Fatih Çevik

Fatih Çevik, general manager of Limak Construction, based in Ankara, Turkey, has had a longstanding affection for the Çoruh River in the country’s mountainous northeastern region, which he describes as part of the landscape of his youth. He recounts standing by the river’s banks as a child and thinking about how “wild and magnificent” the flowing waters were. Now, as the engineer who oversaw much of the design and construction of the $1.8-billion Yusufeli hydroelectric dam on that same river, he feels a sense of accomplishment. “I am now so proud to be leading the team that built the largest dam on this river,” says Çevik.

The 275-m-high dam, which took more than a decade to engineer and construct, now is running at full capacity, with a generation capacity of 1.89 terawatt hours annually. He spearheaded the herculean effort of managing early investigations of the rock composition to manage the excavation, as well as the project execution.

Çevik worked with South African firm ARQ Consultants to find efficiencies in concrete placement for the dam, including building batch plants near the structure and using a cabling system to carry the core material to the site. Key challenges also involved identifying concrete temperatures and a 40% fly ash composition to be able to place it quickly without risk of cracking.

“One tends to think that large-scale construction is all about plant and equipment, but in reality, successful rapid construction has much more to do with good people,” says Quentin Shaw, a specialist consultant at ARQ Consultants and vice president on the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD). Shaw worked alongside Çevik for a decade as chief dam designer on the Yusufeli dam project. “When the best people are involved in a project, everything runs smoothly and everything seems simple,” he says. “It was an extremely complex project and Fatih was undoubtedly the key person in making the project seem much simpler than it actually was.”

Shaw acknowledges that “several of us on the project often expressed our concern as to the level of responsibility heaped on Fatih, but he never complained, or failed, or faltered. He is an exceptional and talented engineer, the likes of which I have rarely seen in international construction.”

Çevik has spent much of his 24-year industry career on dam engineering and construction projects—in earlier years, working on a different project on the Çoruh River, the Deriner dam. It was there, living on site with his wife, that they had their first child, he says.

Çevik also serves as concrete dam expert for ICOLD and has authored more than 10 papers on dam engineering. Other of his major projects include the Kuwait International Airport, Artvin dam, the Anatolian Highway project in Turkey and Moglice Dam in Albania.

With work on the Yusufeli dam project complete, Çevik now is leading a team on a portion of the NEOM megaproject in Saudi Arabia as CEO of a Limak joint venture with Saudia Arabian firm Al Ayuni. Like the Yusufeli project, construction of the more than $500 billion NEOM project is “iconic” in its ambition and scope, Çevik says. He says he takes satisfaction in knowing he and his team can put years of accumulated experience and knowledge to use on this new effort. “NEOM is not only a unique construction project but also an adventure that will shape the [Middle East-North Africa] region and equally the world,” he says. “Being a part of the NEOM initiative provides an opportunity to be at the very heart of innovation, within a global community, and allows us to show our advanced knowledge for sustainability and environmental awareness.”

All ENR 2023 Top 25 Newsmakers will be honored at the Award of Excellence Gala on April 11 in New York City.