Alumnus Kevin Gemayel on Rebuilding, Recovery and Sustainable Urban Development

The mechanical engineering graduate identifies soft skills as the key to transforming a family business and harnessing the fresh perspective of young professionals.

By Raissa Batakji

“By harnessing the energy of young talents, and their creativity and commitment to sustainability, we can shape a brighter future for Lebanon’s cities and communities,” said Gemayel.

When he graduated from LAU during some of the most uncertain times in Lebanon’s history, little did Kevin Gemayel (BE ’20) know that he would go on to transform his family’s business and help rebuild the city that he loves dearly.

In a recent feature on the Project Management Institute’s Future 50 List, he spoke about his project to restore Beirut landmarks following the August 4 explosion, the challenges that shaped his career and how he overcame them.

Here, Gemayel, who graduated in mechanical engineering with a minor in construction management, reflects on his vision and the tools that helped him succeed in his current role as a project director at Algeco, Ltd Lebanon.

Tell us more about your drive to join the reconstruction efforts following the August 4 explosion. What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

My team and I played a crucial role in rebuilding a large chunk of the damaged buildings, including historic landmarks. As the second-generation leader of a top facade company in Lebanon, we put all our efforts into restoring damaged buildings, windows, and doors.

Over two years, we collaborated with various stakeholders, including government agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations and community groups, to develop a comprehensive reconstruction plan. Despite challenges such as limited resources, logistical hurdles, and social and political tensions, our technical expertise, project management skills and commitment to high standards helped us offer high-quality facade solutions to the needs of our clients and stakeholders.

My sole motivation was to give people their safe homes back – to build a community again. Through dedication, hard work, effective project management and team efforts, we turned this vision into reality. Our projects not only contributed to the city’s recovery but also taught me valuable lessons in resilience, collaboration, and social responsibility, demonstrating the role of facade design in improving people’s lives.

What steps have you taken to transform your family business into a well-organized, professional company?

When I first joined the family business, it was operated traditionally, with a small team and an informal project-management plan. To modernize and enhance efficiency, we optimized project processes, improved internal and external communications and introduced structured project-management methodology, templates, and software. Additionally, we implemented a proper management system for better quality control and assurance.

These efforts streamlined our operations, increased efficiency, and boosted our reputation. Clients trusted us more, which paved the way for larger and more complex projects. This marked our transition into a professional industry leader, highlighting the crucial role of project management in our success and growth.

What is your vision for urban development in Lebanon?

My vision embraces innovation and sustainability, driven by active youth involvement. Young professionals play a pivotal role in bringing fresh ideas, new perspectives and advanced technologies to the field.

In today’s world, we have a wealth of tools and technologies at our disposal, and we must use them intelligently to enhance urban development. Young people are more socially and environmentally conscious than ever, and they are advocating for sustainable and inclusive approaches that prioritize not only economic growth but also the wellbeing of communities and the environment.

To make this vision a reality, it is crucial to create opportunities for young talents to participate in decision-making, collaborate with experienced professionals and drive positive change in the urban development landscape. By harnessing their energy, creativity and commitment to sustainability, we can shape a brighter future for Lebanon’s cities and communities.

How have you responded to uncertainties in Lebanon through your work? What advice would you give to engineering students who are bound to face similar challenges when they graduate?

We faced a substantial surge in demand while dealing with limited resources. To navigate these challenges, I adopted a strategic problem-solving approach by assembling the right team for each project and following it up with efficient management and streamlining.  

My advice to younger students is to maintain a positive mindset and a strong commitment to problem-solving. It is crucial to believe in your abilities and dedicate all your energy to overcoming obstacles. Success often hinges on human resources, so focus on cultivating the right team dynamic and fostering close collaboration. In times of uncertainty, effective communication becomes more vital. Be a proactive problem solver, make use of the collective energy of your team and leverage all available resources.

What organizations were you involved with when you were still a student at LAU?

Being actively involved with the Red Cross was a transformative experience that shaped my character and professional outlook.

Working with the Red Cross for more than six years exposed me to real-world challenges and crises, where quick thinking and adaptability are key. It taught me the importance of being proactive, not just in responding to emergencies but also in addressing underlying issues within communities. 

It also reinforced the value of teamwork and collaboration. We had to come together as a cohesive unit, often in high-stakes settings, to support those in need.

These experiences, along with my academic studies at LAU, provided a well-rounded education that extends beyond the classroom. They underscored the importance of contributing to the betterment of society and instilled in me the resolve to leave a positive impact.