Syria facing energy challenges

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05/03/2010


A residential pilot project kicked off in Syria in an effort to test clean technologies and improve energy efficiency in the field of construction. The overall concept is based on an initiative in the framework of MED-ENEC programme.


Julien Théron - Eurojar

In the Damascus suburb of Kudsia, a new project combining social development and sustainable growth was launched. The New Youth Residential Complex is an ambitious and virtuous project that aims at managing urban expansion, while implementing clean and economically efficient technologies, and encouraging good practices.

Since 1998, these three imperatives were highlighted in the report of the General Company for Engineering Studies and Consulting (GCEC). The research entitled “Towards a Better Climatic Response in Architecture and Urban Design” proved that the advantages of old traditional ways of building, combined with the use of new technologies can result in a greater energetic efficiency. Obviously, the pilot project of the European regional MED-ENEC programme was well-timed to respond to the growing urbanization needs of the country.

According to the UN agency Habitat, 52% only of the 17 million people in Syria live in cities. Yet, two important factors impose the issue of urbanism as a top priority: 10% of the urban population lives in shanty towns or similar slum areas, and urban population grows annually by 3%. Facing this reality, social development and energetic efficiency should go hand in hand to realize a harmonious development of the country. MED-ENEC project came well-timed to test new methods applied in social residencies.

Omayma Habash, director of the mechanical engineering department, considers that “the launching of MED-ENEC programme encouraged GCEC to participate in the call for proposals. The basic idea in the project was to promote the advantages of old traditional ways of building in Damascus, compared to new residential blocs in terms of energetic efficiency.”

Efforts in all directions
In this project, combining capacities of different structures (the General Institute for Housing, the National Energy Research Centre), the GCEC had in charge “all the architectural, mechanical and electrical studies of the project.” That was not an easy task due to the technical specifications of the project, including enhanced construction material, double-glazing, insulation, shading by surrounding trees, solar water heating, solar-aided space heating and energy efficient lighting.

The pilot project reduced the energy consumption by 63% compared to a conventional building, but the incremental costs are rather high with nearly 35%, which makes the project hardly attractive on a large scale. Major reasons are behind the low profitability of the project, precisely the unavailability of cheap insulation products on the national market, the lack of know-how in identifying and applying appropriate energy saving technologies and products, and more precisely a factor prevailing in most Mediterranean countries: the lack of competitiveness of energy alternative sources resulting from subsidized energy prices.

However, two constructive points are present in the Kudsia project. First, the reasons of its very low profitability can be easily overcome with time with efforts from public authorities, the development of the market, the promotion of competences, as well as the evolution of the subsidy system to the benefit of “green” energies. Second, it is clear that the pilot project fulfilled its experimental role, as energy consumption was reduced by 63%. According to Omayma Habash, the project was globally positive, as it embodied “an interesting perspective to adopt active and passive measures of energy efficiency in the framework of a larger-scale governmental housing project that concerns the entire country.”

On the long run, Kudsia project will be part of a virtuous Syrian dynamic in the energy sector. As a matter of fact, the report prepared 12 years ago by the GCEC was well applied thanks to a Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, “successful on the technical and financial levels.”

In the framework of the same dynamic, a seminar entitled “The Middle-Eastern City: Regeneration for Energy Savings” and hosted by EU-Syria funded Municipal Administration Modernization Programme (MAM), introduced the new priorities for urban planning. In the same spirit, the “Major Syrian Cities, City Center prospects and New Centralization” Conference kicked off in Aleppo, organized by Aleppo City Council in cooperation with the French Institute of the Near East (IFPO).

Refer to the project fact sheet: MED-ENEC Energy Efficiency in the Construction Sector (Syria)

N.B: Text translated from French by Eurojar team