Basima Abdulrahman, a graduate in Civil Engineering and holder of a Master’s degree in Structural Engineering from Auburn University, is an accredited green building professional with over twelve years of diverse experience focused on sustainable development. She is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of KESK, the first company to introduce the concept of green design and construction to Iraq.
Abdulrahman is a Climate Trailblazer and has been featured on various important publications, including TIME, Real Leaders Magazine and Forbes for her work in leading the green building industry and sustainable development in Iraq. She is a World Economic Forum Foundation Board Member and Cultural Leader and has spoken at various international events. She also delivered a TEDx talk where she spoke about how she overcame her self-limiting beliefs to create a company and introduce a concept which had been previously non-existent in her native country.
Once she overcame her doubts, however, she faced other obstacles. “The lack of general understanding, as well as national regulations to adopt green building standards in my home country are the key obstacles to overcome when it comes to doing business,” she says. “What attracted me to the green building industry is my passion for environmental protection and the great sense of responsibility towards other beings and ecosystems that are sharing the earth’s bounty with us. Therefore, I put it as a priority of mine when engaging in any sort of social and economic activity.”
Challenges notwithstanding, Abdulrahman is determined to continue spreading her message and help the construction industry adapt to more sustainable practices. She believes that development need not harm future generations if it integrates the concept of the triple bottom line, which holds that financial success metrics should be combined with those that measure environmental stewardship and social justice, and it should protect and maximise the benefit of people, planet and profits.
Abdulrahman’s participation at this year’s Malta Sustainability Forum will be as part of a panel discussing the transition to an economy with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and will explore the urgent challenge of making Europe carbon-neutral by 2050 and the opportunity that this same challenge gives us to build a better future. “In order to understand what carbon-neutral means, we need to answer the following: How should we grow our food? How should we create our materials? How should we power ourselves and travel around? How should we develop and store information, and how should we conduct business?” she says. “And to do so, we need to think as a part of the nature that surrounds us, and not apart from it.”
There is also no doubt in her mind that the only way businesses can transition to carbon-neutrality is to make it as simple as possible. “We need to make the green way the easy way, which also means the affordable way,” she says. As for the construction industry, which represents a significant part of the economy of Malta, she believes that the transition to a more sustainable model is multi-faceted. “The building industry needs to create communities of opportunity which combine green buildings, affordable and mixed-income housing, and social, health, and educational resources,” she says. “It is also guaranteed that once there is a policy by which buildings should meet minimum sustainability standards, people and businesses will understand the long-term financial benefits of green buildings: significantly reducing water and energy consumption and waste generation.” This is no mean feat, with Abdulrahman herself still having to explain in detail to her clients how much money they will save by going green, since the planet’s wellbeing is not enough incentive for them.
Abdulrahman hopes that this year’s edition of the Malta Sustainability Forum will promote a high-quality built environment through working on regenerative communities and cities as the catalyst to a resilient and inclusive future.