"The Future is Shared, Autonomous, Sustainable and Smart"

An Interview with Montassar Draief

In the first part of our interview with Montassar Draief, we explored his varied career in megaprojects, the challenges that arise when managing a project and his human-focussed approach to overcoming them. This week, we are diving into a passion of his – smart and sustainable mobility.

"Exciting things are happening around mobility and construction"

To start off the discussion, it is important to understand exactly what we mean when we think of ‘smart’ mobility. For Montassar, “smart mobility is transport facilitated to the passengers, through the passengers”. There are layers to this, he explains. “Smart passenger information can be considered as the first layer, where “if I am a tram passenger, I should be able to look at my phone or just use the internet to find out whether or not a tram is coming in five minutes or not”. So far, not too complicated. 

He quickly adds that “smart ticketing is also very important, as is multi-model integrated ticketing”. This aspect seems to be an area of frustration. “We are in 2022 and in some countries, you are still not able to buy your ticket on your phone. You have to go to the station and buy one ticket for the tram, another for the bus and then another for the train”. Despite significant developments, “institutional, financial and technical constraints are stopping many countries and cities from moving towards an autonomous phase of transport”.

It is the autonomy aspect that really gets to the root of what truly ‘smart’ mobility means. According to Montassar, “in the coming years, we will see a lot of autonomous vehicles around cities. We should be especially excited to see further development of shared mobility and micro-mobility concepts. It is really cool to think that if I am not going to use my car, someone else can use it. This is already happening. All it requires is community-focussed digital tools”. 

While his enthusiasm for these autonomous concepts is clear, it increases when he explains that this is already becoming reality. “I am working on a project where there will be 0% car ownership. Basically, nobody has their own car, maximising public transport and shared mobility usage. There will be a range of public transport services but also shared AV Pods and on-demand AV Shuttles.” You need to drive to the store? There will be a car available on demand. Want to take the bus? Hop on an autonomous shuttle. In essence, autonomous smart mobility is about “adapting the transport supply to the transport demand”. 

From our discussion with Montassar, one thing is overwhelmingly clear: “the future is shared, autonomous, sustainable and smart (data-driven). The capability is there”. 

The Three Ts of Sustainability: Timing, Teams and Tools.

While an incredibly exciting concept, smart transport is only one part of the story. The other is sustainability. We wanted to understand what project organisations everywhere can do to more quickly and effectively reach sustainability goals. Here, Montassar had some insightful tips to share.

He outlined the ‘Three Ts’: timing, teams and tools.

First, timing. Engraining sustainability from the very beginning of a megaproject is vital. “With sustainability, you need to address it from the early stages of the project every dimension. From technical aspects, material reuse, method statements, construction methods, energy consumption, energy generation”. If you don’t embed robust sustainability practices from the get-go, you risk not being able to catch up later.

Secondly, get the team involved. “You need to create a sense of awareness in your teams. There must be strong communication focussing on sustainability from the beginning. This is important for the client and the partners, but also with the engineering firm”. According to Montassar, “the key is creating that sustainability culture within your team, even if they are not working on the project yet”. 

Finally, we have tools. Montassar explained how utilising LEED certification for sustainability made a strong impression on him while working on Bahrain Airport. “On that project, we used tools that worked on a certification basis, and they can be applied to each stage of the project. So, we would have a meeting in the design phase where we would all sit down and say ‘okay, we have made a modification to the steelwork, which has given us +5 points or -2 points’ depending on what had been done. Then you are able to figure our what sustainable solutions can be put in place to address shortcomings”. This approach feeds back into the team culture, he argues. “Basically, because everyone is aware that when the design phase is taking place, the sustainability certification can still be impacted later on in construction, the overarching importance of sustainability is really highlighted. Also, this keeps the whole team engaged along the way”.

These threads are interconnected. They work in tandem to produce a truly sustainable project. Embedding sustainable practices from the beginning of the project will create fertile soil for a sustainability culture within teams, who then go on to rigorously apply the tools at their disposal to meet targets.

The Future Looks Bright

What stood out from our conversation with Montassar was how well developed the capabilites are for a smart and sustainable future. Additionally, the insights he shared last week demonstrate that when teams work together and really communicate with eachother, their ability to deliver such phenomenal projects increases exponentially.

Towards the end of our conversation, he mentioned that he has recently joined Imperial College’s Executive Program to deepen his understanding of AI, 5G and data analytics. The potential to fuse this technological expertise with his unique approach to megaprojects is extremely exciting. 

We are delighted that he has joined the Foresight Works team to bring our AI to megaproject teams everywhere, making the bright future we discussed a reality. 

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Madeleine Jones Casey

Madeleine Jones-Casey

Content Lead at Foresight Works

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