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SO’ECO, ECO – construction for social housing – Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia

Alep, Syrie Field missions

The So’ECO project, eco-construction for social housing, was launched through the European program Invest In Med, under the impetus of its leader INTERCO AQUITAINE, the international cooperation agency of the former Aquitaine region. INTERCO brought together in this project the wishes expressed by professionals and institutions from both sides of the Mediterranean sea. The main goal of SO’ECO was to allow local Mediterranean actors (Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia), in relation with the construction of social housing or interested in this approach, to acquire skills in sustainable construction, to integrate them and to disseminate them.

The Mediterranean Basin is a fast-growing area where the construction sector is undergoing major transformations (use of renewable energies, sustainable construction techniques, etc.). Mediterranean actors are looking for technical and technological transfers and economic exchanges that would enable them to achieve successful local development through access to quality housing that is economical in terms of price and energy consumption.

In the three targeted Mediterranean countries, SO’ECO made it possible to carry out an inventory of the progress of eco-construction but also of the development of social housing (technical assistance)

The Training of Trainers phase brought together the actors of the same profession in the reflection of the construction priorities in each country and made possible exchanges of technical, technological and also commercial knowledge.

The last step on the BATIMED Marseille trade show (business meetings) confirmed the interest of the economic and commercial contribution of SO’ECO.  The Mediterranean companies that have evaluated their needs during the first two stages or those that have already opened their market to the international market, have met the European companies; moreover, they have also exchanged with the other Mediterranean companies of the project.

Thanks to its partnership with the private company THIKAH (real estate construction), SO’ECO has attracted the interest of the main decision making and influential bodies in the fields of construction and social housing in Aleppo (in Syria).

The technical assistance and training workshops were a great success. On the one hand, thanks to the fast professional and human agreement between NOBATEK (French technological resource center in sustainable construction) and THIKAH who have the same expectations in terms of work and concrete objectives. On the other hand, the opening of the project towards the public partners will lead to establish collaborations on the long term.

For Nobatek, this first step in the Middle East is an opportunity to consider in the medium term the creation of a technological resource center in Aleppo, in collaboration with the organizations met, and radiate, in the long term, on other countries of the Mashrek (indeed, Thikah has links with other countries such as the United Arab Emirates or Turkey).

The Interco Nouvelle-Aquitaine agency was able to expand its network and better understand the needs and demands of this region (agriculture, winegrowing, economic and social development…) new projects will certainly be born following these meetings.

We were able to appreciate the reliability and professionalism of our Syrian interlocutor, as well as the human qualities of the local actors we met. The exchanges during the workshops allowed a great progress in the project. Very sensitive to the fact that we want to collaborate with them, the Syrians have shown themselves to be very invested in the topics discussed. The success of this project also depends on an important involvement (phone calls, emails, participation in the actions…).

The final stage of SO’ECO (BATIMED Marseille) aimed to finish convincing the Syrian delegation and its leaders of the interest of sustainable construction compared to conventional, and to expose them the various experiences of other countries (especially during the seminar). In addition, economic and technological exchanges took place with the other countries of the program (business meetings with France / Spain / Belgium / Lebanon / Tunisia / Algeria).

Contributions of SO’ECO and added value of the project :

SO’ECO has helped to expand the network of InMed contacts and to develop new partnerships and projects, particularly in the Aleppo region.

SO’ECO in Syria was led by the INTERCO partnership with THIKAH (private partner), without any institutional partner, which allowed avoiding heavy bureaucratic procedures; THIKAH made the link with the institutions and its status allowed it to act quickly. SO’ECO brought an exclusivity in Syria: it is the first time that an event brings together the private sector, public authorities (Municipality/Region) and training organizations (University of Aleppo, Faculty of Engineering) on the theme of eco-construction. The social housing aspect was addressed through the General Housing Organization, involved from the beginning of the project by THIKAH: strong interest of the General Housing Organization (in charge of the construction of social housing) for eco-construction techniques in view of the arrival of new public environmental standards.

SO’ECO allowed the signature of an official collaboration agreement between THIKAH (Syria) and NOBATEK (France).

These different projects lead us to reflect on the priorities of each country and on the recommendation of projects with very quick results, in the short and medium term, especially with regard to North-South economic exchanges. These exchanges will confirm the existence of a Euromed eco-construction sector.

One of the stakes of SO’ECO was to reach the social housing market in order to support the most underprivileged populations, starting from the alarming observation of the quality of these buildings. The challenge of phase 2 is to reach first the economic development of the local eco-construction market (use of local materials and services, training and awareness of the interest of sustainable construction). The social housing sector will be affected when the local market will be developed and the populations sensitized, by, among other things, the demonstration of the utility of such a construction (prototypes, green construction of public buildings…)

Interco will support the various projects resulting from SO’ECO and will propose one of them, in consultation with the partners, as leader during the second phase of INVEST IN MED.