Ali Al Kuwari of ‘Msheireb Properties’: “Experience nature together”

Experience nature together. Children are connected to life experiences, which impact their thinking and attitude. I take my children camping in the desert in Qatar which provides a fantastic opportunity for them to explore, ask questions and learn to respect, honor and love our natural environment. As part of my series about what we must […]

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Experience nature together. Children are connected to life experiences, which impact their thinking and attitude. I take my children camping in the desert in Qatar which provides a fantastic opportunity for them to explore, ask questions and learn to respect, honor and love our natural environment.

As part of my series about what we must do to inspire the next generation about sustainability and the environment, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Ali Al Kuwari.

Mr. Ali Al Kuwari is the acting CEO of Msheireb Properties, a Qatar-based real estate development company and a subsidiary of Qatar Foundation. He has over 18 years of experience in planning, cost engineering and project management. Mr. Al Kuwari played an integral role in the development of key projects in Qatar, including a mega petrochemical complex at Ras Laffan Industrial City, a liquefied petroleum gas filling and distribution plant in Mesaieed and a new fuel gas supply pipeline in Dukhan.

At Msheireb Properties, where innovation and sustainability are core values, Mr. Al Kuwari is responsible for developing and implementing strategic and operational plans, ensuring that the projects are devised and delivered on time, within budget, and with superior quality.

Mr. Al Kuwari holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from the University of Miami and an Executive MBA from HEC Paris in Qatar.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew up in Qatar’s capital city of Doha during what was a very exciting period of transformation for the country. Seeing the rapid change Qatar was experiencing, I knew I wanted to contribute to its success. I decided to travel abroad to the United States to study Industrial Engineering at the University of Miami. Like many other Qatari students, I was determined to succeed and give back to my community and country.

Was there an “aha moment” or a specific trigger that made you decide you wanted to become a scientist or environmental leader? Can you share that story with us?

As a student, I took a keen interest in environmental issues and had a passion for conservation initiatives. Once I graduated, I sought to work for a company where I could pursue these passions.

Msheireb Properties, where a focus on innovation, sustainability and quality of life is front and center, answered that call. The whole concept and vision of Msheireb Properties rely on protecting the environment and presenting a bold new template for developers around the world on how to incorporate such practices as passive cooling, energy and water conservation, use of renewable energy and reduction of carbon emissions. Through its flagship project, Msheireb Downtown Doha, which regenerated an old commercial district into one of the smartest and most sustainable city districts in the world, Msheireb Properties pursues projects that have a lasting impact on the country and its residents. This is critical for a country like Qatar, which experiences a desert climate and hot weather for much of the year.

Is there a lesson you can take out of your own story that can exemplify what can inspire a young person to become an environmental leader?

When we started the construction of Msheireb Downtown Doha, I faced some challenges associated with the perception of sustainable building — which was still a relatively new concept in Qatar at that time.

My advice to young people in the field of engineering, construction, architecture and design is that when it comes to the environment, do not compromise. We need to preserve our environment for the next generation, even if it costs more time, effort, and money. The added costs are balanced by long-term savings and benefits for future generations.

Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?

Msheireb Downtown Doha, which is the first sustainable downtown regeneration project in the world, is designed to be sensitive and responsive to the local climate and cultural norms. We’ve pushed the boundaries of urban planning by blending the best of the local heritage with the latest trends in technology and architecture to develop an innovative and sustainable district — a place where residents and visitors enjoy living, working, shopping, and spending time with family and friends.

In Qatar, summer temperatures can hit 115 degrees Fahrenheit, so we outfitted the district with more sustainable features, from rainwater harvesting to shady overhangs that make walking outside cooler. The majority of the more than 100 buildings in Msheireb Downtown Doha are fitted with solar panels and solar water heaters. There are systems that recover rainwater and air conditioning condensation into basement tanks, where the water is reused for irrigation and to flush toilets. All the planned buildings meet the LEED Gold standard for environmental performance, and some have a platinum rating.

The entire development is designed to consume fewer resources, generate less waste, lower costs, and achieve a reduced carbon footprint, making Msheireb Downtown Doha the world’s largest certified sustainable community.

Can you share 3 lifestyle tweaks that the general public can do to be more sustainable or help address the climate change challenge?

Every day we make choices in our lives that impact the climate. I think one of the most important things we can do is to think about our consumption habits. Some quick and easy lifestyle tweaks are:

Limit the use of plastic bags for grocery and other shopping and bring reusable bags instead

Conserve electricity by turning off lights or unplugging devices when you don’t need to use them

Walk, bike or use public transport instead of driving

Individuals can also advocate for the adoption of renewable energy in their country, city or community, or incorporate renewable energy sources into their own home if they are able to do so. Since Qatar has sun most of the year, we are now leveraging solar energy to generate power, a long-term and sustainable solution to our energy needs.

The youth-led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.

Parents can act as role models for their children, starting with everyday practices such as reducing waste at home, recycling, minimizing or eliminating the use of single-use plastic.

Educate your children about ideas that prioritize the environment and the importance of protecting nature.

Experience nature together. Children are connected to life experiences, which impact their thinking and attitude. I take my children camping in the desert in Qatar which provides a fantastic opportunity for them to explore, ask questions and learn to respect, honor and love our natural environment.

Teach them to be responsible consumers, by buying sustainable toys, electronics and other products that will last, rather than those that provide quick entertainment and break down.

Support them to lead projects and adopt sustainable practices in their daily lives with their friends, fellow students, and the wider community.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or an example?

If you construct a building with a focus solely on cost savings, your building may only last 20 years. But if it is a sustainable building, its life cycle will be much longer, and it will keep generating profit. Sustainable aspects might be costly initially, but in the long run, they are very cost-efficient. In Msheireb Downtown Doha, we are using solar panels to generate around 25 percent of power for many buildings, water systems for reuse of water, smart irrigation to save water, and sustainable materials to reduce electricity consumption. All these systems are costly, but the operational cost will be much less, resulting in fewer and lower bills, and more profitability in the mid-and long-term.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My family’s support has been a major factor in my success and I am grateful to them.

You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

My focus now is on how to change perceptions in the field of construction and building. I have been involved with Msheireb Properties since its inception, and I am a strong advocate of our mission to rehabilitate the old downtown Doha and make Msheireb Downtown Doha a symbol of sustainable and smart cities. I would like to influence younger generations of engineers to adopt the idea of sustainability and consider it as a necessary asset to preserve our natural resources, protect our environment and create a new way of living.

Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?

One of my favorite quotes is, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Every time I have wanted to quit, whether in my personal or professional life, I remembered that failure in one matter is nothing compared to your achievements. If you don’t fail, you will not learn to become better. Failure is just a term to identify that you didn’t get the expected results, but when you move on and improve, you will get what you want. Don’t stop, keep moving.

What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?

You can follow me on twitter: @AliMAlkuwari

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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