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Qatar urged to scrap air conditioning for World Cup stadia
With its bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup based upon using state-of-the-art in stadium air conditioning, the architect in charge of the design of one of the venues has claimed this week that a more traditional solution would work better and cost less.
Speaking at this week's International Football Arena conference in Zurich, Populous Director John Barrow suggested that air conditioning systems would be too expensive and "notoriously unsustainable" for the environment when used on a large scale.
Populous, which is designing the Sports City Stadium in Doha, is trying to persuade Qatari organisers to scrap plans to have air conditioning at the venue.
Barrow told delegates that the FIFA World Cup 2022 organisers "are strongly of the opinion that they need to build now so that they can demonstrate their commitment, but in fact they have got loads of time.
Suggesting that waiting could allow new technology to develop, Barrow stated "there is still a long way until 2022 (and) I think (we) can be more clever. It is about air movement, moisture in the air and it is about temperature at the right time of day."
Barrow compared the Qatar climate with Houston, where Populous has built air-conditioned stadiums for baseball and football, but added "it is an immensely expensive thing to do."
Air-conditioned stadiums to beat 50-degree desert heat in June were a defining theme of Qatar's winning bid to host the FIFA World Cup.
Qatar hired Populous to help its campaign, drawing on the firm's experience in building signature projects such as the new Yankee Stadium, London's 2012 Olympic Stadium and Arsenal's Emirates arena.
The firm built a small prototype of an air-conditioned stadium in Doha to help persuade a FIFA inspection team that the tiny nation's ambitious World Cup project could succeed.
However, Barrow now believes the planned Sports City venue can be kept cool by shading seats and using traditional Arabic methods for ventilation such as wind towers to suck up hot air and create fan-like air movement inside the 47,000-capacity stadium.
Barrow added "we are doing away with all the air conditioning kit that is going to cost a fortune to run.
"It is part of the building tradition in the Gulf to create wind towers which naturally ventilate. If you have got an air movement which keeps you cool like a fan that makes all the difference."
Qatar promised FIFA that its 12 World Cup stadiums could be regulated at around 26 degrees.
Now, Barrow says spectators could be kept comfortable at 30 degrees during evening matches, adding "it doesn't need to be 26 degrees. Fan expectation needs to be a little more relaxed."
Seating areas also need to be kept in shade during searing daytime temperatures, instead of allowing stadiums to 'suck in' heat that is retained after dark.
Barrow continued "suddenly you are sitting on a radiator. It is totally counter-productive.
"The objective for me is to keep the (stadium) bowl sun-screened during the day, with natural ventilation and also encouraging a vortex by using all kinds of clever tricks."
Qatar likely will be challenged on heat issues until the scheduled kickoff for the FIFA World Cup in June 2022.
Although plans to change the date of the tournament have been denied, the most likely outcome would be switching the competition to a (northern hemisphere) midwinter timetable.
Image: The planned Al Garafe Stadium in Qatar.
19th September 2011 - DOHA TO PROVIDE A ‘NEW FRONTIER’ FOR WORLD SPORT
16th May 2011 - QATAR SHOWCASES STADIUM COOLING TECHNOLOGIES
3rd December 2010 - QATAR WINS 2022 WORLD CUP BID
29th November 2010 - HEAT IS ON FOR 2022 FIFA WORLD CUP TO GO TO QATAR
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