By Kevin McGarry
FIGHTY local authorities in the north-west and as far south as Birmingham are inspecting the prototype of a ready-made house which a Lancashire building firm plans to mass-produce at the rate of 5,000 a year.
The steel-framed house which can be erected in 21 days is being shown at Lowton St. Marys. Warrington, Lancashire, by the Lowton Construction Group Ltd.
The prototype was put up by 10 men. none of whom were skilled at the job.
The firm's project director is 47year-old Mr. Vincent McKernan, of Bowdon, Cheshire. He is a member of the Catenians in South Manchester, a member of the K.S.C. in Salford, and was formerly an active member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. He is married with one daughter, aged 16.
It was while he was in the Far Fast after the War that Mr. McKernan worked on the idea for the new type housing. But it was not until 12 weeks ago that the final plan, worked out by a team of experts from the 11 companies within the Lowton Group, came to fruition.
WHITE PAPER And only last week came the Government announcement, in the form of a White Paper, that a National Building Agency is to be set up which would have as its main object the "industrialisation" of building.
This means more mechanisation and a greater use of factory-made components to achieve faster construction, and to produce more than the skilled craftsman available can build by traditional methods.
The Ministry of Housing gave the prototype its blessing. after suggesting certain alterations, which were quickly incorporated. And the new housing system known as Modulow-found an immediate shop-window at the building exhibition at Olympia in November. where is attracted a great deal of attention.
Mr. McKernan said: "The whole thing is so new that we arc still cost-planning as we go along. But in the protoype, which is a threebedroom semi. with two toilets and central heating included, we find the price coming out between £2,400 and £2300."
This, of course, does not include the cost of a site.
The houses can be detached. semis or terraced. The frame and roof go up in one day. This means that work can continue in bad weather.
Light mobile cranes are used for the erection of the super-structure. Tiling is done in the traditional way, and the outside walls are clad with vertical brick tiling.
"There are about 50 components which can be made at the factory," said Mr. McKernan. "These fit together in a Meccano-like way. But the principal beauty of the plan is its complete flexibility of internal and external appearance. Interior walls arc demountable partitions. This means that if someone wants his upstairs or downstairs as one big room, all we have to do is take a wall down."
Mr. McKernan said that most of the components of the house would be jigged, and main units put into place by mechanical means.
"We have worked it out that about 80 per cent. of labour at the factory could he unskilled, and much of ii could be done by women," he added.
The Modulow housing system has not only caught the imagination of local authorities. but also of the big building contractors and shipyards.
Mr. McKernan added: "We have been approached by two big shipyards who are feeling the draught of foreign competition. They are interested in producing the housing units on a royalty basis."