SPEAKER INTERVIEW: MENNA DESSOUKI

In talks with Menna Dessouki, Senior Consultant, BuroHappold Engineering

Menna Dessouki
Menna Dessouki
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Menna Dessouki will be speaking at the Design Talks during The Big 5 in November. Menna is the Senior Consultant at BuroHappold Engineering, she will be sharing her insight on "Regenerating City Centres for Socio-Economic Development"

In your opinion, what is the most needed innovation in the construction industry today?

The industry needs solutions that can inform early stage decision making on projects, which is the time when the most critical decisions are made with the least information available. Innovations or tools that enable early stage ‘optioneering’ through big picture quantification or science-based direction, for example, could mitigate future risks to the client and equally provide a good evidence base for the project. In addition to decision making tools, the industry also needs innovation in communication mechanisms between key stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle, to form the foundation for integrated design.

How can start-ups contribute to the sector’s development and to sustainable development in particular?

Established companies in the industry are partnering with start-ups to innovate the products they offer clients as well as transform their internal processes. Start-ups offer larger companies the speed, agility, and fearlessness needed to develop and test new ideas. Start-ups can contribute to the sustainable development of the sector through the creation of new and non-traditional job opportunities within it.   

Why is the construction industry considered a late technology adopter and what can industry professionals do to change this?  

There are several reasons for this, which together make it difficult for the industry to quickly identify the most appropriate types of technologies to adopt. The first is due to the linearity of the development process, where a built asset is designed, constructed, and then handed over to the client, with little opportunity for performance related feedback loops to the design team, which misses opportunities for iterative design and improvements. The second reason is the lack of access to the real time data and analytics needed to identify decision making gaps throughout the process. Finally, there are few financial incentives for adoption of new technologies by construction contractors, for example, as these could involve risk of failure, cost overruns or program delays.To change this, companies will need to re-wire their internal systems to drive innovation, and fostering an entrepreneurship culture within the organization is key to achieve this.

What innovative technologies do you look forward to seeing at The Big 5 in November?

It would be exciting to see creative attempts at disruption across every stage of a project’s lifecycle, with technologies that offer maximum value to clients, building owners and operators, future occupants, and design teams alike, particularly with respect to quality and end-user experience. Key categories for innovations may include artificial intelligence (AI), augmented and virtual reality (AR & VR), big data and internet of things (IoT), blockchain and cyber security, robotics, 3D printing, and smart products, for example.Ultimately, the industry needs people-centred, digital, outside-the-box solutions that overcome barriers related to data, and push the boundaries of what is achievable within the field.

What is the most promising innovative product/technology you’ve come across lately in the construction sector? Anything that is helping developing a more sustainable / environmental friendly built environment?

At both city and building levels, there is a strong push for smart and digital to become the new business-as-usual, with regular feedback on the performance of city-wide infrastructure and individual buildings. This helps ensure built assets are operating within resource limits for long term sustainability.

About Menna Dessouki -

Menna Dessouki is a sustainable development professional for the built environment with nearly 5 years of international work experience as a sustainability consultant in Europe, UK and the Middle East, and 6 years of higher education in design and engineering.Throughout her career, Menna’s work focused on sustainability implementation at both building and urban scales, from detailed environmental design analysis to macro scale urban planning strategies. She collaborated directly with world leading architectural and urban design firms including Zaha Hadid Architects, Grimshaw Architects, Woods Bagot, Pascal+Watson and Callison RTKL, and key private developers including Aldar, Masdar and the United Real Estate Company. Her consultancy work served the residential, commercial, hospitality, cultural and aviation sectors and project experience spans the UK, Europe, Middle East, North Africa and Asia. Menna holds a professional practice MPhil degree in Engineering for Sustainable Development from the University of Cambridge, where she was awarded a full scholarship to pursue her studies. She was also the valedictorian of her class in high school, graduated with high honors in her undergraduate studies, and earned a distinction in her MPhil dissertation. In 2014, Menna Dessouki was named the Young Engineer of the Year at the Middle East MEP Awards in Dubai.

You can hear more from Menna Dessouki on "Regenerating City Centres for Socio-Economic Development" at the Design Talks on 28th November, 12:00 - 12:45.