Khatib & Alami (K&A) was established more than 50 years ago by the late Professor Mounir Khatib and Dr. Zuheir Alami, who had the vision and ambition to create a leading international company. The two founders believed hard work, integrity and innovation would make this a reality and wanted to leave a legacy for future generations of professionals.
Today, K&A is an established international multidisciplinary consultancy and is among the Top 50 international design firms and the Top 10 in the Middle East, according to Engineering News-Record (ENR). With its holding company based in Singapore, and its Executive Office in Dubai, K&A operates in more than 30 locations worldwide and employs around 5500 people, primarily across the Middle East and Africa.
The company is led by Dr Najib Khatib, who was elected Chairman in February 2017, in addition to the role of Chief Executive Officer which he took on in 2016. His appointment recognised the outstanding contributions and achievements he has delivered throughout his 22-year career with the company. Dr Khatib has been a member of the K&A Board’s executive committee since 2006.
Under Dr Khatib’s leadership, K&A has undertaken several important initiatives which have been vital to supporting the company’s continuous growth and development. For instance, he led the change in jurisdiction of K&A’s Holding Company from Lebanon to Singapore, which means the company is subject to Singaporean laws and strong governance, while also enjoying the benefits of being in a dynamic global financial hub.
In addition, Dr Khatib has been responsible for spearheading a major transformation project at K&A which has touched on almost every aspect of the business, further equipping it with the attributes needed for long-term success.
Partner of Choice
K&A’s scope of services covers a broad spectrum, taking in architecture, city and regional planning, transportation, water and environment, geotechnical and heavy civil, power and renewables, oil and gas, energy and utilities, programme management services and geospatial systems integration projects. The company offers deep technical expertise, combined with a wide understanding of delivering complex major projects within agreed timeframes and budget.
In addition to its work to expand its services in response to client demand, recent years have seen K&A deliver encouraging geographic growth beyond its core Gulf markets. In the Middle East, it has been expanding into geographies such as Iraq, while in Sub-Saharan Africa it has won projects in Gabon, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Ethiopia, and continues to explore opportunities in additional geographies such as Mozambique, Guinea, Cameroon and others. Simultaneously, the company is expanding east and has won projects in India and Malaysia, with more ongoing efforts that are yielding positive results in the CIS countries, where K&A is already working, and additional Far East countries such as Indonesia and Singapore.
Last year saw encouraging progress for K&A towards its vision of being ‘the partner of choice for its industry’, thanks to continued investment in its people, capabilities, systems and technologies. This is enabling the company to meet the changing needs of clients as they respond to new demands, opportunities and trends.
An example of this is the emergence of different project delivery methods, such as early contractor involvement and design & build, with increasing numbers of clients looking to embrace new risk reward profiles. K&A has therefore taken important steps to ensure it is equipped with the knowledge – technically, commercially and culturally – to help clients address this market shift, moving its capabilities upstream to become involved as an advisor in early project development. This means leveraging its engineering expertise with financial modelling to help clients ensure their projects are bankable and attractive to investors, while participating actively in PPP projects from the supply side.
Supporting the Kingdom’s Vision 2030
K&A is proud to be making a lasting contribution to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s future development through its ongoing work with the Ministry of Finance (MoF).
Since being appointed as project management consultant (PMC) by the MoF to establish and run its project management office (PMO), K&A has been working closely with all stakeholders to help shape the future development of some of Saudi Arabia’s most economically, socially and culturally significant projects aligned with Vision 2030.
These projects include the expansion and renovation of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Medina. In Makkah, this will help to increase the number of daily prayers up to 1.7 million, with around 2 million pilgrims per day, while Medina’s capacity will grow to 1.6 million prayers per day. These vital projects will benefit an estimated 30 million pilgrims per year by 2030.
A key goal of the PMO is to drive world-class standards of project delivery across the MoF’s infrastructure projects. One of the ways this is being achieved is through the establishment of stringent design guidelines, regular reviews, and robust controls on the activities of all third parties in relation to quality, cost, project schedules and project progress. K&A is also assisting with all tender documents and contracts and preparing feasibility studies where necessary on behalf of the MoF.
Just as importantly, the PMO is playing an important role in driving up standards of project management across the Kingdom through training and development, and providing regular exposure to international best practice. This is building capabilities and ensuring that knowledge and skills acquired through the PMO are retained within the Kingdom.
The Al-Wajeed Water Masterplan
Another example of K&A’s significant contribution to Saudi Arabia’s social, economic and environmental sustainability is the Al-Wajeed Water Masterplan, a major social infrastructure initiative aligned with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. This life-critical project, located in the Empty Quarter (the world’s largest uninterrupted sand mass), is safeguarding the well-being of more than half-a-million people in Tathleeth and Bisha governorates, where water shortages were presenting a serious threat to health and the economy.
This highly complex project, which was last year named Infrastructure Project of the Year at the Construction Week Awards, sought to safely extract, purify and transfer water from the Al-Wajeed wells to strategic reservoirs in Tathleeth – a distance of approximately 600km, and K&A was responsible for full design and construction supervision.
Major components of the project included a water desalination plant with a capacity of 40,000 m³/day in the first phase, 20 deep wells, pumping stations, 600km of water pipelines, reservoirs with volumes ranging from 50,000m³ to 2,500 m³; local water networks to distribute reservoir-stored water to households, and roadways for construction site access.
In total, the project took eight years to complete and was divided into multiple construction packages awarded to different contractors, with work starting in parallel to save time during construction. At the height of the project more than 2000 people were involved in its delivery.
The desalination plant was completed on time and to budget, and after rigorous testing and commissioning is now operational and being managed and maintained by around 50 people in its early stages. Scope exists, however, for the desalination plant to ramp up to 108,000m³/day in capacity in a budget-dependent second phase.
In addition, the project has been a major catalyst for infrastructure development in a part of the Kingdom previously viewed as inaccessible for investment opportunities, and now has a growing local economy, which further adds to the long-term sustainability of the region’s communities.
Solutions for the community
K&A has also played a key role for the Ministry of Housing in Saudi Arabia with the delivery of a detailed study of 20 sites (covering approximately 30 million m²) earmarked for new homes in the Asir and Al-Baha governorates. The company’s experts created thoughtfully-designed masterplans which will meet future demand, while preserving the natural features, morphology and topography of sites.
In addition, K&A supported the Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) in developing a world-class facility which drives the digitalisation of its services, enabling vast amounts of real-time information to be centralized and optimized. This complex mission was made possible by K&A’s innovative solutions which transform the way geospatial systems’ capabilities engage with SWCC operations, supporting best practice operations, maintenance and business controls.
A Broad Portfolio
K&A is working on a wide variety of projects at the present time, including a number of mega projects. Regardless of the size and scale of the project, the company’s primary aim is always to cover the full spectrum of its clients’ needs.
K&A is flexible enough with its workforce to place it where the projects are, serving the market as and where necessary. It has a healthy project porfolio in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, involving a diverse range of clients, and is proud to be making a positive contribution to the country as it works towards achieving its Vision 2030 goals.
Investing in the Future
The company has been operating within the Middle East and Africa region for more than five decades, and this gives it an exceptional understanding and perspective of the market. K&A has seen many challenging times, but has always been ready with a contingency plan to deliver success on behalf of its clients.
What the company sees at the moment is that clients are ambitious to deliver high quality projects, but the emphasis is on doing this as efficiently as possible. This is good for companies such as K&A, which have invested strongly in their capabilities and expertise, but don’t have the same cost base as many international competitors.
High Calibre People
The company recognise that nothing has a greater impact on its ability to meet the expectations of clients, and to make a valuable contribution to the communities in which it works, than the way it supports and develops its people.
Measuring the performance of staff has been dovetailed with the company’s transformation programme in order to support the need for mentoring and role modelling, as well as technology-related training, which will put it at the forefront of the new skills and capabilities needed for a digital world.
In 2019, K&A will continue to invest in its people, equipping them with the right skills to be able to meet the challenges of a competitive market landscape. At the same time, it will continue to recruit the best available talent in the market to ensure that it remains a one-stop-shop solution for its clients.
A Changing World
K&A has a can-do mentality, which means leaning into its clients’ challenges with a flexible mindset. This has been key to its ability to develop a strong business in Saudi Arabia. Equally, it has been diligent about understanding and aligning with the new priorities in the Kingdom.
This is the same agile approach the company takes with respect to entering new markets and sectors, and it is what enables it to be a first mover when opportunities emerge in developing markets.
K&A aims to spearhead efforts towards driving a sustainable approach to development. It does this by offering fully-fledged sustainability consultancy services to its clients, utilising innovative design strategies in sustainability design engineering, energy management and independent commissioning solutions. The company’s work and methodologies are reinforced with up-to-date industry research and the deployment of cutting-edge analysis tools to deliver an optimum project sustainability performance.
The vision for K&A’s sustainability services is to drive sustainable development and business resilience in order to create a better future and positively impact the communities in which it works. Its experts offer both practical and technical experience in energy performance, renewable and clean energy, low carbon technology, water conservation, materials sciences and regulatory compliance.
Technology Driving Future Success
K&A’s vision to be the partner of choice in its sector constantly drives it to keep improving its services and capabilities. This includes a commitment to embrace technology, something that has been in the company’s DNA since its very inception. For instance, K&A is at the forefront of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the MENA region, last year celebrating 30 years of partnership with international GIS supplier ESRI, while its own smart solutions platform – Kapcite – is gaining traction in the market.
K&A’s GIS expertise complements its design, engineering and project management services across all aspects of the built environment sector. Its Smart City approach, for instance, is focused on utilising GIS and integrating it with other technologies and platforms, such as IoT (Internet of Things). In this Smart City realm, its clients see that K&A’s GIS technology brings multimodal systems and various assets together into a more comprehensive, view which allows improved visualisation and analysis.
As part of its ambition to be at the forefront of supporting its clients as they adopt new technologies, in 2017 K&A set out on a comprehensive digital transformation programme. The aim is to maximise its utilisation of technology in a multidisciplinary way that will bring synergies, efficiency and productivity gains, as well as new business line offerings with digital functionalities and data-based services.
K&A has identified and prioritised initiatives that will be delivered during the next three years as part of its digitalisation strategy. In 2018, this involved integrating a number of new tools and technologies (i.e. VR/AR, drones, 3D printing, digital twins, generative/parametric design); investing further in existing technologies (e.g. BIM/GIS, platform services, AI services); driving adoption across the entire organisation; and working to increase collaboration with clients to address their challenges and needs.
The next 50 years, therefore, look as exciting as the first 50, so we can expect to see many more impressive milestones from one of the industry’s most innovative and customer-driven companies!