Project Management

A Look Behind the Curtain: PMI’s Mega Projects & Sustainable Infrastructure Summit

22 Nov 2022
Grace Najjar
The construction and infrastructure industries are quick to adapt to new disruptive technologies and innovations. At the recent PMI Mega Projects and Sustainable Infrastructure Summit, we spoke with leaders and decision-makers from public and private organizations across the globe who are reshaping the future of these industries, while keeping sustainability top of mind. Grace Najjar explains all.

aerial view of city buildings in Dubai at sunset

Everything about mega projects is outsized – their scale and scope, their budgets and resource requirements, and their impact on local economies and the surrounding environment. But that raises a critical question: Can these massively impactful projects still be sustainable? 

That was one of the key issues addressed during the PMI Mega Projects and Sustainable Infrastructure Summit, a one-of-a-kind event for the construction, energy, smart technology and sustainability industries, held 19-20 September in Dubai. The consensus of attendees: not only can such projects marry innovation and sustainability, in today’s world, where environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations are such important drivers, mega projects must bring innovation and sustainability together.  

The Summit featured top-level experts from local and international companies working in a region that is home to some of the most iconic, complex and sustainable projects on the planet. Attendees included C-Suite executives, industry innovators, project professionals and leading sustainability advocates – all engaged in discussions about how to advance mega projects that are smarter, more resilient and more sustainable than ever before.  

Over the course of the event, industry experts delved into the opportunities and challenges involved in mega projects, including the trends that are changing the way construction projects are initiated and delivered and the impact of skilled workers and experienced project leaders on productivity and project timelines. Summit attendees also explored the impact of the circular economy and the efforts being made to develop new cities, new buildings and new infrastructure projects for a more sustainable future.  

Technology and digitalization were at the center of many of the Summit’s discussions. Attendees noted that digital disruption continues to transform the industry, as new ways of working, including modular construction techniques, take hold. That’s enhancing the importance of project management. Indeed, there is growing demand for open-minded project leaders who exhibit proficiency not only in technical skills but in power skills like communication and collaboration that drive better decision-making, higher quality and greater integration across multiple stakeholders.      

Here’s a look at some of the mainstage sessions that took place during the Summit: 

The drive for greater sustainability was one of the key trends identified in the opening conference event: “Reimagining Construction Following Disruptive Trends.” Other disruptive trends identified by Summit attendees included cost pressures, skill gaps, customer-centricity and digitalization. The session also featured insights from leaders at ACCIONA Construcción, Accenture, Hill International, AECOM and NESMA on strategies leaders can adopt to address supply chain issues. 

ESG and decarbonization initiatives were top-of-mind for construction leaders during the “Moving the Construction Needle towards Sustainability and a Circular Economy” session. Such initiatives are increasingly seen as strategic opportunities, according to leaders at ACCIONA Construcción, Mott MacDonald, KPMG, UN Global Compact Network and Miral Asset Management, who also addressed how the Circular Economy can drive efficiencies and new business opportunities. 

Finding the right people to deliver on your organization’s objectives has always been challenging, but the lack of skilled and experienced teams is making project delays almost inevitable. Featuring insights from Faithful+Gould, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Dubai Municipality and Minnesota State University-Mankato, the “Empowering Talent in Construction” session discussed the pain points of building effective and efficient project teams and how the Construction Professional in Built Environment Projects (PMI-CP)™ certification can offer solutions. A self-paced, seven-course e-learning series, the PMI-CP certification is designed to equip project professionals in engineering and construction fields with the skills they need to bring large, complex projects to life. 

Other featured sessions from the Summit can be found: 

  • The New Mega Project Landscape: Opportunities and Challenges: Mega projects are crucial to the future of cities and community livelihoods and are economically transformative. This session looked at the factors that make these large infrastructure projects a success. 

  • The Next Frontier in Smart Construction: The construction industry is as adept in adapting to new technologies as it is in enabling smart execution. This session looked at the most impactful trends affecting the industry and how digitization is changing the way we plan, design and build. 

  • The Rapidly Changing Energy Landscape: The disruptive change affecting the energy sector holds the potential to dramatically reshape our world. This session looked at the trends influencing future energy systems and how those systems are helping nations traditionally reliant on oil and gas to transition to cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy. 

  • Redefining the Future of Real Estate & Hospitality: Virtual design and construction (VDC), prefabricated, prefinished volumetric construction (PPVC) and 3-D printing are among the latest trends disrupting the real estate sector. This session looked at how project leaders can integrate these technologies to provide innovative project solutions.  

  • Contracting, Risk Management, and New Opportunities: From regulations to future pandemics, there are a number of challenges that the contracting sector must be wary of. This session shared best practices on how to overcome these challenges and how teams can manage and mitigate risk and become more efficient. 

Grace Najjar Grace Najjar

Grace Najjar serves as the Managing Director of PMI’s Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region and also leads PMI’s Energy Working Group for greater reach and focus globally. Grace has helped PMI establish strong connections with influential organizations in the region through regional, national and international roles. She was a long-time volunteer — notably as founding member of the PMI Lebanon Chapter, Chapter Vice President and PMI Middle East Region Mentor. Most recently, Grace supported PMI as the Corporate and Government Relations Manager in the Middle East.