KEO International Consultants: A Trusted Partner in Planning, Design, Engineering & Project Management in the GCC


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Darryl Custer, Managing Director, KEO-Design

Crafting any landmark structure requires, time, financial commitment, and a perfect collaboration between the various parties working together in the process. However, given today’s speed-to-market challenges, difficult coordination issues, and occasional deficiencies with technical & managerial knowledge, meeting client expectations becomes a herculean task for architecture and interior design firms. Today, every client expects meticulous attention during project planning and design along with precise and common sense material selections, and the ability to create a contemporary robust, and sustainable design with timely delivery. But, satisfying evolving client needs while translating their vision and ideas into a functional and beautiful space is certainly not easy. Thus, it is extremely important that a trusted body is appointed to keep every stakeholder on the same page and ensure that projects meet deadlines and quality targets.

One such reliable consulting partner in the architecture and interior design realm is KEO International Consultants, a well-established consultancy in the Middle East. Formed in 1964, KEO was originally conceived as an Engineering firm but has subsequently expanded into new countries and services over the 5 decades since its inception. Today, KEO is an independent, multi-disciplinary consulting firm providing project and construction management, design, engineering, and sustainability consultancy services to clients worldwide.

Delivering a Comprehensive Set of Multi-Disciplinary Services

Well positioned within the GCC and MENA region, KEO is globally celebrated for its highly diverse, multi-disciplinary offering, which enables the firm to take clients from inspiration – through conceptualization – to the realization of planning, design, or project delivery in the built and natural environments. Over the years, it has played a key role in the development of countless iconic structures, ambitious projects, remarkable experiences, and prosperous communities across the globe. “Every project, no matter its scale, involves dynamic, complex choices under constant time pressure. We understand this and seek to make these choices as easy as possible by providing simple solutions to complex problems. Once we make a commitment to a client and project, we always ‘see it through; this is something we are very proud of,” opines Darryl Custer, the Managing Director of KEO-Design.

Before starting a project, KEO partners with its clients to shape a vision together through open conversation; by asking thoughtful questions and actively listening to the answers.“To us, these are not just faceless projects; they are the roads we’ll use and the museums we’ll visit, the schools that will educate our children, and the places we’ll call home. Our longevity means our clients are our neighbors – and it is that relationship that has driven the success of the firm over the last 58 years,” adds Darryl.

Where Innovation Is A Way of Life

Darryl sees technology as a significant enabler to a better tomorrow. Thus, at KEO, they are focusing on investing heavily in BIM and Revit capabilities. Looking at the impact that its projects have on communities, it is using technology to get better results. Led by the award-winning CIO and Digital Design Manager at KEO, its Digital Advisory Services (DAS) team provides support to all projects across the business, engaging with project teams and senior management to explore innovative delivery methods, enhance digital capabilities, and provide thought leadership and training. This engagement program continually improves digital skills levels across KEO and allows it to look at challenges differently, reduce risks and continue to meet ever-tighter budgets and deadlines.  

Alongside researching the market for new solutions, the DAS team also creates in-house custom solutions which can automate repetitive procedures, overcome software limitations and increase the quality of deliverables by minimizing human error. For instance, it has recently released “Worksets Management” (WM), its 1st, free, Autodesk® Revit® plug-in available in the Autodesk App Store. “WM is the first of several innovations from the DAS team to be released this year, all of which underlines our commitment to raising industry standards through innovation,” asserts Darryl.

Cultivating Strong Relationships with Clients

Building a long-lasting customer relationship and ensuring a positive customer experience are embedded into KEO’s DNA. Most of KEO’s clients are regionally or globally recognized, tier 1 organizations in the commercial development sector. However, regardless of type, its focus is always on developing long-term relationships. “Some of our clients give us free rein to let our imaginations run free. Some are more cautious and involved in the design process. Some are clients we have worked with repeatedly over many years, across many projects, which is extremely motivating. Some come to us fresh, and we are excited to work with them. With our repeat customers, the relationship is even deeper,” explains Darryl.

The continued success of KEO also comes from its client-centric approach. It understands the client’s objectives, their culture, their work practices, and what drives their decision-making. It recognizes the value bought from both sides, which builds trust, rewarding partnerships, and ultimately great projects.

Building a Culture of Diversity and Inclusion

Another critical facet that has established KEO as an industry leader is its diverse and empowering work culture. KEO is backed by a knowledgeable diverse workforce comprising some of the brightest, creative, and technical minds in the business. Coming from different countries, backgrounds, and cultures, they bring diverse skills, experiences, and abilities to the table along with forward-thinking design ideas with a global perspective from project inception to opening day. KEO values each of its employees and always motivates and encourages them to bring out and express their views and skills. It strives to create an empowering environment with job site visits, training, flexible working practices, and fun, supportive surroundings to help them reach their maximum potential. The company also provides its employees with a mentoring program that requires a 12-month commitment from both mentor and mentee, aiming to maximize potential, develop skills and improve performance. With its people-centric culture, focus on work-life balance, and empowering work environment, KEO has garnered a Highly Commended award in the Workplace of the Year category at the recent Architecture Leaders Awards, which underlines its commitment to its workplace culture.

Creating Sustainable Legacies for Generations to Come

KEO is currently focusing on growing its team and expanding its conceptual design capabilities throughout its regional offices. It is also working towards creating a positive impact on its communities, which means putting sustainability at the heart of developments. “It’s not about adding a smart meter onto something at the end of a build. Truly sustainable developments start with solutions within the architectural concept. This may be through the consideration of passive design principles or careful master planning, for instance. I want my teams to guide our clients and make the case that sustainability is an investment, not a cost,” states Darryl.

Moving ahead, KEO plans to continue strengthening its reputation for diversity.“The architecture community is often disconnected from the people most directly impacted by its work. It’s difficult to ask, ‘How do people unlike me experience my designs?’ So, we are actively bringing new perspectives into the business, narrowing blind spots, and enhancing decision-making. Our ambition is to create environments that reward users and owners with prosperity, dignity, comfort, community, health, safety, and memories,” concludes Darryl.


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