Nicolas Chevelon lives in the Delmas 32 neighborhood, one of the most severely damaged areas from the January 2010 earthquake. In 2011, he decided to start a block-manufacturing company. Nicolas invested about $11,000 in mechanical machinery and hired 12 employees from his neighborhood.
His initial blocks were of such a poor quality that they were only purchased by neighbors and residents in Delmas 32. No other potential buyers wanted to pay the transportation costs for a poor-quality block. The compressive strength of the blocks he was producing averaged 4 MegaPascals (MPa), well below the minimum 7 MPa for construction of two-story buildings and 10 MPa cited in the Haitian Ministry of Public Works (MTPTC) guidelines.
In 2012, Nicolas was approached by Build Change to participate in a program to improve the quality of his blocks. Nicolas realized that better-quality blocks would help him expand his business, so he signed up for training. Build Change’s trainers provided a series of recommendations to improve the strength and quality of blocks.
Some of the recommendations were no-cost improvements to existing practices, such as shifting the pile of sand and cement three times to improve the concrete mix or prolonging the time the mechanical vibrator compressed the concrete into blocks. Other changes required a financial investment, such as increasing the amount of concrete in the mix and extending the wet-curing period to seven days and the dry-curing period to 10 days.
The blocks produced during training showed a marked improvement. At 28 days after production (the amount of time it takes for a block to reach 95 percent of its strength) the compressive strength of the blocks averaged 14.36 MPa.
With these impressive results, word spread that there was a block maker in Delmas 32 able to produce high-quality concrete blocks, and Nicolas broadened his market to include customers outside of the Delmas 32 neighborhood.
His daily block production increased from 300 to 2,000 blocks per day. Nicolas hired six new staff to keep up with the increased demand.