Organized by IFP Lebanon, in collaboration with the Paris Chamber of Commerce & Industry (CCIP), EcOrient 2012, the International Trade Exhibition & Conference for Environmental Technologies, Sustainability and Clean Energy, will be held from 5 to 8 June 2012 at BIEL concurrently with Project Lebanon 2012.EcOrient, the first event of its kind and magnitude in the Middle East, is organized to promote environmental awareness and energy sustainability across the entire region.
On this occasion, we had the following interview with Elie Bsaibes, President of the Order of Engineers and Architects in Beirut.
What can you tell us about the current situation of real state and construction in Lebanon?
During the last three years, after an unprecedented increase, the number of construction permits, which reflects the level of construction activity in Lebanon, shows a flat performance tending towards some decrease. This decrease is due to the internal political bickering and regional tensions.
On the other hand, the government who is considered the biggest developer in the country faces some problems of spending money on infrastructure. This doesn’t mean that the construction market is going through a recessionary phase, but some slowdown is noticed that would change when the political situation gets improved.
During the past year, we witnessed many collapses of buildings, how can such disasters be prevented, what is the role of the Order?
We are really concerned about the safety of buildings in Lebanon. Since 1996, the Order was trying its utmost to update the existing construction law and make the government pass a new law that takes into account all the required safety measures. Moreover, the Order was keen to suggest the executive decrees of the new law because without executive measures, it will be very difficult to implement the law.
The new law was published in the official paper two months ago including all safety measures suggested by the Order. Plus, the new law makes insuring the building and its residents mandatory against fire, earthquakes and accidents that could happen due to usage. However, the law imposes a ten year term insurance against earthquakes which is not accepted by the insurance companies. But the law missed the fact that insurance companies don’t insure buildings against a life term of ten years. They usually issue yearly policies. So, who can guarantee that the law is implemented the next year?
Accordingly, the Order convinced the government to put the mandatory insurance aside for the moment and focus more on making technical control mandatory. Usually, once the construction permit is issued and the construction works have begun, there’s no third party who controls the quality of the construction. So, technical control imposed by law will secure the safety of buildings. The law imposing technical control was passed recently. Although the executive procedures of the law are not very clear, but at least the construction of high rises and buildings in crowded areas should go through technical control from design to completion stages. If we add the insurance to technical control, and the Order is working on that, we can legally bind the developers to maintain safety measures.
What should the Order, the developers and the government do to further enhance green practices in Lebanon?
What is missing in the new construction law are the environmental concerns; the concept of green buildings and green practices in general. Currently, the Order is working in that direction. Green building practices regarding energy conservation and construction materials need laws to get implemented as it is the case in advanced countries.
Nevertheless, laws are not enough. We need to develop green culture and awareness in the country. Lebanese citizens should be aware of the necessity of conserving energy and keeping the environment clean. We need to spread the culture of fighting against pollution. We need a social contract supervised by the government for preserving the nature and the environment and constructing green buildings.
We need to save and sustain energy. Though the Ministry of Energy and Water has initiatives in this direction but awareness and technical control are needed to check if green practices are executed properly.
I believe that green awareness or spreading green culture in Lebanon is very important. Our initiatives, conferences, exhibitions and popular movements in the country are trying to create green awareness, but this is not enough. There are serious efforts, but these are not coordinated, and mainly for that reason, they are missing the target. The role of the media is very important. Exhibitions and conferences should have intensive media coverage that should continue after these events are over. We need to deliver the message to our people, and I believe that to date, our people are not aware of the great importance of green practices and sustainable buildings. So, we need to build on effective, engaged and sustainable media policy encouraging green practices in the country.
The message should be delivered.