The first solid concrete block patent was granted in 1832, and the first hollow concrete building block patent was in 1850, both in England. Harmon S. Palmer patented a concrete block machine in 1900 in the United States. Since then, the concrete brick block has continued to increase in popularity because of the product’s durability and economy. The industry also advanced in terms of product quality, production and distribution methods, and installation procedures. Concrete’s fire safety compared to that of wood has been a major factor in its appeal. In the early days, small concrete block brick manufacturing facilities sprouted up rapidly in most urban areas in the United States because they needed to be located near their users’ destinations. A brick block machine could be bought for $100 in 1906
The National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) was an affiliate of the Portland Cement Association in the 1930s. The NCMA became independent in 1942 and has since supported concrete brick block producers, machinery manufacturers, and related interests. Since its founding, the NCMA has conducted research and testing on concrete brick block products.
Establishments in this industry tend to be relatively small, local operations, since it is generally not economical to ship concrete brick block more than 50 miles because of its weight. For this reason, companies in the industry have grown by organizing or purchasing added concrete brick block production operations in new areas.
Another factor in the structure of the industry is that most of the companies that produce concrete brick block also produce other concrete-related products, including ready-mixed concrete, concrete pipe, or various precast or prestressed products, such as building structural parts, which can be fabricated centrally and shipped to locations where they will be installed.
Most concrete block brick establishments have one or more competitors in their areas of operation and compete in matters such as price, location, service, quality, and reliability. They also compete with other building products such as lumber, clay brick, and steel.