How prefab construction started in Moscow

June 14
Construction and renovation

Moscow’s Main Archive Department has published materials on the construction of the first prefabricated buildings in our country in the 1950s. The project was launched as an experiment and its aim was to provide Moscow families with individual housing.

The buildings were also called ready-made flats because they believed the major components — walls, ceiling panels, staircases and flights — were made at remote plants and just assembled onsite.

This a large-scale housing construction was a leap forward and a new step in construction industrialisation. Most of the labour-intensive operations, including flat hardware and finishing, were completed on a conveyor belt, and mechanised. The amount of labour per building was cut by 35–40 percent. At first the new buildings had metal frames, then later they were built with a reinforced concrete frames.

Compared to brick buildings, prefabs were erected quickly and cost less. Vechernyaya Moskva [Evening Moscow] newspaper reported in 1962 that ready-made flats were placed into the frames by cranes using automatic equipment and they were installed precisely at the correct place. It took 15-20 days to assemble a five-storey building. It was especially important in the 1950s–1960s, when the task was to provide Moscow families with individual housing. Each flat had a small entrance room, a kitchen and a bathroom. Some flats also had storerooms and loft storage.

The first prefab pilot buildings were built in Moscow’s Novye Kuzminki District as well as in Minsk, Kiev, Perm and Nakhodka. In Moscow prefabs quickly won confidence and were built all around the city. For example, the Vechernyaya Moskva of 1953 wrote that two new blocks of frame-panel buildings appeared on Khoroshevskoye Motorway by that time. It took three years to put up 15 such buildings. The construction started with four-storey buildings but six-storey buildings also appeared with time.

As a follow-up to the experiment, the Communist Party’s Central Committee and the USSR Council of Ministers adopted a resolution On the Development of the Production of Precast Reinforced Concrete Units and Components for Construction on 19 August 1954. The document implied creating 402 specialised companies in the country to manufacture precast reinforced concrete units and initiating construction at 200 sites. Another document that gave rise to the historical and architectural phenomenon known as “Khrushchevka,” that is, Khrushchev-era blocks of flats was the Central Committee and Council of Ministers’ resolution of 31 July 1957 On the Development of Housing Construction in the USSR. Maximum industrialisation of low-rise construction and cost reduction were named as the core objectives. The resolution included a plan to build up to 20 million square metres of housing annually by 1960. This document ushered in the history of Moscow Cheryomushky and the era of mass prefabricated construction. In general, they constructed four- or five-floor buildings or two- or three-floor buildings in small towns and settlements. The flats were designated for one family and had small-size furniture and built-in kitchen equipment.

Leading architects and builders were employed for prefab housing construction.

Prefab construction continues in Moscow and Russia even now. It accounts for about 50 percent of all new housing construction.


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