Little technological innovations improve the lives of brick burners

Pequeñas innovaciones tecnológicas que mejoran la vida de los ladrilleros en Chambo.The workday of  Cristobal Flores used to start at 3 o´clock in the morning. In the cold of the early morning, at 2800 m over the sea level,  Cristobal mixed the earth deposited in his back yard with sawdust, soaked the mixture and started to trample it to grind and homogenize it, with his bull “Martin”. Four hours later, the mixture was ready to mould and be converted into raw bricks.

If the climate permitted, with the help of his wife, his son and an other family member or helper, they produced 1200 raw bricks until 3 o´clock in the afternoon. When the sun was too intense, the earth became hard and it was necessary to trample it again with the bull.
During three weeks they work like this to have sufficient raw bricks, that after 2 weeks of drying (or more if it rained), to begin baking in an artisan kiln during 48 hours. After the burning, the kiln had to be cooled for another week and finally the bricks could be sold.


In the community of Chambo, province of Chimborazo, 200 km south of the Ecuadorian Capital Quito, more than 200 families live from brick production. Located in the geographic center of Ecuador, Chambo provides this raw material for construction to the 5 provinces in the centre of the country, and has done so for more than 100 years.

Don Cristobal Flores probando su molino mezclador de lodo
Don Cristobal Flores testing his mixing-mill
Artisan brick production is the only income for many families that don’t have their own earth or kiln. They dedicate themselves to trample the earth and mould the bricks for others who do have earth and kilns.

The EcoSur network is implementing the project “ecological and economical sustainable production of bricks in Chambo, Ecuador”, co-financed by the European Community through the German NGO Werkhof e.V (

The project seeks to rescue and strengthen the rural and artisan production of bricks by applying new knowledge to renew this traditional micro-industry and take it toward ecological and economical sustainability.

One of the results of this project has been the development of a mixing-mill that substitutes the work of trampling the earth with the bull. This small innovation makes a great change in the lives of the craftsmen, as they do not have rise so early and be exposed to the cold and humidity of the early morning. With this mixing-mill the work that used to take 4 hours now takes 45 minutes.

The artisan today wakes up at 7 o´clock in the morning and with two more persons can produce up to 2500 raw bricks a day. The artisans that don’t have earth and  kilns and just work as subcontractors, finish their work much faster and can move on to other work sites or can dedicate the time to other activities.



The success of this small invention has been that the mills have been copied by local mechanical workshops and more than 35 families already are using this type of machinery. Local talent has produced some machinery that has been adapted to function with old cars or connected to a wheel of a car. The most interesting testimony of the utility of the mill: the day after Cristobal received his mill, he sold his bull “Martin”.

While technological solutions can be efficient, the social problems go further than using a bull or a machine. And it is toward resolving such problems that the work of the EcoSur network is oriented, with practical responses and simple knowledge transfer between southern countries.

Video: Mixing-mill


You are here: Home Past editions Edition 33 - December 2008 Little technological innovations improve the lives of brick burners


Fernando Martirena
Civil Engineer, PhD. Professor.
Spanish, English, German.
Research and investigation of materials, specifically alternative cement and cement products.


Horno  Vertical Contínuo

Vertical Shaft Brick Kiln - VSBK unloading mechanism
Read more ...