A Cool Legacy

FIFA seems to be edging towards a winter date for the 2022 Qatar World Cup. However, investment in stadium-cooling technology continues in the country regardless. Andy Fry looks at the concepts behind the systems.   

Local organisers of the 2022 FIFA World Cup bid remain confident they can come up with credible cooling solutions that originally aimed to bring the country’s extreme 50-degree summer heat down to levels that are safe for both players and spectators.

Even though FIFA has almost certainly decided that the event will be held in a cooler time of the year than the Qatari summer, the organising committee will continue the technological development regardless as part of its legacy for hosting elite sport in the country throughout the year.

Unveiling the initial designs for Al Wakrah, one of its planned World Cup stadia, at the end of 2013, Qatar 2022 supreme committee secretary-general Hassan Al Thawadi said building an industry that produces cooling technology would be “an economic benefit for us”.

“It is also good for the rest of the world in paving the way for other [hot] countries to host such tournaments,” he added.

Al Wakrah, 15 miles south of Doha, has been designed by London-based Zaha Hadid Architects in partnership with global architectural firm AECOM. Budgeted at £250 million, the 40,000-seater venue is being built so that spectators will not experience temperatures above 32 degrees, while the playing area will be a balmy 26 degrees.

Explaining how this will be achieved, Zaha Hadid director Jim Heverin says the cooling strategy at Al Wakrah works at two levels. Firstly, the building has been designed to maximise shade and secondly, there will be vents underneath each seat to pump out cooled air.

Every firm appointed to design a stadium for the World Cup has been asked to demonstrate how it plans to cool the pitch to an optimal 26 degrees, and shaded spectator stands to between 24 and 28 degrees.

Zaha Hadid and AECOM’s work is overseen by Dario Cadavid, the supreme committee’s senior manager for technical assurance and integration, who recently said that Qatar is not starting from scratch on its cooling system as the technology has already been proven.

“FIFA’s technical inspectors attended a Qatar Stars League match at Al Sadd Stadium and experienced existing cooling systems [that have been in place since 2008],” he says. “The inspection team also visited the prototype stadium that we built to demonstrate that cooling could be implemented with renewable energy.

“This summer we had our first successful test with the Fan Zone at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, an open-air, custom-built venue with a three-tier retractable roof. The Fan Zone was cooled to ensure the temperature in the venue was kept at a regular and comfortable level for all fans in attendance, with temperatures on average 12 degrees lower inside the venue compared to outside.”

Qatar’s investment in cooling technology is not restricted to the stadium; systems connecting stadia to Qatar’s transportation network mean that as spectators approach a venue, the average temperature will lower from around 32 to 26 degrees.

The Lusail Iconic Stadium, which will be built in the completely new city of Lusail City, will be a focal point for the World Cup and is being designed from the ground up to be resident and visitor friendly.

In terms of the stadium itself, it will be positioned so that wind from the north-west can be harnessed to flow in and out of the stadium. The roof will be saddle-formed and will cover the seating area, providing shade and allowing internal climate control.

Artificial Cloud

Though some of Qatar’s work is based around proven cooling systems, it isn’t leaving any stones unturned in the search for innovative ideas. Qatar University has been exploring the viability of an artificial cloud that could be used to shade playing surfaces. Budgeted at around $500,000, the cloud would be made of light carbon-based materials and be controlled using a remote. If successful, it could have wider commercial applications at work places and leisure venues.

“We are ready to host the World Cup in the summer or winter,” adds Cadavid. “Our planning isn’t affected either way, as we are committed to the cooling technologies for legacy reasons. Football is the most popular sport in the Middle East and the people of our region are excited to witness history being made in their part of the world.” 

The Prototype

As part of its bid to host the 2022 World Cup, Qatar created a 500-seater mini-stadium to showcase cooling technology.

Designed and constructed by London-headquartered engineering firm Arup, the prototype used pioneering solar photovoltaic technology that converts heat from the sun into energy that is then converted into cool air. That air is then circulated around the stadium to keep players and spectators comfortable.

In addition, absorption chillers beneath the mini-stadium’s pitch sent chilled air through pipes to keep the playing field cool, which is similar in theory to the heating pipes used to prevent freezing in cold stadia. Attention was also paid to the mini-stadium’s exterior, which was fitted with reflective materials.

“We designed each surface so that it stays cool during matches, despite extra heat from electrical lighting and people,” says an Arup spokesperson. “The result? On the day FIFA visited, when temperatures outside hit 44 degrees, the inside of the stadium was 23 degrees with the roof open.”

The prototype used solar energy as opposed to fossil fuel energy – significant  because Qatar 2022 is obligated to cool all of its stadia in a carbon-neutral way.

One challenge facing the event’s cooling project is making sure the mix of shading and cooling has the right impact on spectator comfort and energy expenditure. Wind is another, since it could disrupt the cooling effect of
the vents.

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