Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy expert discusses the passive design features of the stadium built at QF’s Education City, and how that contributes to sustainability
When it comes to sustainable development, a “one-size-fits-all” approach may not always work. In cooler countries, air-conditioning is not seen as a necessity, but in Qatar the case is different. In the lead up to the FIFA World Cup, how is Qatar going to keep its stadiums cool, while also ticking off the environmentally-friendly box?
A structure that ticks all the boxes on the sustainability checklist but is unusable for several months a year goes against the very basis of sustainability
“Qatar has a very different climate, without air conditioning, the harsh heat would mean the stadiums would be unusable for at least half a year. A structure that ticks all the boxes on the sustainability checklist but is unusable for several months a year goes against the very basis of sustainability,” said Engineer Bodour Al Meer, Sustainability Director at the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy.
With that in mind, several design features were incorporated into the construction of the Education City Stadium, a venue for the FIFA World Cup 2022™, to ensure that it is a beacon of sustainability while also ensuring it could be used year-round. The stadium is the first FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 venue to receive a five-star rating under the Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) – GSAS is the first performance-based system in the Middle East and North Africa region, developed for rating green buildings and infrastructures.
Passive design– working with the climate, not against it - was a key component in the conceptualization phase of the stadium
Al Meer said: “Passive design was a key component in the conceptualization phase of the stadium. Passive design – working with the climate, not against it – is an approach to building design that uses building architecture to minimize energy consumption. It reduces the need for auxiliary cooling, which generally accounts for a large percentage of energy use.”
Speaking on its various passive design features, Al Meer said: “Many people might not notice this, but the stadium is actually built partially below ground level. If you enter the stadium at ground level, you have to walk down a long flight of stairs to reach the pitch. This feature is common in all of Qatar’s FIFA World Cup stadiums; however I believe the deepest is the one in Education City.”
Buildings that are built underground and surrounded by soil are called earth sheltered buildings. The biggest advantage in such buildings is that the surrounding soil acts as a “heat sink”. It absorbs solar energy preventing the structure from heating up and reducing cooling needs.
Al Meer explained: “This feature had another benefit – during the excavation process large boulders were removed from beneath the surface of the ground. Normally concrete would be used to make the foundation but we were able to use these excavated boulders in the foundation by placing them back in and pouring concrete over them – this is referred to as cyclopean concrete.”
Sustainability needs to be a primary consideration right from the conceptualization phase of a building and can really elevate the entire design process
This not only reduced the amount of concrete used, but also sped up the construction process and reduced the transportation needs of both the concrete and the excavated rocks.
“Sustainability was a continuous pursuit throughout the building phase and resulted in some changes as the stadium took shape. Perhaps the most notable of which is the stadium’s façade – the outermost angled panels. The initial choice of material was aluminum but was later changed to a highly efficient fabric. The change was partly made on the basis of sustainability as aluminum is highly energy intensive to produce.”
This fabric shields the actual exterior part of the stadium. What this essentially does is it prevents the sun from hitting the structure directly, thus effectively reducing the heat load on the building.
To understand how this works, think about the drastic difference between how hot a car gets if it is parked directly under the sun as compared to when it’s parked in the same sun but under a shade.
Another important feature of the stadium is the large air slits present on the north and south side of the structure. “Education City Stadium is what we call a breathing building. These slits act almost like lungs for the stadium and help it breathe, they ensure a continuous flow of air by allowing fresh air into the stadium while removing the hot polluted air from within. All this without using any energy,” said Al Meer.
“Sustainability needs to be a primary consideration right from the conceptualization phase of a building and can really elevate the entire design process and bring value in a lot of different areas and for generations to come,” said Al Meer.