Non Traditional Houses In Calderdale

Calderdale skyline

Definition of Non-Traditional Housing

What is Traditional Housing?
Usually, houses and flats are traditionally built.  By this we mean constructed of brick and tile,  brick and slate,  stone and slate, render and tile, render and slate or even timber frame, depending on which part of the country you are from.
What is Non-Traditional Housing?
Non-traditional housing construction can be classed as construction techniques that utilise systems of building, focused on speed and economy of construction.  It is the sort of construction that is used where a great deal of housing is required quickly, so it was often used by local authorities to mass build. 

History of Non-Traditional Housing

House-building had virtually ceased during the four years of the Great War, 1914 – 1918.  Prior to this, changes in housing construction had been relatively gradual, allowing plenty of time for assessing the performance in use of materials and components brought together in a novel way. 

After WWI
During World War 1 our housing stock had been bombed and demolished, leaving the country with fewer houses.  There had also been a lack of maintenance over the war years, as the workforce had been at war.  Upon the return of the armed forces houses were needed quickly.  Replacement and renewal of housing was a major issue with an acute shortage of housing. This was when the use of pre-fabrication for house building was first seen in the UK in significant numbers.  1918 was the starting point for non-traditional house building. The building industry at the time was seriously affected by a shortage of skilled labour and essential materials due to the war effort.  However, of the total 4.5 million houses erected in Great Britain between 1919 and 1939, the number built by new methods was comparatively small.  It is difficult to say precisely how many non-traditional dwellings were built during this period, but the figure is probably less than 250 000, with the vast majority for Local Authority use.  In general, the pace of innovation took over and house-builders entered unchartered territories.

After the Second World War
The Second World War brought an even greater demand for the rapid construction of new dwellings.  In addition to the need to rebuild homes damaged as a result of the war, the Government had other objectives that were set out in a white paper in 1945, to provide a separate dwelling for any family who wanted one and to complete the slum clearance programme started before the war. After the Second World War there was a surplus of steel and aluminium production, and an industry in need of diversification.  These factors drove the move towards the use of prefabrication, as a result many new varieties of concrete, timber framed and steel framed systems emerged.  Whilst most systems were intended to provide permanent or long-term housing a few were intended only as emergency or temporary solutions.

Development of UK Housing Systems

Development of UK House Building Systems
Throughout the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s important changes in house construction were taking place with considerable attention focussed on productivity and new methods of production. The philosophy shifted towards that of Industrialised building. This is based on the principle that as much work as possible is transferred from the site to the factory leaving a simple assembly system to be carried out on site. Off-site manufacturing shifts the entire house-building process into the factory, cutting down on time and gets around the problem of the shortage of skilled labour.
After the war years the types of construction included large panel construction, Wimpey no fine concrete construction, Airey houses and some high rise buildings.  1954 was a high water mark for housing production in the UK, with just under 350 000 dwellings completed.  From then on, output dropped steadily, before stabilising at a plateau of around 300 000 in 1960.

During the 1950’s high rise construction was gathering pace.  There was a lot of enthusiasm for, and confidence in industrialised building by those promoting it.  The bias was now towards high and medium rise flats, a pattern which was to continue right through to 1975.  However, a large section of the public remained suspicious about ‘modern building’, particularly high rise construction, whether it was an industrialised building system or not.  The subsidy reforms of 1967 effectively rang the death-knell for the tower block, sealed by the partial collapse of Ronan Point, a high rise, 22-storey large panel construction, in 1968.
During the 1960s another approach to construction also gained popularity. Of the great variety of approaches taken, it was found that improvements in productivity could be realised by simplifying (or ‘rationalising’) the design and construction of traditional buildings to produce the Rationalised Traditional Construction, known as ‘Rat-Trads’.  They had masonry cross-walls with the front and rear elevations in-filled with storey-height timber framed panels.  Dimension and details were standardised.

Another type of construction used during the 1960s and 1970s was volumetric construction which involved producing buildings as a number of boxes that are connected on site.  This usually involved lightweight frame constructions of either timber or metal and some pre-cast concrete systems and pre-cast volumetric concrete systems were also used.

In the late 1970s and 1980s steel, timber and concrete systems continue with timber framed construction dominating until a dramatic downturn in popularity following adverse TV coverage. In the early 1980s an episode of World in Action was severely critical of a small group of timer framed dwellings in the West of England.  The gist of the programme was that the dwellings were not watertight, and that the inevitable consequence had been early development of decay in parts of the structure.  It implied that these dwellings might be typical of all timber frame construction, and that many more owners of such homes could expect severe problems in the future and accordingly timber frame could not be considered a suitably robust means of construction.  A survey of more than 400 dwellings, many in areas of severe weather exposure, found no evidence of decay and the catalogue of failures predicted by the programme never materialised.  But the damage was done and this area of the market collapsed because of the programme and the idea of homes from the factory was to lie dormant for the next 15 years.

1974 saw major changes in Building Regulations and very few new systems were developed after that date.   The range of systems and construction techniques used has been extremely varied, with over 500 systems used between 1919 and 1976.

Performance of Non-Traditional Housing

Although age, wear, lack of maintenance and misuse take their toll and make buildings look rather poor, many non-traditional housing systems initially provided quite pleasant looking homes, and a good number remain so.  In general most non-traditional housing systems have performed well from a structural point of view, although some problems developed with a number of system-built dwellings.
By the 1980s some fundamental problems affecting structural stability and durability began to emerge in some of the concrete system built houses.  The problems occurred, because of either carbonation, or the presence of chlorides in the concrete which resulted in the corrosion of steel.
Overall, the majority of non-traditional dwellings have provided levels of performance not very different from many traditionally built dwellings of the same age.  However, there are inherent defects with several systems.  Some dwellings may be beyond economic repair.

The Housing Defects Act

Whilst some properties have been successful, others suffer from basic design faults.  The BRE (Building Research Establishment) was commissioned by the Government in the early 1980s to assess a range of house types whose condition was causing concern.  Defects were discovered in the design and construction of a number of house types designed and built before 1960 and these were subsequently designated as inherently defective under the Housing Defects Legislation.

The Housing Defects Act 1984 (now incorporated into the Housing Act 1985)(since repealed in Scotland) was introduced to deal with these problems.   The Act made provision of grants to homeowners wishing to bring their properties up to a mortgage able standard.  Owners’ were entitled to government assistance for a 10 year period from 1984.  Houses subject to assistance were covered by a PRC certificate. Unfortunately the Government ceased to fund the scheme in the 1990s and it lapsed.   
One of the main problems with non-traditional houses whether defective or not, is that the mortgage companies such as banks or building societies refused to lend money against them to potential buyers.  Under the Right to Buy, it was the tenant who required a mortgage and amendments to the properties were required in order to get it, even though in many cases there was nothing physically wrong with the properties.  Therefore, over the years, there has been the need to convert non-traditional housing into traditional housing to improve borrowing opportunities.

The National Home Building Council (NHBC) still keep a list of the firms that will undertake work to the PRC scheme standard and for some people with a PRC constructed home, this is a route to mortgage-ability.
Housing organisations and associations with large amounts of stock also required properties to be brought up to a more modern standard for thermal efficiency, which normally involved a cladding system along with checks on structural elements.  Some properties have even had to be practically re-built, which can be very difficult and would be almost as costly as building from scratch.

Types of Non-Traditional House in Calderdale

Types of Non-Traditional Housing in Calderdale

All Non-Traditional House construction types fall into one of the following four categories:

Metal Framed Houses  (M)
Pre-Cast Concrete Houses (P)
In-situ concrete Houses  (S)
Timber & framed Houses (T)

There are over 500 different non-traditional construction types used in the country between 1919 and 1976.  Other types of non-traditional housing include caravans, mobile homes, park homes and houseboats. According to the publication Non Traditional Houses – Identifying Non-Traditional Houses in the UK: 1918 – 75, there were 11 different types of Non-Traditional House Constructions used in Calderdale:

BISF Type A1
Lowton Cubitt
Trusteel 3M
Trusteel MK II
Airey (Designated Defective England & Wales)
Newland (Designated Defective England & Wales)
Tarran Temp Bungalow (Designated Defective England & Wales)
Wimpey No-Fines
Rowcon Type II

Map Calderdale

<strong>Details of the different types of construction used in Calderdale</strong>

B.I.S.F Type 1 House (British Iron & Steel Federation)

  • AKA: BISF.
  • Manufactured by British Iron & Steel Federation and British Steel Homes Ltd. 
  • Period built: 1944 – 50.
  • Number built: 35 000.
  • Designers:  Frederick Gibberd & Engineer Donovan Lee.

Identification Characteristics

  • 2-storey, semi-detached and terraced houses.
  • Shallow pitch gable roof covered with profiled asbestos cement sheets.
  • External walls rendered to first floor level & vertically profiled steel sheets above.
  • Large ground floor windows.
  • PS trims to windows and doors.
  • Some houses have single storey lean-to structure at gable wall

Lowton Cubitt House

Photograph of  a row of Lowton Cubitt Houses, Fall Spring Gardens, Elland.
  • AKA: Cubitt, LC, LC System & Modulow. 
  • Manufacturers: Cubitts Construction Systems Ltd and Lowton-Cubitt Housing Ltd. 
  • Period Built: 1964 – 1970s.
  • Number Built: 3700.
  • Designer: Lowton Construction Group.

Identification Characteristics

  • 2-storey terraced houses.
  • Medium pitch gable roof covered with interlocking concrete tiles.
  • External walls of tile hanging, PVC shiplap boarding, or render.
  • Brick panels at separating wall.
  • Gable wall of brick throughout, or mathematical tiles to eaves level, and vertical timber boarding at apex.
  • Brick or mathematical tiles returned around front and rear walls.
  • Some dwellings have integral garages and utility rooms on ground floor giving appearance of 3-storey house.

Trusteel 3M House

  • Also known as: Trusteel. 
  • Manufacturer: Trusteel Corporation (Universal) Ltd. 
  • Period Built: 1966 -76.
  • Number built: 17 000.
  • Designers: M R Park and C R Stapleford.

Mixenden Road, Halifax

Identification Characteristics:

  • Bungalows, 2-storey semi-detached and terraced houses.
  • Shallow pitch gable roof or monopitch covered with interlocking concrete tiles or slates or flat roof covered with asphalt.
  • External walls of brick, concrete panel, tile hanging or shiplap timber boarding throughout or in combination.
  • Steelwork visible in roof space.

Trusteel MK II

Image of Trusteel House
  • Also known as:  Minox or Trusteel.  
  • Manufacturer: Trusteel Corporation (Universal) Ltd.
  • Period Built: 1946 – 66.
  • Number Built: 20 000.
  • Designer: C R Stapleford.

Woodbrook Rd, Halifax

Identification Characteristics

  • Bungalows, chalet bungalows and 2-storey detached, semi-detached and terraced houses.
  • Medium pitch hipped or gable roof covered with plain or interlocking concrete tiles.
  • External walls of brick, plain or harled (pebbledash) render, tile hanging or shiplap boarding throughout or in combination.
  • Steelwork visible in roof space.

Airey – Designated Defective

  • Also known as:  Airey new improved duo-slab house.
  • Manufacturer: W Airey & Sons Ltd / R Costain Ltd.
  • Period Built: 1945 – 55. 
  • Number Built26 000. 
  • Designers: Frederick Gibberd.

Westfield, Hebden Bridge.

Identification Characteristics

  • 2-storey semi-detached houses.
  • Medium or steep pitch hipped or gable roof covered with tiles or flat roof covered with bituminous felt.
  • External walls of exposed aggregate PRC panels throughout with upper panels oversailing lower panels.
  • Splayed PRC corner panels.
  • Tile hanging or horizontal timber boarding to gable apex.


Surveyors Notes

Identification Characteristics:

  • Manufacturer: Kencast Buildings Ltd.
  • Period Build 1960’s.
  • Number Built: 1000

Bungalow – Oswestry

  • Detached and semi-detached bungalows.
  • Medium Pitch gable roof covered with slates or tiles.
  • External walls rendered throughout.
  • Tile hanging at gable apex.
  • Some bungalows have vertical timber boarding below some front wall window.

N.B: Whilst publications lead us to believe there were Kencast houses constructed in Calderdale, none have actually been identified. 

Newland – Designated Defective in England & Wales

Tarran Newland non traditional house @ bisf
  • Also known as: Tarran-Newland.
  • Manufacturer: Tarran Industries Ltd.
  • Period Built: 1944 – 56.
  • Number Built: 8000 (included Dorran, Myton, Newland & Tarran)

The Newlands, Sowerby

Identification characteristics

  • 2-storey semi-detached terraced houses.
  • Shallow pitch gable roof covered with tiles or profiled asbestos cement sheets.
  • External walls of narrow storey height PRC panels.
  • Gable wall apex of asbestos cement sheets.
  • Flat canopy over recessed front door.

An advert from 1948, for 100 new Tarran-Newland houses in Halifax!

Tarran Temporary Bungalow – Designated Defective in England & Wales

Wadsworth Avenue, Todmorden
  • Also known as: Prefab, Tarran, Tarran Mark IV.
  • Manufacturer: Tarran Industries Ltd.
  • Period Built: 1944 – 56.
  • Number Built: 8000 (included Dorran, Myton, Newland and Tarran).

Identification Characteristics:

  • Detached bungalows.
  • Shallow pitch gable roof covered with profiled asbestos cement sheets.
  • External walls of storey height aggregate-faced PRC panels throughout.
  • Metal cowl to chimney.

Wimpey No-Fines

Wimpey No-Fines Flats, Sandhall Lane Pellon, Halifax
  • Also known as:  Butterfly, Butterfly No-Fines, Formwall, Gateshead butterfly, Gateshead No-Fines, No-fines, Wimpey, Wimpey W6M.
  • Manufacturer: George Wimpey & Co. Ltd.
  • Period Built: 1940’s – 1970’s.
  • Number built: 300 000.

Identification Characteristics

  • Bungalows and 2-storey semi-detached and terraced houses.
  • Medium pitch hipped or gable roof covered with tiles, or flat or shallow valley roof covered with bituminous felt of asphalt.
  • External walls of render throughout, or to front and rear walls and flank wall of brick.
  • Precast concrete corbel to gable end eaves.
  • Some dwellings have front bay windows.

Rowcon Type I

  • Also known as: Rowcon.
  • Manufacturer: Rowlinson construction Ltd.
  • Period Built: 1961 – 70.
  • Number Built: 1700.

Identification Characteristics:

  • 2-storey terraced houses.
  • Medium pitch gale roof covered with tiles or flat roof covered with bituminous felt.
  • Front and rear external walls of painted plywood with brick piers at separating walls.
  • Gable wall of brick or concrete blocks returned around corners.
  • Some houses have concrete block pier at separating wall.

N.B Whilst publications lead us to believe there were Rowcon houses constructed in Calderdale, none have been identified. This picture shows a Rowcon Type I construction.

Rowcon Type II

  • Also known as: Rowcon.
  • Manufacturer: Rowlinson Construction Ltd.
  • Period Built: 1966 – 70.
  • Number Built: 1700.
  • Designer: K H Edmondson.

Identification Characteristics

  • 2-storey terraced houses.
  • Monopitch roof covered with tiles.
  • Front and rear external walls of brick with horizontal timber boarded panels above doors and 2-storey feature panels with aggregate render below windows and tile hanging at gable apex. 
  • Gable wall of brick throughout or to upper storey window head level and tile hanging above.

N.B: Whilst publications lead us to believe there were Rowcon houses constructed in Calderdale, none have been identified. This picture shows a Rowcon Type II construction.

Hi Rise Flats Calderdale

High Rise Flats

Shaw lodge high rise flats Halifax
There are also 21 Non-Traditionally Constructed blocks of High Rise Flats in Calderdale. Pictured: Shaw Lodge.

Albion Court, Halifax 85
St JamesCourt, Halifax 67
Lister Court, Halifax 90
Shaw Lodge, Halifax 84
Blenheim Court, Halifax  – Empty – in regeneration area 106
Westbrook Court, Halifax – Empty – in regeneration area 107
Cobden Court, Halifax – Empty – in regeneration area 107
Akroyd Court, Boothtown 85
Range Court, Boothtown 85
Haley Court, Boothtown 85
Mixenden Court, Mixenden 95
Jumples Court, Mixenden 95
Wheatley Court, Mixenden 96
Dodgeholme Court, Mixenden – Empty – Condemned 101 
Hebble Court, Mixenden 96
Towngate House, Elland 60
Castlegate House, Elland 32
Church House, Elland 32
Talbot House, Elland 64
Ladstone Towers, Sowerby  Bridge 86
Houghton Towers – Sowerby Bridge 87
Total number of flats     1745

Portions of this article were first published by Calderdale Council