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Qatar World Cup: will stadiums stay cool?

Designers of the 2022 Fifa World Cup stadiums in Qatar said this week that they have still to work out how vital cooling systems will operate.

These systems are key to efforts to stage the event as planned in the summer when outside temperatures can exceed 500C.

Organisers of the World Cup in Qatar are determined to hold the event in the summer as planned. They said this week that they wanted to use the event to showcase new stadium cooling technology.

World football body Fifa has set up a taskforce to examine options for holding the event at a different point in the year. This is in response to fears that extreme summer temperatures could pose a health risk to players and spectators.

But this week Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee secretary general Hassan Al Thawadi insisted that hosting a summer World Cup was central to the government’s plan to use the event as an economic stimulus.

He said that proving that the stadiums and associated infrastructure can cope with temperatures in excess of 500C will help Qatar establish a world-class cooling technology industry.

“We are committed to a summer event – the bid was for a summer tournament,” said Al Thawadi.

“We have developed the cooling systems we need for all our stadiums, and that is an economic benefit for us – to build an industry in cooling technologies. It is also good for the rest of the world in paving the way for other [hot climate] countries to host such tournaments.”

Al Thawadi was speaking in Doha at the unveiling of the first concept design for Al Wakrah Stadium.

The stadium will be the first to be delivered for the World Cup.

Consultant Aecom, in association with Zaha Hadid Architects, has radically altered the concept design under the guidance of the organising committee to accommodate the cooling technology.

The new design closely resembles Zaha Hadid’s London 2012 Aquatics Centre, and the stadium is likely to cost around £250M to build.

Critically, the 40,000-seat stadium and its approaches have been designed so that spectators will not experience temperatures above 320C, while the playing area will be cooled to 260C.

But Aecom design principal Graham Goymour warned that at this stage it was unknown whether the designs would work.

“We have established the first principles but the design process hasn’t finished,” he said. “Step by step we are looking at options and then narrowing the options using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis.”

Zaha Hadid director and lead architect Jim Heverin explained that the cooling strategy was first to use the geometry of the stadium as much as possible to provide shade, and then to provide cooled air through vents underneath each seat.

This works on the principle that the cooler air will fall down through the stadium, displacing the warmer air. But Heverin admitted that there were problems to be overcome.

“This approach is highly dependent on wind speeds and how they could scour out the cold air,” he said.

“This is a work in progress and we don’t have an absolute answer on that yet.”

He added that part of the CFD analysis was seeking the best times of day to play games based on how wind speeds fluctuate.

“It is still an ongoing process of evolving the design to balance the amount of shading that has to be provided with the amount of cooling and the effect that has on spectator comfort and energy use,” he said.

A guiding principle of the Qatar bid to host the tournament was that the event will be carbon neutral, so significant energy consumption for stadium cooling would be a major blow to that aspiration.

 “To hold the tournament in the summer and maintain the temperatures is obviously the key challenge,” said Heverin.

Outside the stadium, plans to keep spectators cool are more advanced.

“Spectators will be delivered, via shuttle buses from the metro station, into a cooled public realm, into cooled walkways and into a cooled stadium designed for a summer tournament,” said Heverin.

Temperatures in the vast 72,000m2 public realm will be kept at between 300C and 320C.

Shaded spectator stands will be cooled typically to between 240C and 280C.

The 2022 organising committee’s technical assurance and integration senior manager Dario Cadavid said the designs would be shown to work.

“It is important for Qatar 2022 and the country as a whole, but our designers are working to a clear brief and right now we are designing everything for summer.”

Heverin said that a second major challenge would be to achieve the organising committee’s aspiration that 50% of the 40,000 seats be demountable, allowing the stadium’s capacity to be lowered to 20,000 after the tournament.

It is part of the organising  committee’s brief that 170,000 seats will be donated to countries in need of sporting infrastructure following the World Cup.

“Being able to demount 20,000 seats and use them elsewhere is another key challenge,” said Heverin.

“It is a key part of the sustainability message.”

The design uses structural timber to boost the sustainability credentials.

Primary arched trusses spanning 230m across the Al Wakrah stadium are steel, but secondary arches at 6m centres, which cover most of the seating areas will be glue laminated beams, said Heverin.

Al Wakrah Stadium

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Al Wakrah – famous for its fishing and seafaring heritage – is the proposed southern-most Host City for the 2022 Fifa World Cup. 

Located approximately 15km south of Doha, Al Wakrah has served as a vital commercial port and a gateway to the capital throughout Qatar’s history. Al Wakrah’s tradition is reflected in the stadium design, which captures the essence of the traditional dhow, an Arabian pearl fishing boat.

The design of the stadium and the development of an approximately 585,000m² precinct area surrounding it will embrace the cultural heritage of Al Wakrah and the adjacent historical settlement of Al Wukair.

In order to meet the carbon neutral objective of the 2022 World Cup, the Al Wakrah Stadium will supply 15% of tournament energy using on-site renewable sources, reduce water use by 60%, use 15% reused or recycled material in permanent structures, and minimise waste by 90% through design efficiency and construction waste management.

“We are proud to reveal what we believe is a truly unique stadium design and surrounding precinct that will serve the population and act as a social hub for the community of Al Wakrah, and Qatar as a whole, during the 2022 World Cup and for the years to follow,” said Al Thawadi.

“The stadium reflects what our country stands for from a cultural perspective. It is modern, futuristic and functional.

“But importantly, it remains true to Qatari heritage with the design and materials inspired by the traditional dhow boat.”

The stadium is set to host group, Round of 16 and quarter final matches during the 2022 World Cup.

After the tournament it will serve as the home of Al Wakrah Sports Club.

 

 

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