A 500-seat model stadium designed by Arup Associates played a significant role in Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. While football’s governing body is keen to use the event to promote the game in parts of the world where there is the potential to develop new audiences, it had strong doubts about whether a desert country could provide the appropriate conditions: football is the only major spectator sport in which there are maximum permissible temperatures in which it can be played. Although all games in Qatar are played after sunset, the air temperature on summer evenings can remain unacceptably high – around 44 degrees in June. In the recent past, Qatar has solved the problem with fully air-conditioned outdoor stadia, but this approach fell some way short of FIFA’s sustainability requirements, so Arup Associates was asked to design a building that would physically demonstrate possible low-carbon alternatives.
The Showcase was designed in just 10 weeks from brief to detail drawing, and constructed in only four months. It demonstrates two key ideas – the use of passive techniques to shade and cool stadia, and the use of solar power for both electricity generation and cooling. The stadium’s roof canopy revolves to shade the pitch when play is not taking place. On the day before the match, the roof remains closed until the sun has passed overhead and the canopy can be opened without letting the space heat up. Then, unless the outside conditions are extremely hot and windy, both the roof and north wall open to the sky. It takes about a quarter of an hour to fully open the roof. The canopy can also be positioned to provide shelter from the wind during matches.
The power of the sun is harnessed in two ways: first, there are photovoltaic panels operating year-round, continuously exporting electrical energy to the national grid. On match days, when the stadium’s energy demand spikes, electricity is drawn from the grid. Overall the venue makes a net contribution to the grid, making the facility zero-carbon in terms of electricity use. Back-up biodiesel generators are also installed.
Solar energy is also used for cooling. An array of motorised Fresnel parabolic mirrors focuses the sun’s rays onto water-filled pipes, which are heated to 200 degrees. The heat energy is then used to create coolant in absorption chillers. The coolant is stored in eutectic tanks beneath the Showcase for use during evening matches, when cooled air is circulated via air-handling units below the seats and flows down to pitch level. The interior surfaces of the Showcase are designed to remain cool throughout the match to help stabilise the heat gains from lights and people.
Testing has shown that maximum temperatures are well below the guidelines set by FIFA’s medical committee, and also conform to the ASHRAE comfort standards for spectators. During the FIFA visit, with the outside temperature having reached 44 degrees only two hours earlier, the temperature on the pitch was 23 degrees.
Twelve stadia will be required for the 2022 World Cup – more than a small country might have use for after the final whistle has blown. Arup Associates has developed proposals in which the energy-saving techniques demonstrated in the Showcase building could be applied to demountable stadia with integrated clinics and similar facilities, which would be donated by Qatar to developing countries after the competition.Location: Qatar Lead design consultant, architect, engineer: Arup Associates
Design & build consultant: Mott Macdonald (engineering), JYM (interiors)