Let there BE LIGHT

Ekaruna - - Interview Relay -


Ekaruna Could you tell us about your back­ground and how you came to work as Pres­i­dent for Deb­bas?

Ziad Deb­bas I grew up in France and Switzer­land, but spent most of my hol­i­days with my fam­ily in Le­banon. As for my col­lege years, I stud­ied in Canada and the US. I grad­u­ated from Concordia Univer­sity in 1992 with a Bach­e­lor of Com­merce in Fi­nance and in 1998 with an MBA from Har­vard.

Fol­low­ing my un­der­grad­u­ate stud­ies at Concordia Univer­sity, I moved to Saudi Ara­bia and worked for a cou­ple of years with Arthur D. Lit­tle in man­age­ment con­sult­ing. I later joined the fam­ily busi­ness in sales, pro­mot­ing our man­u­fac­tured range of light­ing fix­tures. Sub­se­quently, af­ter ac­quir­ing my MBA, I founded and man­aged an in­ter­net soft­ware com­pany in Lon­don, even­tu­ally mov­ing the full op­er­a­tion to Beirut. I then handed over the day-to­day man­age­ment of the start-up com­pany and rein­te­grated the fam­ily busi­ness in 2003.

For the last ten years or so, I took on sev­eral po­si­tions and chal­lenges in sales, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and man­age­ment of busi­ness units in Beirut and Dubai. In the last few years, I as­sumed a lead­er­ship role in our Group light­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

Ekaruna The com­pany spe­cialises in a wide ar­ray of ser­vices, with light­ing at the fore­front. Over­all, would you say light­ing tech­nol­ogy is still the com­pany’s strong­est skill? And if so, how have you honed that trait over the years?

Ziad Deb­bas Deb­bas is an en­gi­neer­ing com­pany at its core and takes pride in main­tain­ing an ex­cep­tional rep­u­ta­tion in elec­trome­chan­i­cal con­tract­ing, build­ing man­age­ment sys­tems and more re­cently in energy net­work man­age­ment.

Light­ing has been in the DNA of Deb­bas for more than a cen­tury and has es­tab­lished our brand in­ter­na­tion­ally. To­day, Deb­bas Light­ing is a ma­jor player in the global light­ing in­dus­try, and is unique in its fo­cus and strate­gic ap­proach, which is so­lu­tion cen­tric and ser­vice ori­ented.

In ad­di­tion to our light­ing prod­ucts, Ce­sar Deb­bas & Fils of­fers a wide range of in­no­va­tive elec­tri­cal prod­ucts and so­lu­tions to im­prove per­for­mance, com­fort and energy sav­ing. We op­er­ate through a dis­tri­bu­tion net­work of more than one hun­dred re­tail shops cov­er­ing the Le­banese ter­ri­tory, and are a lead­ing player in pro­ject sup­plies pro­vid­ing turnkey so­lu­tions along with af­ter sales sup­port and main­te­nance ser­vices for MV/LV sub­sta­tions. We are the fa­vored part­ner of pro­fes­sion­als in the elec­tri­cal busi­ness, namely elec­tri­cians, elec­tri­cal util­i­ties, end users, con­trac­tors and key in­dus­trial ac­counts. We of­fer qual­ity prod­ucts, re­li­able de­liv­ery, avail­abil­ity, com­pet­i­tive­ness, ex­per­tise, in­te­gra­tion, in­no­va­tion and cus­tomised ser­vices. Our ma­jor elec­tric prod­ucts brand of­fer­ings range from OS­RAM for con­ven­tional and LED lamps, elec­tronic con­trol gear and fix­tures; HAGER for mod­u­lar pro­tec­tion and con­trol de­vices; ABB for mu­ral wiring ac­ces­sories; MEGA­MAN for LED lamps and fix­tures; 3M for elec­tri­cal tapes, con­nec­tors, ter­mi­na­tions & joints; FRER for me­ter­ing ap­pa­ra­tus and in­stru­ments; VERGOKAN for ca­ble sup­port­ing sys­tems to EFACEC for MV trans­form­ers and switchgears.

Ekaruna How does cus­tomer feed­back fac­tor in the de­sign process of turnkey light­ing so­lu­tions?

Ziad Deb­bas In the early stages of a pro­ject, we as­sist and ad­vise de­sign­ers in trans­lat­ing their cre­ative con­cepts into op­ti­mal and work­able spec­i­fi­ca­tions. The de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing process re­quires a close in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the de­signer and his/ her team. In many in­stances, our light­ing en­gi­neer­ing teams be­come an ex­ten­sion of the de­signer’s team, and this ef­fec­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion pro­duces highly in­no­va­tive yet prac­ti­cal light­ing spec­i­fi­ca­tions that truly fit each pro­ject’s unique re­quire­ments.

Ekaruna Could you talk to us about how light­ing de­sign and tech­nol­ogy are shift­ing the workspace en­vi­ron­ment? What about the home space?

Ziad Deb­bas As you may know, Light Emit­ting Diode (LED) tech­nol­ogy has trans­formed the light­ing in­dus­try in the last decade or so. In the early years of this revo­lu­tion, LED tech­nol­ogy ad­dressed the “low hang­ing fruit”, namely energy sav­ing. The energy sav­ing ben­e­fits of LEDs es­sen­tially im­pacted and ben­e­fited the home space, but had a lesser im­pact on the workspace, sim­ply be­cause the home space has been us­ing ex­tremely in­ef­fi­cient in­can­des­cent light sources, whereas the workspace has been us­ing rel­a­tively ef­fi­cient flu­o­res­cent light sources.

At the mo­ment, the growth of the retro­fit busi­ness has slowed down, and the tech­no­log­i­cal progress driv­ing more ef­fi­ciency out of LEDs will even­tu­ally reach its phys­i­cal lim­its. Given these com­bined fac­tors, the in­dus­try has adapted its R&D and mar­ket­ing to­wards im­prov­ing the qual­ity of light thanks to LED. To­day’s LEDs and LED fix­tures are not only more ef­fi­cient than tra­di­tional sources, but also al­low the con­trol­ling of light in a to­tally new man­ner. This is now im­pact­ing the workspace more than the main­stream home space and to an even greater ex­tent; it is dra­mat­i­cally chang­ing the way we light all public spa­ces like re­tail and en­ter­tain­ment spa­ces, hos­pi­tal­ity, land­scape, ar­chi­tec­tural fa­cades, street light­ing, sports, mu­se­ums etc…

To­day, LED is not only about the amount of lu­men per watt we can of­fer, but also about the way we pro­pose the best colour ren­der­ing, mood con­trol, glare con­trol, beams, ver­ti­cal sur­face il­lu­mi­na­tion, to name a few. LED has also al­lowed a minia­tur­i­sa­tion of light­ing fix­tures en­abling man­u­fac­tur­ers to come closer to re­al­is­ing the ul­ti­mate wish of most ar­chi­tects, be­ing the “zero fix­ture”- hid­ing the fix­ture and show­ing the light.

IN­TER­VIEW RE­LAY Ekaruna The In­ter­na­tional Con­sumer Elec­tronic show (CES), held in Last Ve­gas at the be­gin­ning of the year proved many de­vel­op­ers tar­get­ing the smart home are fo­cus­ing on the de­vel­op­ment of LEDs – where chip­boards can com­bine light sources with sen­sors for tasks from ther­mal man­age­ment to mo­tion de­tec­tion – to al­low light fix­tures to do more. Can you tell our read­ers how your com­pany is plan­ning on in­te­grat­ing these tech­nolo­gies in our mar­ket in the near fu­ture?

Ziad Deb­bas Re­gard­ing ther­mal man­age­ment, we are talk­ing about the re­quired en­gi­neer­ing to dis­si­pate the heat pro­duced by LEDs in or­der to main­tain the prom­ise of long life (50,000 hours or more). Up un­til now, we haven’t found a re­li­able “ac­tive” ther­mal man­age­ment sys­tem through the use of elec­tron­ics or other so­phis­ti­cated me­chan­i­cal cool­ing sys­tems. At Deb­bas, we have al­ways favoured and in­vested in “pas­sive” cool­ing where lu­mi­naires are de­signed and con­structed in such a way that guar­an­tees the life of the LED through ef­fec­tive ther­mal man­age­ment.

When it comes to smart homes, there are a lot of hard­ware and soft­ware in­no­va­tions that are mov­ing light­ing into the “In­ter­net of Things”. Some of these tech­nolo­gies like ad­dress­able light­ing fix­tures or mo­tion de­tec­tion have been around for a while and were in­te­grated into our of­fer­ing a long time ago. Other tech­nolo­gies are now be­gin­ning to emerge and will likely see wide­spread com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tion in a few years.

Though I can­not dis­close the de­tails of our R&D pro­grams, I can tell you that we are thor­oughly look­ing into the tech­nol­ogy be­hind pow­er­ing and con­trol­ling LED lights re­motely and the use of LED light as an ef­fi­cient com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem.

Ekaruna Could you talk us through the tech­nol­ogy be­hind in­ter­net-con­nected, con­sumer-ori­ented lamps and con­trols that of­fer cus­tomi­sa­tion of light­ing and re­mote ac­cess to the home? How fast is the com­pany start­ing to adapt this tech­nol­ogy to the Le­banese mar­ket?

Ziad Deb­bas The tech­nol­ogy be­hind in­ter­net-con­nected lamps and con­trols is very sim­ple. Light­ing con­trol, as well as dy­namic colour or white con­trol, have been around for many years in pro­fes­sional spec-grade lu­mi­naires. To­day, one can see a plethora of con­sumer elec­tron­ics com­pa­nies, specif­i­cally from Asian coun­tries, that have dived into this field. Per­son­ally, I see that most of these prod­ucts are not truly in­no­va­tive and some­what more of the latest gad­get that will die pre­ma­turely. At Deb­bas, we only adapt to these tech­nolo­gies if it adds value to

our core mar­kets and clients - es­sen­tially higher end con­struc­tion projects, ar­chi­tects, engi­neers and de­sign­ers. Our clients need to know the way in which light­ing tech­nol­ogy can en­hance the en­vi­ron­ment and cre­ate greater emo­tional value into ar­chi­tec­ture.

Ekaruna Could you ex­plain the con­cepts of crowd­fund­ing and 3D print­ing in light­ing tech­nol­ogy? How is the com­pany adapt­ing to these lu­mi­naires trends?

Ziad Deb­bas I regularly browse crowd­fund­ing plat­forms like Kick­starter, out of cu­rios­ity and in­ter­est. Be­sides the stupid, cool or rev­o­lu­tion­ary ideas and prod­uct con­cepts, I am amazed at how trans­for­ma­tive this phe­nom­e­non has be­come.

Crowd­fund­ing has the po­ten­tial to change the ven­ture cap­i­tal and pri­vate eq­uity in­dus­try by ef­fec­tively democratis­ing and dis­in­ter­me­di­at­ing the whole ven­ture fund­ing process. I be­lieve that we may well be about to wit­ness the grad­ual marginal­i­sa­tion of es­tab­lished and tra­di­tional ven­ture cap­i­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions and cen­tres such as Sil­i­con Val­ley - un­less they adapt and rein­vent them­selves.

Crowd­fund­ing will also ac­cel­er­ate and more im­por­tantly glob­alise tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion and progress. When it comes to light­ing tech­nol­ogy, there are very few in­no­va­tive ideas, and most of them are di­rected at the con­sumer mar­ket. But, the ma­jor­ity would qual­ify as gad­gets. I keep tabs on Kick­starter though, as it’s likely that a truly in­no­va­tive and prac­ti­cal prod­uct or idea will emerge that would add value to our mar­kets.

3D print­ing is another ex­cit­ing field that I have been re­search­ing for years. This tech­nol­ogy will trans­form any in­dus­try that makes or moves “stuff”, in­clud­ing light­ing. Two years ago, Deb­bas in­vested in a pro­fes­sional 3D printer for fast pro­to­typ­ing pur­poses. As you can imag­ine, it has al­lowed us to cut our prod­uct de­vel­op­ment cy­cle dra­mat­i­cally and helped us im­prove our ser­vices and re­spon­sive­ness in terms of cre­at­ing cus­tom light­ing prod­ucts for ar­chi­tects and de­sign­ers.

In a few years, 3D print­ing tech­nol­ogy for main­stream man­u­fac­tur­ing - in­clud­ing 3D print­ing for met­als - will be­come eco­nom­i­cally vi­able to light­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers. The pay­off is mas­sive for com­pa­nies like Deb­bas, which are re­sult fo­cused and work hard to cus­tomise so­lu­tions for high-end projects. It will also cer­tainly im­pact the main OEM (orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­turer) cen­tres in Asia.

3D print­ing com­bined with the power of the In­ter­net will democra­tise and mon­e­tise cre­ativ­ity and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty to

an even greater ex­tent. New rev­o­lu­tion­ary light­ing prod­ucts will not only come from the “Mercedes-Benz” man­u­fac­tur­ers of the light­ing in­dus­try for in­stance, but also from a univer­sity stu­dent in Beirut or Ban­ga­lore, who will ac­tu­ally be able to de­sign, pro­duce, mar­ket and prof­itably sell his/her prod­uct glob­ally with­out leav­ing his dorm room.

At Deb­bas, a small team of man­agers of­ten ob­serve and de­bate how these mas­sive tech­no­log­i­cal waves will im­pact and dis­rupt our in­dus­try, and how we could ben­e­fit and surf these trends early on.

Ekaruna Could you talk to us fur­ther about some of the com­pany’s main con­tract­ing projects? Is there a spe­cific pro­ject you man­aged that you are par­tic­u­larly proud of?

Ziad Deb­bas Deb­bas Con­tract­ing is cur­rently in­volved in sev­eral im­por­tant and pres­ti­gious con­tract­ing projects in Le­banon and Qatar, in­clud­ing Sum­mer­land Kempin­ski Re­sort, Sama Beirut Tower and the Doha Con­ven­tion Cen­ter. We are proud of the im­mense progress to­wards the com­ple­tion of the Doha Con­ven­tion Cen­ter, which is a re­sound­ing suc­cess in terms of qual­ity of its en­gi­neer­ing and ex­e­cu­tion. When it comes to Light­ing, I am par­tic­u­larly proud of the Hara­main High Speed Rail pro­ject - the largest, most com­plex un­der­tak­ing ex­e­cuted in our 100 years history. For this land­mark ven­ture, we had to engi­neer, man­u­fac­ture and de­liver be­spoke cus­tom light­ing fix­tures, work­ing closely with renowned ar­chi­tects Foster & Part­ners and world­class en­gi­neer­ing con­sul­tants Dar Al-Han­dasah. Please find a short video on ‘the mak­ing of’ the Hara­main pro­ject on deb­bas.com/media.

Ekaruna Are there any new big projects the com­pany is work­ing on in Le­banon or abroad? Could you en­lighten our read­ers with some in­side in­for­ma­tion?

Ziad Deb­bas Ev­ery year, we de­liver a num­ber of big projects in more than 20 coun­tries. In 2014, we were awarded large and pres­ti­gious projects in Kenya, Nige­ria, Qatar, UAE, Al­ge­ria, Azer­bai­jan, Kuwait, Saudi Ara­bia and Ghana, to name a few. For more de­tails on our cur­rent un­der­tak­ings, visit our web­site www. deb­bas.com and sub­scribe to our monthly e-news­let­ter where we pub­lish sev­eral in­ter­est­ing awarded projects ev­ery month.

Ekaruna We un­der­stand that the com­pany also de­liv­ers be­spoke tech­ni­cal and ar­chi­tec­tural so­lu­tions for projects. Is/are there any spe­cific lo­cal or in­ter­na­tional de­signer(s) that you would love to see col­lab­o­rate with Deb­bas?

Ziad Deb­bas As you know, we col­lab­o­rate with many lo­cal, re­gional and in­ter­na­tional de­sign­ers, par­tic­u­larly in the US, the UK and France. I per­son­ally would love to col­lab­o­rate with Herzog & De Meu­ron as I am a big fan of their work.

Ekaruna Re­cently, the Banque du Liban has re­vamped its Money Mu­seum into the first Le­banese mu­seum to use only LEDs. What are your thoughts on the end re­sult? Would you have done any­thing dif­fer­ently?

Ziad Deb­bas I would have to visit the in­stal­la­tion first to judge and give you my opin­ion. All I can say at this point is that good light­ing is achieved through a com­plex mix of art and science, cre­ativ­ity and ap­pli­ca­tion of tech­nol­ogy. This process is called “light­ing de­sign”. And, if BDL Money Mu­seum was de­signed and re­alised with a care­ful light­ing de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing process, the re­sult must be im­pres­sive.

My first rec­om­men­da­tion to a pro­ject owner or prop­erty devel­oper who asks me how he/she can achieve the best light­ing is to set aside a bud­get to hire an in­de­pen­dent light­ing de­signer. In­de­pen­dent light­ing de­sign­ers are unique be­cause they com­bine their deep un­der­stand­ing of ar­chi­tec­ture, their cre­ativ­ity and their light­ing ex­per­tise.

Ekaruna What are your thoughts on the state of light­ing de­sign ed­u­ca­tion? Do you think there should be more pro­grams in the MENA area des­ig­nated for the care­ful study of this as­pect of de­sign?

Ziad Deb­bas Through­out Deb­bas’s history, we have ac­tively en­cour­aged light­ing ed­u­ca­tion in many ways, be it with our in­ter­nal train­ing projects, and re­cently un­der the ‘Deb­bas Academy’, or through out­side pro­grams and sup­port. Three years ago, Deb­bas helped es­tab­lish and spon­sored the first light­ing de­sign course in the MENA re­gion, within the AUB’s (Amer­i­can Univer­sity of Beirut) Depart­ment of Ar­chi­tec­ture. We cer­tainly hope to see more sim­i­lar ini­tia­tives in the MENA re­gion, and per­haps one day see the emerg­ing of a Mas­ters in Light­ing De­sign sim­i­lar to some of the de­grees of­fered at Par­sons The New School for De­sign in New York City, for in­stance.

Ekaruna Do you have any ad­vice for emerg­ing stu­dents who would like to spe­cialise in art of light­ing de­sign?

Ziad Deb­bas If one is truly pas­sion­ate and com­mit­ted to light­ing de­sign as a ca­reer, I would ad­vise start­ing his/her ed­u­ca­tion in ar­chi­tec­ture, and ideally go­ing on with work­ing in the field of ar­chi­tec­ture for a cou­ple of years. Fol­low­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence, I would rec­om­mend they ei­ther join a light­ing de­sign prac­tice in the re­gion to gain solid ex­pe­ri­ence, or if pos­si­ble, pur­sue an ad­vanced de­gree in light­ing de­sign in Europe or North Amer­ica.


Beirut Souks, Le­banon

Ibn Bat­tuta Mall, Dubai

Is­lamic Art Mu­seum, Qatar

Dubai Metro Sta­tion

FFP Pri­vate Bank, Le­banon

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