13 Jul 2017
Renewable energy and energy efficiency
tadbir means “to manage” in Arabic — a fitting name considering it is exactly what Omar Rafeii and his team do. Rafeii is the Project Manager and Founder of tadbir, an eco-friendly property management firm based in Tripoli, northern Lebanon. tadbir offers renewable energy consulting services to small and medium-sized businesses in order to ensure their properties are as energy-efficient as possible.
A family take on sustainability:
tadbir was founded in June 2016 by Omar Rafeii and his two brothers, who are experts in finance, administration, and IT. Rafeii was fresh off a training course run by the Business Incubation Association of Tripoli and the Berytech Foundation, an innovation and startup hub in Lebanon. That training program — SHAAMS (Strategic Hubs for the Analysis and Acceleration of the Mediterranean Solar Sector) — encouraged him to develop a business plan that put energy efficiency and renewability at its core.
“Energy efficiency and energy management are much more beautiful to me than just [normal construction], and I wanted tadbir to be about that,” Rafeii says. His background is in mechanical engineering and traditional construction, but he discovered the merits of sustainability in 2014. “I love to be systematic, and saving energy and resources is exactly this, which fits with my personality.”
Creating energy-efficient buildings in Lebanon:
According to Rafeii, it takes both active and passive measures to make a property more energy efficient. Take, for example, the Social Services Medical Center in Tripoli where Rafeii’s team performed an energy audit which helped the facility decrease its energy use by 40% using a combination of active and passive measures. Passive sustainable practices involve methods such as insulating windows, while active measures include updating heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and installing light sensors in corridors.
tadbir’s clients are also typically owners of schools, restaurants, and residences — any facility that wants to decrease its consumption of energy and be better for the environment. The firm is also working with a local elementary and secondary school where they are using solar panels to reduce energy loads by up to 80%. “Schools are easier than hospitals,” Rafeii remarks. “They have a schedule and we can apply more efficient solutions like daylight harvesting by relying on natural light rather than overhead, artificial sources.”
Making energy management affordable:
Sustainability consulting comes at a cost, and one of tadbir’s goals is to make this service accessible and affordable for businesses of all sizes. They do this through a unique outsourcing strategy: working with a pool of 15 mechanical engineers who each take on several of tadbir’s clients as side projects. Properties are then able to benefit from the expertise of an engineer without having to fully hire one themselves. As a result, tadbir is able to offer project prices that are much lower than if a firm were hired to work on that project alone.
Another way tadbir keeps their services affordable is by working closely with staff at the facilities that contract them. In the case of the elementary and secondary-school client, Rafeii designed the solar panels and mapped the system, but worked with the school’s technicians to do the installations. This, he says, makes the energy saving system much more flexible and sustainable over the long term.
When possible, Rafeii and his engineers buy supplies locally, from solar panels to batteries to cables. Purchasing from the local market comes at a fraction of what it would cost to have those same materials shipped and imported to Lebanon.
The next generation of energy engineers:
While tadbir does not offer full-time work to its pool of engineers, it does offer a chance for young professionals to gain valuable project experience. Most of tadbir’s engineering pool includes experts in their 20s who need more project experience to get an edge in a saturated engineering market.
One of them is Farouk Rafei, who studied electrical engineering at Lebanese International University. Upon finishing his studies, Rafei found it difficult to find suitable jobs in Tripoli. “In Lebanon we are a large number of graduates,” Rafei comments. “There are few opportunities because the demand is far less than the need.” Through his work with tadbir, Rafei has now completed an energy study for a school with 5,000 students, and has done other work for a local hospital.
tadbir is also in the midst of building a platform to reach other young engineers and technicians like Rafei, and is expected to launch the platform within the year. This will make it easier for projects that require sustainability consultants to connect with engineers needing work.
Creating this platform to link projects with qualified engineers is one of tadbir’s unique selling points, and the business’ most scalable feature. Rafeii says he is interested in copying and pasting the concept in other regions in Lebanon and across the Gulf. Anywhere there is the opportunity to break into the market, he adds.
Until then, tadbir is focused on the market around Tripoli, convincing local businesses as to why sustainability and energy efficiency is not just better for the environment, but for their bottom line, too.
Logo and Photo: Courtesy of tadbir.
Hilary is a journalist, photographer, and maker of things. She loves working with entrepreneurs to share their stories and has done so around the world.Hilary Duff