The Arcon Temporary Bungalow
- Name: Arcon Mark V
- Construction Type: Steel Framed
- Manufacturer: Arcon,
- Designers: Arcon Architectural Consultants
- Developer: Taylor Woodrow, 41 Wellbeck St, London W1.
- Period Built: 1945
- Total Number Built: 38,859
- Style: Bungalows
The firm Arcon (Architectural Consultants) was formed by architects Edric Neel, Rodney Thomas and Raglan Squire and industrial designer Jack Howe in 1943. Their collaborative design qualified as an approved entry into the Governments’ ‘Emergency Factory Made’ (EFM) housing program.
The name Arcon, is an anagram of the term ARchitectural CONsultants = AR–CON.
The consultants set out to design and sponsor a single storey dwelling which could be assembled from stocks of prefabricated parts to aid the post-war Emergency Housing programme.
A large number of industrial suppliers were enlisted into the programme, each of whom could reliably supply materials for the project, including;
- Steel in light, hot-rolled sections for the Arcon house frame, windows, and internal equipment.
- Tubular steel for roof trusses and purlins.
- Profiled asbestos-cement sheets for the external cladding and roof covering.
- Plasterboard for internal wall linings, ceilings and partitions.
- Timber, plywood and wood wool for prefabricated floor and ceiling panels and thermal insulation.
The teams collaboration with wider industries ensured the that the Arcon house was far less dependent on a few critical materials, the scarcity of which would echo the cancellation of the earlier, much vaunted, Portal Steel House building programme.
Taylor Woodrow manufactured the Arcon bungalow from 2,500 components, supplied by around 145 individual suppliers.
The Ministry of Works and a large firm of general contractors acted as agents and general coordinators for the group, and managed the distribution of parts and components from various centres.
At the peak of maximum production, the output of Arcon houses is said to have reached up to 500 complete units per week.
The Arcon House, was easier and less costly to produce than other prefabricated bungalow, such as the ‘Aluminium House’ Bungalow, and did not require special transport vehicles. It was the product of industrial and government organisation by which ordinary, prefabricated building materials were ordered, stocked, and directed by dry assembly and without recourse to special plants or lifting tackle. During the initial production development stage, several models of the Arcon House were built as demonstration houses, with various layout changes and minor tweaks, including the Arcon MkII, IV.
It was the Arcon MkV version that finally went in full production.
The second image below depicts a plan of the Arcon Mark V, followed by an exploded axonometric drawing, which shows the principal structural elements, and the screw jacks that were built into the wall and floor panels to facilitate levelling during erection. The houses were fitted with standard Ministry of Works, cupboards and kitchen-bathroom units.
In 1944, the UK Ministry of Works held a public display at the Tate Gallery in London of five different types of prefabricated homes.
- The AIROH (Aircraft Industries Research Organization on Housing) aluminum prefab, made from surplus aircraft materials.
- The Arcon steel-framed prefab with asbestos panels. the Arcon, which was adapted from an all steel Portal prototype.
- The Tarran – Timber-framed house.
- The Uni-Seco – Timber framed house.
- To view any of the above properties, please visit our friends at the Prefab Museum by clicking THIS LINK
Arcon MkV temporary prefabricated houses were produced only as bungalows. They have shallow pitch gable roofs covered with profiled asbestos cement sheets and a very distinguishable curved apex ridge. Externally, the Arcon bungalow walls are clad with vertically profiled asbestos cement sheets all around. The external gable apex is clad with vertically ribbed or fluted asbestos cement sheets. The doors are constructed from steel frames, as are the windows and surrounds. There is an asbestos cement canopy fitted above external doors. Further construction details are listed below.
ARCON HOUSE – FRAME/BASE CONSTRUCTION
Assembly follows the normal sequence for steel framed structural members. These are erected on the concrete foundation. Numerous devices have been incorporated to ensure accuracy in levelling and alignment and to master the tolerances which are inevitable in all manufacturing and erecting processes. The light rolled-steel framework was manufactured in sections, which were bolted together and to the sill.
The structure consistS of a light steel frame of rolled sections with a tubular steel roof truss. The exterior The walls are lined with Storey height panels 3 foot wide consisting of 3/8 of an inch plasterboard. Backed by insulating material to the equivalent of 5/8 inch wood wool, unbonded to light timber frames
The external walls were clad externally with dual layer corrugated asbestos-cement sheets. Similar sheeting was employed for the roof, but this was single layer only. The walls are lined with Storey height panels 3 foot wide consisting of 3/8 of an inch plasterboard, backed by insulating material to the equivalent of 5/8 inch wood wool, unbonded to light timber frames
Internal partitions are in prefabricated timber-framed panels of similar dimensions and construction to the outer walls, but they are generally devoid of insulating material and faced on both sides with plasterboard or building board.
The floor is comprised of impregnated timber battens, set in 1-inch cement screed on site concrete, all of which was covered in a layer of pitch and tar to receive 7/8″ Tongue & Groove boarding.
Prefabricated light timber-framed panels faced on one side with 5/8″ fibreboard or plasterboard bonded to the timber frame. They were hung on T section steel bearers, fixed to the roof trusses. Where plasterboard was installed, the panels were usually backed with insulating material.
Welded tubular steel trusses, purlins and braces formed a pitched roof with a rounded ridge. This was covered with single layer corrugated asbestos-cement sheeting.
DOORS, WINDOWS AND TRIMS
Internal doors and frames are of wood. External doors and windows are of steel, made-up from standard ‘cottage’ sections and set in steel linings. Skirtings, picture rails, etc are fabricated from steel.
The thermal insulation value of this construction was at the time, reported to be equivalent to that of an 11-inch cavity brick wall.
Kitching fittings and appliances., furnishings and sanitary ware were those adopted as standard by the Ministry of Works. The M.O.W ‘Service Unit’ was installed.
HEATING & HOT WATER
A slow combustion stove, with back-boiler and convector jacket is installed in the living room. Warm air is conveyed by ducts to both bedrooms.
All service wiring is in the roof space, attached to ceiling pull switches. For wall mounted sockets, wiring was easily incorporated into the pre-fabricated wall panels.
PERFORMANCE IN USE
In general design terms, the Arcon house exhibited a high degree of technical efficiency; all the structural units were well suited to mass production. Once occupied, many residents soon developed an unusually high degree of affection for the houses and plots. Many of these temporary houses vastly outlived the projected 10-15 year lifespan, with modest numbers still dotted around the UK today, but many more have since been demolished as governments strive to raise housing performance standards and avoid fuel poverty.
The single-storey three room bungalow was rectangular on plan, with an overall dimensions 10 m x 6.6 m.
ARCON HOUSE MK V INSTALLATION MANUAL
Arcon Build Locations England
- Barnsley – Lincoln – Rugby – Trafford – Wellingborough – Wolverhampton – Uttlesford
Arcon Houses Scotland
It is understood that 909 Arcon Units were built in and around Glasgow; between 1945-1946.
ARCON HOUSE MK V INTERIOR GALLERY – Images by Ray Dauncy Flickr
National Open Air Museum Wales