Title: Half-way house for industrialised building

Pages: 25 - 26


Author: Editorial

Text: Half-way house for industrialised building
Speaking at the opening of the Building Systems and Components exhibition at the Crystal Palace, London in May, Reginald Prentice, the Minister of Public Buildings and Works, said, "The only way to get the houses, schools, hospitals factories and other buildings that we need is to make the fullest use of industrialised methods. The building industry cannot expect any substantial increase in its labour force, and to meet its targets will have to make the utmost use oflabour saving methods and the latest machines."
Going round the exhibition, one might have expected that the exhibits on view would justify the minister's words, and would include building methods which make the most of cutting down labour Costs and, at the same time, provide satisfactory buildings. But if the minister's words are taken literally, and the building industry really is "to make the fullest use of industrialised methods," then the exhibition was a bitter disappointment. And the main reason for this is that the industrialised building systems on view failed to exploit their full potential.
Take the case of houses There are about 180 building systems on the market, and not only does this represent an Unnecessary duplication of effort, but they are also a source of confusion. What is needed is rationalisation within the industry so that less than half the number is produced, and we welcome the National Building Agency's move to list all building systems. One hears all too often that local Councils, for example, shy away from building systems because they do not know which system to choose or are afraid that systems can only be used on large scale developments, or, again, do not really believe that a system can achieve the reduction in labour costs and building time claimed for it.
But even if a smaller number of well documented systems were developed, they would still need a lot of improvement. Too little attention has been given to the idea that the inside of the house can be industrialised, as well as the floor, walls and roof.
The houses on show at the exhibition illustrated the point In few of them were the storage requirements properly thought out, despite the fact that Cupboards should be an integral part of the wall system. The best attempts were made by Turner and Newell and WaleSindall: their houses did at least have one dividing wall between two bedrooms completely devoted to storage space (a wardrobe in each bedroom, plus a cupboard opening on to the landing), but the usual practice was to keep storage space to a minimum or carve cupboards out of the rooms, as done by Hawthorne Leslie (Holdings) Ltd This practice inevitably creates odd corners and badly shaped rooms
Few of the houses included central heating (let alone double glazed windows) surely a basic element in modern housing. and it appeared that onIy Northern Ideal Homesteads, Taylor Woodrow-Anglian and Arrowhead offered central heating as standard equipment.
Only one of the houses showed real thought for the layout of service arrangements, like gas and electricity meters, water stop cocks and tradesmen's deliveries, all of which wore placed in the porch of the Turner and Newall house so that meters could be read, and deliveries put into a cupboard, without the owner being disturbed.
None of the houses showed real care for the machinery and fittings that are now an accepted part of the kitchen - and the layout and space given to the kitchen was the least satisfactory element in all the houses. The attitude towards these fittings was well demonstrated by a representative of Wale-Sindall, who explained away the bad positioning of his kitchen's cupboard space by saying that the design of the interior was left to the client. This is the point. In a truly industrialised buliding, the interior must be part of the overall design and should include such things as cupboards, cookers. washing machines and so on. The way these things could be assembled on an integral service wall is demonstrated by the Allied Ironfounders kitchen Unit shown on pages 51 and 52.
Finally, the houses were a disappointment because they seemed to make little use of industrialised components: unlike the Arrowhead house, few used factory made aluminium windows and porch roofs. Indeed, the fittings and decorations were generally....
[A detail of the Arrowhead house. Its porch and window sections are in aluminium and the door, window frames and external cladding are factory made.]
poor - and the less said about the joinery, the better. Even if one accepts the fact that the houses were put up for an exhibition and were therefore tenmporary structures, one can only add that the impression they create is extremely important. Any visitor coming from the United States or Sweden, for example, where industrialised building is well established (see house building in the USA; a study of Rationalisation and its Implications*), must have been appalled at our low standards of equipment and finish.
One other criticism that could be made of the houses on show was their redeployment of space. In at least one house, the bedroom sizes were much too small; in another. the bathroom was an extremely awkward shape; a third house underlined the cubby-hole dimensions of its downstairs cloakroom by not bothering to give it a window; and in most of the houses, there were areas of space - particularly around the stairs whose use had not been properly resolved. In fact, the variation was surprising considering that nearly all the houses occupied an area of between 920-960 sq feet. What they all showed, however, is that architects and manufacturers must give more thought to the way a house is used by its occupants before the space it contains, and the services it provides, are put to their maximum advantage. Otherwise, many of the opportunities provided by industrialised building systems will go on being wasted, and the houses thenmselves will continue being built to standards which are now out of date.
* published by HMSO for the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, price 8s 6d



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