BEIRUT: Lebanon has been under reconstruction since 1990, after a decade and a half of a civil war that ravaged its infrastructure, economy, and environment.
The direct or indirect consequences of the war on the environment 28 years later are not to be taken lightly.
To name a few: private power generators, untreated wastewater, and industrial waste, shrinking forested areas, and quite the garbage crisis. The ongoing destructive exploitation of natural resources and the preoccupation of the government with political, financial and economic matters leave the country astray, if not for a number of organized groups looking to make environmental change. And what better to delve into than the development of new and existing properties, a long-run solution to many of the environmental problems we face in Lebanon today?
In October 2014, a committee was formed by the Order of Engineers & Architects in Beirut in order to develop the national criteria for green buildings. Every country must take into consideration its own market constraints so that it may fulfill the criteria set forth. And though energy and water efficiency, as well as environmental preservation, may still not be among the priorities of Lebanese real estate buyers when choosing a property, developers, on the other hand, are increasingly aware of the requirements they must meet to certify their properties as green.
Aside from the incentive plan launched by Lebanon’s central bank, subsidizing partial loans at 0% interest to developers of energy efficient real estate projects, there has been very little support from the government. There is no law in Lebanon that pushes for green buildings yet, and development decisions so far tend to rely solely on financial incentives and the ups and downs of the real estate market.
A green building, as opposed to a conventional one, uses less energy and less water, generates less waste and is a healthier space. If so, why are not all new buildings green? Environmentally friendly buildings are more expensive to construct in the short run, as the price tag may increase up to 20%, but the savings come later thanks to a more efficient use of utilities. Installing small solar panels, controlling thermal systems, replacing the electrical equipment with low-consumption and low emitting machines, and limiting water waste, are but a few of the changes that allow for future savings.
The concept may be relatively new in the country; nonetheless, various green projects have already been implemented. Green buildings can be homes, schools, or even malls, newly built or renovated. A year after its final construction, the project accumulates credit points and can be certified, in addition to being silver, gold or platinum.
In Hamra for example, the International College Elementary School achieved a LEED gold certificate (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) after buying its premises from the American University of Beirut and renovating them to make them green. In Hazmieh, the 164,000 sqm Beirut City Centre shopping mall was also rewarded with a LEED gold certification. Various other green projects have been carried out across the country, such as “Sama Beirut” in Sodeco (LEED certified), “Badaro Gardens” in Badaro, “La Broceliande” in Yarze and the AUB Engineering Laboratory. Other residential projects on their way today – as per Propertyfinder’s platform – include the “Solaris Tower” in
Achrafieh, “Viento 1124” in Baabda, “Aitat 464” in Aitat, and others. It is only a matter of time before we start seeing more green projects making their way into the Lebanese real estate market. Education is being tackled to promote better ways to build for the environment, starting with display areas to raise awareness of the public about eco-friendlier buildings, as well as in schools. Lebanese NGOs, for example, have embarked on a mission to encourage private and public schools to turn green. Once the Lebanese population is well aware of the advantages, the move towards greener buildings will be but a logical consequence.
After all, the focus is to create a comfortable lifestyle by including state of the art energy saving systems. Who in their right mind would say no to minimizing water and energy consumption? To cheap renewable electricity that is on for 24 hours a day without the incessant noise of generators? To the process of recycling made easy for all, so that we may stop bumping into piles of garbage? Or simpler yet, to the abundance of oxygen in areas where people live and children play?
Wissam Moubarak is the Country Manager of Propertyfinder Lebanon – part of the Propertyfinder Group, which was established in 2007 with the aim of bridging the gap between brokers, developers and consumers. The Propertyfinder Group portals boast 1.6 million monthly visitors and 150,000+ unique property listings across 7 Middle Eastern markets: UAE, KSA, Qatar, Egypt, Bahrain, Morocco and Lebanon. www.propertyfinder.com.lb
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