Project Lebanon 2009 opened its doors again this year at BIEL Exhibition Center to gather local and international engineers, architects, building materials specialists, investors and other key market players under one roof. Exhibitors came from Italy, Germany, France, Iraq, Switzerland and other countries looking to establish partnerships and enter the Lebanese and regional markets.
“Lebanon is back in business,” said Fadi Jreissati, vice president of operations at IFP Group, Project Lebanon’s organizers. The event’s packed parking lots, entrance queues and the rush on the stands were proof that Jreissati was right.
“We have an 80 percent increase in size,” he said. “We have sold every single meter we have, and if we had known that elections would not have a negative effect on the exhibition, we would have opened the whole tent.”
The fact that the exhibition takes place in June has not helped it much recently. Last year, the conflict in May crippled the show and the parliamentary election this year also made some exhibitors shy away.
“We had a very bad edition last year; the conflict in May affected us very badly,” said Jreissati. “[This year] there are a lot of people who were afraid and did not participate.”
This year’s highlight
For the first time, Project Lebanon is hosting the “Sustainability Week” which includes a series of conferences tackling the issues of green building, sustainable architecture, water and energy conservation, as well as recycling and saving resources. A green pavilion is also included where companies either have new technologies to introduce or are offering consulting services to help implement green initiatives in new and existing buildings.
Since Lebanon is still taking its first steps toward achieving sustainability, the green pavilion at the exhibition attracted considerable attention. Most companies started working in the green field only recently, since this technology was prohibitively expensive to import and the Lebanese market was not welcoming to the idea.
Project Lebanon attendance
|Number of exhibitors||220||350||59|
|Number of national pavilions||4||9||125|
|Number of countries participating||11||23||109|
Source: IFP Group
“We started two year ago,” said Mohammed Nasser, electric and power engineer at Somiral Energy, an importer of solar panels. “Before, it was too expensive and not very available. Now, it is more affordable.”
Another company, Schneider Electric, also started working on providing energy efficienct solutions for its customers in the last 24 months, by introducing electrical devices that consume less electricity or switch off automatically in order to save power, and other new technologies. By using these energy-saving products, industries can save up to 20 percent on electricity, while residential houses can save from 10 to 40 percent.
“We are in a world where we have a challenge,” said Julien Feghali, chairman and general manager of Schneider Electric East Mediterranean (SEEM), the Lebanese subsidiary of Schneider Electric. “We want to protect our environment and we have very tough objectives.”
Feghali explained that his company is currently getting positive feedback in Lebanon, which would not have been expected two to three years ago, because the concept was still new. Schneider is also working with the Ministry of Energy and Water, the Lebanese Order of Engineers and the Électricité du Liban to implement these solutions on the national level.
“The order of engineers has to play their role in terms of standardization. Sometimes you have to [implement] rules and regulations. We should work in the same [way] in Lebanon,” Feghali said.
Jad Bsaibes is a project engineer at Energy Efficiency Group (EEG), a Lebanon-based firm that offers consultancy services for existing buildings in order to find ways to save energy. He said many in Lebanon are open to receiving green technologies and services, but there are still some engineers who do not collaborate.
“Some work with us, and others don’t,” said Bsaibes, whose company is currently working on buildings such as Intercontinental Phoenicia Hotel and Studio Vision.
Michel Tannous, president of Entech Coatings, relocated his company from Canada to Lebanon six months ago, finding the country and the region offered a good opportunity to introduce his new coating technology. With a 25-year guarantee, Tannous explains that his new Entech Coatings Product would keep a building nicely painted for a long time while isolating the outside heat or cold, thus saving a large amount of energy used for heating or cooling.
“Everyone is excited and wants the product,” he said.
It’s not only private companies that were advocating for the use of green technologies at Project Lebanon, but also Lebanese nongovernmental organizations. For example, the Lebanese Solar Energy Society (LSES) was established in 1980 and aims to convince people to use solar and renewable energy. Other NGOs present at the exhibition were the Lebanon Green Building Council, and the Lebanese Association for Energy Saving and for Environment.
Even though private companies and NGOs are doing their part, there is no doubt that the path to sustainability will be hard, especially due to the lack of regulations backing these initiatives.
“The hardness softens when there is commitment,” said Dr. Sadek Owainati, co-founder of the Emirates Green Building Council. “It is not a one day, but a long-term commitment. It is not one group, but everybody.”
Owainati also emphasized the need to have a national strategy which is realistic and achievable. He also expressed his concern on the lack of urban planning in the city.
From this year on, Sustainability Week and the Green Pavilion will be a integral part of the Project Lebanon exhibition.
“It is definitely not the last time… It is a great start for us and a big success,” said Jreissati from IFP.
“We did a lot and we invested a lot in [Project Lebanon]” he added. “Everybody is so happy, and we are still at the beginning [in terms of] potential. There is so much to do, the event will still grow.”