Building-Materials Industry

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Building-Materials Industry


the multibranch industry that produces building materials for housing as well as for industrial, rural, and other types of construction. It is a major part of the material and technical basis for construction. The industry provides for an uninterrupted growth in the volume of construction work and in technological progress in construction through the introduction of efficient materials and structural components and better-quality structural elements that are largely prefabricated at the factory.

The raw-material resources for the production of building materials are virtually inexhaustible. A great variety of building materials can be obtained from many types of nonmetallic mined materials. The growth rates for the extraction of nonmetallic minerals and for the production of materials from such minerals are higher than the growth rates for the extraction of metallic ores and the production of rolled ferrous metals. At the same time, the combined use of nonmetallic mined materials and industrial wastes is being developed. A typical trend is to combine the production of building materials with the metallurgical, chemical, and power-engineering industries.

Building materials known in ancient times included fired bricks, roofing tiles, ceramic tiles, clay water pipes, and gypsum and lime cementing materials. Progress in the building of hydraulic-engineering structures became possible with the development of binders that maintained strength underwater. For example, in ancient Rome a mixture of lime and pozzolana (a volcanic ash) was used, and in many areas of Russia a mixture of lime and crushed brick served as a cementing mortar. Portland cement, which has excellent mechanical strength and hardens with water, was developed in the first quarter of the 19th century. It made possible the production and use of concrete and reinforced concrete in construction.

In prerevolutionary Russia the methods used in the building-materials industry were primitive, the level of production was low, the choice of finished materials was quite limited, and the geographic distribution of enterprises was extremely uneven. In 1913 the output figures were 1.8 million tons of cement, 3.4 billion bricks, and 0.2 million tons of gypsum. For the most part, cement, bricks, faience used in construction, and other building materials were imported.

In the USSR the growth of capital construction in all branches of the national economy has necessitated significant development in the building-materials industry. Between 1913 and 1940 production figures for cement increased by a factor of 3.2, for construction bricks by 2.2, for gypsum plaster by more than 4, for rolled roofing materials by 13, and for asbestos cement sheets by more than 20.

The building-materials industry is developing at rates that are generally higher than the growth rates for the volume of construction work. For the national economy of the USSR with all sources of financing taken into account, the average annual growth rate for construction work between 1960 and 1974 was 5.9 percent and the average annual growth rate for the gross output of the industry was 8.3 percent. The cost of building materials averages 55 percent of the total cost of construction work. As of 1974 the industry included more than 4,000 enterprises and employed more than 2.115 million workers. The largest enterprises are the Novorossiisk and Amvrosievka cement combines, the Vol’sk Production Association of Cement Plants, the Balakleia Cement-Slate Combine, the Krasnyi Stroitel’ Voskresensk Combine for asbestos cement products, the Riazan’ and Osipovichi cardboard and Ruberoid factories, the Saratov and Borskoe glass factories, the Kuchino, Kharkov, and Slaviansk construction-ceramics factories, the Voroshilovgrad and Karaganda factories for sanitary-engineering equipment, the asbestos combine Uralasbest, the Sok Quarry Administration, the Stroiplastmass Mytishchi Production Association for the production of construction plastics, the Cheliabinsk Reinforced-concrete Products Plant No. 1, and the Moscow Reinforced-concrete Structural Components Combine No. 2.

The fixed industrial-production assets of the industry at the end of 1974 amounted to more than 21 billion rubles (at the revalued prices of Jan. 1, 1972). As of Jan. 1, 1975, the branches of the building-materials industry accounted for 6.1 percent of the production assets of industry in the USSR; as of Jan. 1, 1974, they employed 6.6 percent of the total number of industrial workers. The industry processes more than 2 billion cubic meters of mined materials annually. Mineral building materials account for approximately 25 percent of all railroad freight and approximately 50 percent of river freight. The production output of the building-materials industry is shown in Table 1.

Between 1965 and 1975 progress was made in the manufacture of efficient materials and products, such as quick-hardening, decorative, and other special cements; large corrugated and flat asbestos cement sheets; fiber-glass Ruberoid; Ruberoid with an elastic coating; foil insulation; colored ceramic tiles; porcelain sanitary-engineering products; heat-resistant, shaped, and other types of glass; glass bricks; products made of slag sittals; porous fillers for concretes; large components made of solid or cellular silica concretes; heat-and sound-insulating materials; building materials based on polymers; and advanced types of heating equipment and boiler units. The USSR leads the world in the production of cement, prefabricated reinforced concrete, asbestos cement sheets and pipes, construction brick, and window glass. It is second in the production of rolled roofing materials, ceramic tiles, and mined nonmetallic building materials.

The building-materials industry is being developed to meet construction needs in all the Union republics and economic regions of the country, particularly those in the east.

The makeup of the production output is changing. The relative position of large-size items in the production of wall materials is increasing; in 1975 such items accounted for 35 percent of production. The production of high-efficiency products is increasing, including hollow and facing brick and blocks and panels made of lightweight and cellular concretes. Among heat-insulating materials there has been an increase in the production of high-efficiency products made of mineral wool with a synthetic binder, of

Table 1. Production of building materials and products in the USSR
Type of material or product19401950196019701975
Cement (million tons) ...............5.810.245.595.2122.0
Asbestos cement shingles (million reference-size units) ...............212.0546.02,991.05,840.07,777.0
Asbestos cement pipe (million km of reference-size pipe) ...............1.33.518.751.167.7
Window glass (net finished product, million m2) ...............45.776.9147.2231.4270.3
Rolled roofing materials and insulation (million m2) ...............130.0286.0750.01,334.01,851.0
Construction brick (billion units) ...............7.610.235.543.247.0*
Ceramic facing and floor tiles (million m2) ...............1.11.717.036.747.8*
Heating-system radiators and convectors (million equivalent m2) ...............4.816.829.742.1
Sanitary-engineering and construction products of porcelain and faience (million units) ...............
Linoleum (million m2) ...............13.357.463.2
Precast reinforced-concrete structural members and parts (million m3 of products) ...............
Table 2. Output of principal products in COMECON member countries (1974)
 Cement (thousand tons)Constnjction brick (million units)Windowglass’ (million m2)Precast reintorced-concrete structural components and parts (million m3)
*2-mm reference thickness †1973
Bulgaria ...............4,2981,51617.50.8
Cuba ...............1,81467
Czechoslovakia ...............8,9672,27421.75.7
German Democratic Republic ...............10,0921,35521.04.7
Hungary ...............3,4371,8269.90.6†
Mongolia ...............17183
Rumania ...............11,1951,95468.33.7

hard slabs for lightweight enclosing structures, and of slabs with improved rigidity for roof insulation. There has been a sharp reduction in the proportion of commercial mineral wool and other low-efficiency materials produced. Small asbestos cement roofing sheets accounted for 39 percent of the industry’s production in 1970 and 16 percent in 1975; the production of large sheets has increased correspondingly.

The construction of major enterprises has resulted in new production facilities, and the concentration of production is being increased. The output of existing enterprises is being increased by intensifying production processes, modernizing, and renovating existing equipment.

Reequipment has been completed in many branches of the building-materials industry, such as those producing cement, asbestos cement, rolled roofing and wall materials, lightweight (porous) fillers, heat-insulating and mined mineral materials, lime, gypsum plaster, and especially precast reinforced concrete, glass, construction ceramics, and sanitary-engineering equipment.

The technological improvement and modernization of the fixed production assets have been accompanied by a quantitative growth in such assets amounting to an average of 1.6 billion rubles annually between 1971 and 1974. The growth rates of fixed capital stock in the industries producing roofing and waterproofing materials and porous fillers were particularly high.

The average annual growth rate of labor productivity in the building-materials industry between 1966 and 1970 was 5.6 percent; this permitted an increase in industrial production of approximately 75 percent. Between 1971 and 1975 the corresponding figures were 5.8 percent and more than 80 percent.

The building-materials industry is faced with the task of substantially improving production quality. This can be accomplished in several ways: by increasing the output of almost totally prefabricated products with the improved engineering and service properties required to meet the specifications of modern architecture and construction, by reaching high efficiency indexes for production and capital investments, by reducing expenditures for labor and materials, and by ensuring the growth of industrial production in existing enterprises resulting solely from increased labor productivity.

Substantial changes are envisioned in the makeup of the production of interchangeable materials—those that customers can use for the same purposes. The production of advanced rolled and mastic roofing materials is being developed at an ever faster rate, thus making it possible to reduce the share of asbestos cement used in roofs and to divert a part of the asbestos supplies to increasing the output of asbestos cement pipes and structural and lining sheets. The output of rolled materials is not only being increased but the selection is also being changed. The production of fused, perforated Ruberoid as well as Ruberoid with an elastic coating, or with a covering of colored powder, is being increased substantially.

The problem of reducing the material consumption and cost of construction depends in large measure on reducing the weight of enclosing structures and improving the structure of wall materials. Therefore, provisions are being made to expand the production of efficient heat-insulating materials, to make wider use of lightweight and cellular concretes with porous fillers, and to organize mass production of components for enclosing structures made of aluminum and plastics.

A considerable expansion is envisioned for the output of plastic structural components and products. Such items include laminated wall panels, porous foamed plastics, perlite concrete with synthetic resins, materials for covering floors and walls, such as linoleum, synthetic coatings, and washable wallpaper, baseboards and railings, many types of sanitary-engineering products, and equipment used in building interiors.

The production of finishing materials is expected to develop at a high rate. Such materials will be available in a variety of colors, will be durable, inexpensive, and of high quality, and will make it possible to use industrialized methods for finishing work. These specifications are met by ceramic, glass, and polymeric finishing materials.

The USSR exports cement, window glass, slate, and other building materials to many countries.

The development of the building-materials industry is the result of the widespread application of scientific research conducted by institutes in various branches of industry working together, by departments in higher educational institutions, and by scientific organizations of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.

In other socialist countries great progress in the development of branches of the building-materials industry is also being made, for example, in glassmaking (Czechoslovak Socialist Republic), cement-making (German Democratic Republic), the production of silica-concrete items (Polish People’s Republic), and brick-making and brickmaking equipment (People’s Republic of Bulgaria). The member countries of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) are successfully engaging in scientific and technical cooperation to develop modern technology for the production of cement, glass for structural and technical purposes, silica-concrete products, and other building materials (see Table 2).

Table 3. Output of principal building materials in several capitalist countries (1974)
 Cement (million tons)Precast reinforced concrete structural components (million m3)Brick* (billion units)Ceramic facing and floor tiles (million m2)Window glasst (million m2)
*Reference size
†2-mm reference thickness
Federal Republic of Germany35.45.542.5**58.2
Great Britain17.84.517.3**

The building-materials industry has made great progress in the capitalist countries, such as the USA, the Federal Republic of Germany, Great Britain, France, and Japan. The extensive use of polymers, aluminum, efficient steel shapes, and lightweight fillers has made it possible to solve one of the major problems of modern construction—weight reduction in buildings and structures (see Table 3).


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Dobuzhinskii, V. I. “Nekotorye nauchno-tekhnicheskie problemy razvitiia promyshlennosti stroitel’nykh materialov.” Steklo i keramika, 1976, no. 1.
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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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French glassmaker Saint-Gobain bought a big piece of Britain's consolidating building-materials industry yesterday, picking up Meyer International for pounds 1.04 billion.

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