techniques and planning methods that were employed.

The Howard House Original  Prototype A House Under Construction at Datchet Slough, Showing Installation of Asbestos Cement Panels
The Howard House Original Prototype A House Under Construction at Datchet Slough, Showing Installation of Asbestos Cement Panels

The steel frame itself was structurally simplistic in its design and the large living room which spanned from front to back of the building, enabled easy access to the rear garden, with 4 access doors in all. Two being at the front and two at the rear. Sometimes a screen was placed at the front of the property which was sometimes converted into a covered veranda or more permanent extension to the kitchen area.

Further Description.

This house embodies two very interesting features :

  • (a) The house is divided into two distinct sections—a working unit and a living unit.
  • (b) The living unit is based on a 10 ft standard grid with deep lattice girders between the stanchions which carry the floor and roof.

There are therefore fewer framing units in this structure than in other types. The system is thus built up around a standard house and planning is limited.

Howard House Frame.
Mild steel angles spaced at 10 ft centres form the stanchions which carry the deep lattice girders supporting floor and roof. As these girders are under or over the windows the fenestration is left free. A beam is placed in the centre of the house to carry the 10 feet prefabricated floor units, and it is supported by a central column. The lattice girders are welded from light rolled sections. Roof trusses are also of steel.

External Cladding.
Asbestos sheets are screwed to the frame. In the house illustrated these sheets have a Tyrolean rendering. They are in 4 feet square panels (the depth of the lattice girder is based on this dimension) but it is intended to use a single sheet of asbestos 20 ft x 4 ft.

Internal Lining. Asbestos fibreboard, wood wool. The wood wool is cemented to the fibreboard and the whole stiffened with a wood frame, and the joints covered by cover fillets.

Party Walls. Three inch wood wool slabs faced with asbestos on one side and asbestos fibreboard on the other.

Partitions. Fibreboard on wood wool slabs.

Floors. Ground floor of solid concrete.
Timber units 10 feet long are prefabricated and laid directly on the steel frame.

Roof. Corrugated asbestos sheeting.

Ceiling. plasterboard.

Windows. Standard metal window frames.

Remarks. This house was one considered at the time of construction as being one of the most satisfactory designs produced in this country.

Additional Materials information.  Steel frame, foamed slag. U=0.29 (min. in panels). Fire rating under 1/2 hour.
A post and beam type of steel frame. Columns at 8’0″ to 12’0″ centres.
Space below and above windows acts as floor bearing beam.
Cladding is generally of asbestos cement. Fixed in advance to the framework.
Internal lining is prefabricated in storey high units.

References: “Post War Building Study No. 23”, H.M. Stationery Office, London, England.


  1. Thanks Oxfordjon and warmest of welcomes to you.

    I do hope to post more information in due course but with so many different build types of non-traditional housing, it’s become a bit of a challenge.

    Good to have you here