Youness Ouazri is a civil engineer from Rabat and alumni from the Orange Corners La Caravane programme. When Youness studied at the Technical University, he also was active within ENACTUS, a student association, that aims to start social entrepreneurship projects. Youness wanted to solve problems he saw in society, for example in the slums in the Medina of Casablanca. Designing sustainable and affordable housing at ENACTUS was the official start of Eco-dôme.
The first Eco-dôme is already in use, and the owner is more than willing to show us around. It’s location is Ben Slimane, a rural village between Casablanca and Rabat, a perfect location between the two major cities for people who search for a quiet and green community not too far from their offices. During the one-hour car drive from Rabat Mohamedia to Ben Slimane, Orange Corners colleague Remy van Aarden had the opportunity to conduct an interview with Youness Ouazri.
Can you explain what Eco-dôme does?
“Eco-dôme Maroc is an ecological construction company that constructs houses and infrastructure for the development of rural communities by exploiting local resources, in particular natural earth. Our vocation is to highlight the Moroccan heritage of earthen construction, which we adapt to the modern standards of comfortable living. So we create buildings that are both traditional and convenient.”
Can you tell us more about the technical part of Eco-dôme?
“The aim behind our construction is that we don’t need air conditioning or heating later on. The external walls are able to keep the temperature within the house on a stable level. During winter it stays warm inside and in the summer it’s easy to keep it cool.
It was an American-Iranian architect, Nader Khalili, who came up with the Super Adobe Technic, combining local building materials like earth with polypropylene. This makes a strong and sustainable construction that resists all weather conditions. So the walls are made of earth and if you look inside the dome, you will see that there are wooden ceilings. Our real added value is the coating that we use for the external walls. We are mainly building the domes in dry areas, and the coating protects the walls against dry weather conditions very well. But we tested also in other weather conditions, for example in the Atlas Mountains where there is snow, and near the coast with more rainy days. The coating for the walls did its job perfectly!”
What is your inspiration for Eco-dôme?
“Since its creation in 2016, Eco-dôme Maroc draws on both the basic design of the American-Iranian architect Nader Khalili and the rich Moroccan heritage of earth-based construction. This perfect combination is our main source of inspiration. It gives a new architectural and structural meaning to our buildings: buildings that respect the environment, adapt to the environment, but above all emanate from the environment. Because we believe that human comfort lies in its return to nature, Eco-dôme Morocco is there to ensure this first step.”
Why did you become an entrepreneur?
I was destined! I was an employee in a private company for two years, but I didn’t like it because I felt I was not free to do what I want. When I was a student, I used to travel a lot in Morocco and even abroad. I need that feeling of freedom. When you are working for a boss you have a strict timeframe, you have to be in the office from 9am till 6 pm. If you want to take a break, you have to deal with HR. As an entrepreneur, I am more flexible, so when an opportunity pops up I can react quickly. The majority of big companies aren’t flexible. That’s a pity.
What was your experience with the Orange Corners incubation programme and OCIF?
I was an incubatee of Orange Corners, and I also was one of the 5 entrepreneurs who won the OCIF-ticket. The whole experience of the programme was great. I liked the flexibility of the programme. It was well-adjusted to the needs of the entrepreneurs. In my cohort there was a mix of entrepreneurs from different cities, stages and from different sectors. It was a beautiful experience. The team of Bidaya (the implementing partner of Orange Corners Morocco) was very helpful.
I was very happy with the finance of OCIF (Orange Corners Innovation Fund). We had to present an investment plan before we got the money, but we took it all in one shot. At that time, we were in need of funding to pay the construction materials for the first Eco-dôme project in Ben Slimane.
What is your ambition?
We want to duplicate the concept of Eco-dôme to the whole of Morocco and why not over the whole continent of Africa. Eco-dôme has started to sell business to consumer, but now we are also in the B2B market. The Eco-dôme can be a perfect residence for touristic visits! It has a huge touristic potential, but we don’t have the infrastructure to run touristic resorts in a sustainable way at the moment. They use water, electricity and so on. My dream is to open up a tourist resort full of Eco-dômes, but we are working on it. I think it’s got big potential in the nearby future.