Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Building Homes (1950)


Main image of Building Homes (1950)
16mm, colour, 40 mins
Production CompaniesJohn Laing & Son
 Chelsea Colour Films
ProducerJohn Mallinson
PhotographyFrank H.W. Cox
CommentatorFrank R. Phillips

House construction by the Easiform Concrete system.

Show full synopsis

The need for improved housing was a recurrent topic in pre- and post-war documentary, perhaps most famously in the British Commercial Gas Association's Housing Problems (1935) and Paul Rotha's Land of Promise (1946). The Labour Party itself sponsored the film Homes For the People as part of its election campaign in 1945, articulating the urgency of better housing for the average working family. The constructor John Laing & Son's Building Homes pitches the company as the answer to that problem, providing simple, quality, permanent housing to be produced quickly, in a time of scarcity of materials and skilled labour. However, whatever the legacy of the housing schemes enabled by Laing's Easiform system, it is quite clear that this film is of a different level of ambition to the aforementioned examples.

This simple publicity film breaks down the Easiform construction system in great detail, showing every stage of the process in a linear fashion to make its attributes and benefits clear on a practical level. A later Laing film on the same subject, Easiform (1955), ditches the technical details in favour of showing happy families outside completed homes. That is arguably a more effective sales technique than the concentrated, almost training film approach of Building Homes, which saves the sales pitch for its closing moments.

The most unusual part of the film is perhaps the prologue tacked on to the beginning. This short corporate promotional is almost a commercial before the main advertising feature. Certainly, Laing was very proud of its origins and history, and the story of the first family house build in Carlisle was often repeated in the company's corporate PR. Laing's reputation and list of previous contracts are used to instil confidence in its potential customers - not the occupiers of these new homes, but local councils and government authorities across the country.

Jez Stewart

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (37:10)
Homes for the People (1945)
Housing Problems (1935)
Land of Promise (1946)
Laing Film Unit