Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Building Research Station

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1917 the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research appointed a Building Materials Research Committee to investigate the suitability of a number of building materials and methods of construction for use in new housing after the war. An organisation for building research was first proposed.

By 1919 it had become apparent that the number and difficulty of the problems, and the prospect of economies to be gained from effective attack upon them, were so great that a more ambitious plan was necessary.

1921 the Building Research Station was established in Acton under the aegis of the department's Buildings Research (Materials and Construction) Research Board, later the Building Research Board.

1925 it moved to Garston near Watford, Herts. The Station carried out research into all building materials and methods of construction with the aims of advancing efficiency and economy in building and allied branches of civil engineering.

Fields of work included: materials, structures, wood pressures, acoustics, heating and ventilation, fire resistance and fire grading of buildings, lighting and vision, urban planning and engineering services.

1948 a colonial liaison organisation was established which became the station's Tropical Division in 1959.

1949 a Scottish Branch was established at Thorntonhall, near Glasgow

1965 the Building Research Board was dissolved and the research station was transferred to the Ministry of Technology.

1967 it was transferred to the Ministry of Public Building and Works

1970 it was transerred to the Department of the Environment.

1972 the station was amalgamated with the Fire Research Station and the Forest Products Research Laboratory to form the Building Research Establishment of the Department of the Environment.

1982 the establishment was joined by the Civil Engineering Laboratory of the Property Services Agency which amalgamated with the Structural Integrity Division Building Research Establishment.

1990 the Building Research Establishment became an executive agency.

1997 Privatisation of the Building Research Establishment took place, the establishment being transferred to the management team.


Topics covered by the Building Research Station included:

  • Acoustics and aircraft noise
  • Air raid precautions
  • Alternative materials and methods of construction
  • Building design
  • Condensation and damp penetration
  • Fire resistance of materials and construction
  • Heating and ventilation systems
  • Pest infestation
  • Lighting
  • Repair of war damage
  • Testing of materials
  • Effect of vibration and wind pressure
  • East coast flood damage (1953)
  • Storm damage (1957 and 1962).

Research involved all types of building and structures, including housing, public buildings, nuclear reactors, reservoirs, bridges, and construction overseas.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • National Archives [1]