When you think of sports facilities, green credentials aren't usually the first thing that come to mind. But Qatar, which won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup, may help change that perception.
In preparation for the tournament, the tiny gulf state will be building around eight new stadiums, with the jewel in the crown being the Lusail Iconic Stadium where the opening ceremonies and final matches will be held. Designed to have a zero carbon footprint, the stadium will also generate renewable energy for the surrounding neighborhood.
According to Foster + Partners, the architecture firm behind the design for Qatar's winning bid, the wide swath of solar-collector canopies that shade the parking and service areas around the stadium will provide the power for the venue when in use and energy for the adjacent buildings.
Taking into account the fierce sun, the stadium will be oriented east-west to create shade for the whole pitch. A moat filled with water will circle the stadium, and pedestrians gain access to the entrances across six bridges.
The saddle-shaped roof, which draws on Qatar's cultural heritage, will hover over a concrete seating bowl on an almost circular base. The roof will fully retract and also have louvres that can partially or wholly open to the sky.
One of the biggest reservations about Qatar as a venue has been its brutal desert climate. Temperatures can climb to 50 degrees Celsius or more in the summer. Skeptics have questioned whether stadiums can be energy-efficient and environmentally friendly while still providing a temperature on the pitch that is half that of the hot winds outside. Essentially a controlled microclimate.
Sheikh Mohammad bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, chairman of the Qatar 2022 bid, said in the initial presentation that "environmentally friendly cooling technologies" would be incorporated (presumably ones that don't entail toxic chemicals or a huge energy supply). But no specific details have since emerged.
Of course, integrating energy efficiency into the architectural design is only one aspect of sustainable building. Constructing a dozen stadiums that have enormous capacity but serve a single event raises other aspects of sustainability. Even as Qatar's winning bid to host the World Cup runs into trouble over allegations of bribery, the country says its longer-term goal is to become a world-class sporting hub and shift away from its fossil fuel-driven economy. Whatever the result of the bribery flap, the Qataris plan to go ahead with constructing the stadiums.
That plan includes building stadiums that are modular in design and can be reduced in size (the Lusail stadium seats 86,250), repurposed, or fully disassembled to be reconstructed in other countries.
Bart Leclerq, head of structures at WSP Middle East, one of the region's leading multi-disciplinary engineering consultancies, has reservations about this approach. He says:
There is definitely an opportunity to do modular buildings and maybe even have the mechanical element modular as well. Some elements of the stands can also be made modular. However, in terms of the overall structure of the wall and the roof, I think it will be much more difficult for this to be reused.
Others have commented that Qatar's zero-emissions promise should not only apply to the tournament itself but also to the construction of the stadiums. Adnan Mian, chief executive officer at engineering company Mercury MENA, made this point at a recent construction conference in Qatar: "I think we need to be looking at two elements here: one is achieving sustainability during the construction stage and the other is post-construction after the stadiums are built."
But little has been said about the sustainable aspects of the construction. Instead one glaring criticism has been made. According to an Amnesty International report last fall, entitled "The Dark Side of Migration: Spotlight on Qatar's Construction Sector Ahead of the World Cup," the country's construction workforce is largely composed of migrant workers who labor under extreme conditions with little pay or protection. An unsustainable labor force?
So as the Gulf state touts its ability to keep spectators cool in the summer heat using, paradoxically, the power of the sun, the country's claims of sustainability are getting a closer inspection.
Re: Bah, FIFA it is a little shocking that there isn't more (any) regulatory oversight of entities like FIFA, the IOC, or the committees that stage world's fairs/global expositions. Billions getting thrown around, and the potential for corruption is obviously enormous. I think you nailed it with the "over-promise, under deliver" comment.
Re: Bah, FIFA The Olympic bids suffer the same issue of overpromising and underdelivering. One driving concern apparently is that these big sporting events destroy the environment, so if bid cities offer appealing "sustainable" proposals (more than required) then that pushes them ahead of the crowd. The trouble is there seems to be no accountability or enforcement. If the host country falls short in its sustainable promises, or any promises for that matter, there seem to be no consequences.
Rio's Olympic pitch -- "Green games for a blue planet" -- is headed down that same road by all accounts....
Re: Bah, FIFA I have limited faith in Qatar too, but the architects involved in the main stadium are reputable. Researching my slideshow on Brazil's other cities, I did come across great plans which were unfinished by the time the World Cup rolled around, and what their future is now, who knows?
Re: Bah, FIFA Hi Terry, glad to have your healthy skepticism in the discussion. You're probably right, although I like to think the design pitch isn't total greenwashing. Maybe it's more that zero-carbon footprints are a fad these days.
Anyway, re FIFA's lack of transparency, they seem to be in good company unfortunately. A little too much money swashing around these sports associations....
Re: The little guys.. Peter J, if you mean by "mega-economy" event that it's part of a much larger economic boom for Qatar, then yes, you're right.
There's a huge development program underway to the tune of $220 billion over the next decade, which will include a new airport, new metro system, new national rail system, new port, plus thousands of new hotel rooms. It's pretty impressive.
The World Cup is the jewel in the crown, but it's not the endgame. The larger goal is to turn Doha, the capital, into a global hub.
Re: Modular Construction It's true, Resurgent phoenix, there's a long history of forced labor in building magnificent structures -- think the pyramids. But there's really no excuse in the 21st century. And that's the crux of the Amnesty report. They say the abuses are widespread and include squalid accommodation, excessive work hours, lower wages than promised or no wages at all, and confiscated passports so the workers can't leave the country.
Re: upgrades As Susan notes in her blog, local temps can reach 50 degrees C/122 degrees F. At least for external surfaces or structures, Qatar is highly unlikely to (re-)use any bricks if this ridiculous award is actually allowed to stand.
Bah, FIFA This green monikor is laughable on its face; only a fool or a fat-n-sassy FIFA official would attempt to defend all of Qatar's audacious claims.
And based on some of the FIFA statements and actions emanating from Brazil in recent days and weeks, a big shakeup is overdue at the world's governing body for football. Corrupt, inept, politically tone deaf -- there's plenty to dislike about how this organization conducts itself and administers international rules.
upgrades Yes, I think transportation is a good place to focus investment, at least it wont be redundant weeks after the event. Other stuff like the stadia must either by built and reused by the city or designed so the components can be reused for something else. For instance, reuse trusses in other buildings, bricks reclaimed, wood reused or chipped. Lots of potential with a bit of imagination!
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