House construction in Loja

Photo shows 5 buildings in various stages of completion, Loja Ecuador
Photo shows 5 buildings in various stages of completion

Loja is almost 500 years old - one of the oldest cities in Ecuador - but no currently standing buildings date back that far. Perhaps the oldest is the Church of El Valle which was constructed about 1645. It's likely that it is still standing after all these years (and a few earthquakes) because it has very thick walls made from adobe brick.

New house built in the campo (the countryside outside of the  city's building codes) using older construction methods
New house built in the campo (the countryside outside of the
city's building codes) using older construction methods
Building construction materials in the city cover a broad gamut, including air-dried adobe/mud bricks, fired clay bricks, cement blocks, poured concrete with rebar, and welded steel frames. Pitched roofs may be corrugated steel or aluminum, terracotta tiles, or patterned metal roofing that imitates tiles. Flat roofs are tiled or tarred concrete.

Even buildings being erected right now may contain an eclectic mix of these various materials. The main structure might have poured concrete posts and beams that are then in-filled with bricks or blocks which are, in turn, covered with cement stucco inside and out. Floors/ceilings are also poured concrete. Such a building then might have welded steel structures on top to support a roof.

These building techniques are common in many parts of the world but North American expats may be surprised by them since they are more used to wood-framed buildings, or buildings with exterior walls made completely from brick and mortar and without upright posts, or maybe used to steel-framed skyscrapers with applied "skins."

A lattice of rebar prior to pouring a floor/ceiling
A lattice of rebar prior to pouring a floor/ceiling
As stated, Loja is nearly five centuries old. During this time frame there have been three earthquakes of sufficient magnitude to inflict significant damage. The El Valle Church mentioned above was built right after the first quake destroyed most of Loja. The other two tremors that required rebuilding afterwards occurred in 1838 and 1867. The exact magnitudes of these quakes are unknown - they may have been large or the destruction may have resulted from inadequate construction. Regardless, the current use of concrete and reinforcing bar is intended to mitigate damage in any future shakes. For more information see my post about earthquakes.

A typical fence and gate
Several more aspects of Lojano buildings may surprise a visitor or immigrant. One is the absence of insect screening on windows. Most windows are tinted to block the intense sun rays. There is also an absence of central heating or air conditioning. As written in another blog post, on-demand hot water might be unfamiliar. Water cisterns on roofs as backup water supplies may be another "oddity." City houses are usually located behind gated walls of concrete or tall fences. Kitchens may lack cabinets in older houses but tall built-in cabinets are used in bedrooms to serve as closets.

None of these differences make living in Loja less enjoyable. Housing, whether rented or bought, is more affordable than in most of the United States, and utility costs are lower, too. Electrical wiring is the same at 115 volts so no adapters are needed to plug into an outlet.

There has been a lot of new construction in the last decade and one can find many choices in style and design, location, furnishings, and other amenities. The first places to start looking online would be in Facebook Marketplace or There are also realtors ready and willing to help find something to fit your needs.


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