Paving the Way for Micro Tourism with Ailoul Canoun
Ailoul Canoun (literally meaning September and December in Arabic) – is a unique micro tourism and housing project in Lebanon that was launched in 2018. It’s simply nothing like we have come across before at The Wellness Project, and we want to share the story of this fascinating and promising project with you.
Three engineers/entrepreneurs with boundless energy, creativity and determination, developed Ailoul Canoun Fabrica (AiCFab). Based in the Aley district of Remhala, their company makes housing units from fiberglass, mostly made of reclaimed and upcycled materials. The units, named Silo 280, are light weight, durable (have a lifespan of 400 years), waterproof, fireproof, rust proof and are very well insulated (walls are 4.5 cm thick). The units are all 280 cm in width, while the length can vary from 2.5, 5 to 7.5 meters. The units comprise of living chambers (bedrooms, living rooms, bathrooms etc.,) or swimming pools. The units are designed so that they can be connected or added onto each other once they are completed in the workshop and transported to the site. “If you install one unit on your plot of land, then in the future you wish to expand your house, it is very easy to do,” explains one of the partners we spoke to. “You can add a Connectagone and one or more Silo 280 to complement your needs.”
All the construction takes place at the workshop in a controlled environment. “This means we don’t create any disruption on the site, like with most construction projects in Lebanon,” explains the partner. “With our product there are no big trucks regularly transporting materials, there is no long term noisy construction, dust, and so forth that come with traditional construction projects. There is no concrete nor excavation involved.”
Ecological Transport Smart Units
The partner explains that AiCFab is hoping to change traditional contracting in Lebanon by making houses in a much more ecological manner. The units save on embodied energy (how they are built) by 50%, transport energy (how they are transferred to the site) by a whopping 70 to 80% and operational energy (mainly how the houses are heated and cooled when being used) by 44 to 70%. Not bad at all considering its overall low carbon footprint! In addition, the size of the unit is also well studied. “Our unit dimensions are not random numbers,” stresses the partner. “We carefully studied the European, American and Australian code of transport, as one currently does not exist in Lebanon. We followed their code of how big building materials can be for safe and efficient transport.” In these three countries, the maximum width of transport material is 2.9 meters. And the height cannot exceed 4.1 meters. The length cannot exceed 1.5 meters beyond a 6 meters long truck (hence 7.5 m is the max length of a unit). Therefore, their Silo 280 units are made in the dimensions that abide by these established codes. They also hope to eventually export their units one day, which means AiCFab will be compatible with most transport codes in foreign markets.
Once the prefabricated unit is prepared in their workshop, it gets transported by a truck (in one trip) and installed by a crane on the site. Alternatively, the unit parts can also be transported by helicopters to avoid road congestion. Once on site the placement and distribution of the structures follow the natural land topography, so the land never gets razed nor damaged to accommodate the units.
Boosting Micro Tourism in Lebanon
While the Silo 280 units are being used for individual housing plots, the partners hope to also make them a part of an eco-friendly micro tourism industry in Lebanon. In other words, they can be used as rental facilities/hotels in rural green areas, promoting tourism in small villages and boosting their economies. Today, more and more people are eschewing fancy hotels in big cities for their vacations, and looking for quiet green areas that offer nature walks and a variety of outdoor activities. “Basically, we are upgrading your tent, installing a nice shower in it and a comfortable bed. Guests also have privacy and serenity, which you don’t get in conventional hotels,” explains the partner. Imagine having all the comfort and amenities in a tranquil remote green area with breathtaking views of nature. It’s like hiking and camping in a 5-star way!
The partners hope their units can be part of future micro tourism projects and have a plan in place for boosting rural tourism in Lebanon. They have developed an application so that visitors can access information about local attractions and explore hiking trails in the area. They hope to add key attractions for every micro tourism site: food places, such as those offering local delicacies, historical/archeological sites and arts and crafts (artisanal) sites, such as soap and ceramics workshops, olive presses, honey making and so forth. They want to promote the small businesses and ‘still under the radar sites’ as they believe most commercial restaurants and other large venues and enterprises are already well promoted by social media. They have named each unit as a ‘Dot’ and their idea is that eventually people can discover Lebanon from Dot to Dot. “This can be done by hiking, biking, or driving from one Dot to another, and spending a couple of days at each Dot to explore the area around it,” says the partner. The application is set up so that when one clicks on any Dot on the Map, one sees photos of surrounding attractions and short videos summarizing them. You can see how it operates by clicking on this link: www.connectthedots-lb.com
Eventually the partners want to also offer a micro tourism concierge service, so visitors from abroad will be taken care of starting from arrival at the airport up until they depart. Normally, visitors need to know locals from an area, otherwise, they might not get the right guidance to explore areas outside the main tourist places. “There are so many wonderful places to explore in Lebanon, other than Baalbeck, Jeita, and so on. We want to make these remote natural places accessible for visitors while being ecological and helping local regional tourism,” says the partner. No doubt, micro tourism is also growing in popularity with people living in Lebanon. Due to Covid and the on-going financial crisis, enjoying breaks inside Lebanon has become more attractive and affordable than travelling overseas for many. “A lot of Lebanese enjoy going hiking now as a day activity. After a long trek in a hilly forest they may be tired but need to get back into their cars for a long drive back to their homes in another area,” explains the partner. “Hopefully in the future, hikers can book to stay in our units (located in their trail area) for the night and be able to relax and enjoy the night scenery too.”
So far business is picking up and AiCFab has a number of orders in the pipeline for this summer. Aika Village, a campsite in Chouf has committed to a Silo 280 unit and another ecotourism client in Baissour has ordered two wooden bungalows (the company can also make units in wood upon request). Plus, a swimming pool for a private home and six more Silo 280 units in three different locations in Lebanon.
While the last few years have certainly been hard for many businesses in Lebanon, and AiCFab is no exception, the partners are optimistic about the future. “We are determined to grow our business in Lebanon and fulfill our project. There’s a lot of potential and we want to contribute to smarter construction and micro tourism, which can provide employment for so many families while they remain in their villages.”
If you want to know more about this inspiring enterprise or to get in touch with them, you can check out their Instagram https://www.instagram.com/ailoulcanoun/?hl=en and Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ailoulcanoun/.
Well, we hope you enjoyed reading this story, and if you have any comments you want to share please drop us a line as we always love to hear from you.
References: All the information and pictures have been provided by Ailoul Canoun