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Qatar’s ‘Dr. Cool’ sheds light on stadium technology

Dr. Saud Abdulaziz Abdul Ghani, the man behind the innovative stadium cooling technology being introduced for Qatar’s staging of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, has expressed his hope that it can be adopted to help other countries with warm climates host major events.

Qatar is currently hosting FIFA’s Club World Cup, with one of the two venues for the tournament, Doha’s Khalifa International Stadium, having been kitted out with the technology after it was redeveloped for the staging of the 2019 World Athletics Championships.

In 2022, Saud’s different cooling technologies will be used across the eight World Cup stadia, with Al Janoub Stadium being the only other venue that is currently fully operational. Saud, who is nicknamed ‘Dr. Cool’, has explained the thinking behind the World Cup project. He was engaged to assist in the staging of the World Cup during the bidding phase when the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) approached Qatar University (QU), where he is a professor at the College of Engineering.

“When we were preparing our submission for the World Cup in 2022, we wanted a unique bid that would stand out among other bidding countries,” Saud said, according to the SC’s official website. “Most countries would usually present their stadiums as a design idea and not a technology. We presented our stadiums in a new way – as a technology.”

Saud explained that “targeted or spot cooling” targets only the places inside a venue in which people are located. Cooled air comes in through grills in the stands and large nozzles on the pitch. Using an air circulation technique, the cooled air is drawn back, re-cooled, filtered and pushed out.

“We are not just cooling the air, we’re cleaning it,” he said. “We’re purifying the air for spectators. For example, people who have allergies won’t have problems inside our stadiums. We have the cleanest and purest air there is.”

The Qatari cooling tech is said to be 40% more sustainable than existing technologies, with stadia only needing to be cooled two hours before an event. Saud said that implementing the tech necessitates challenges for stadium developers. He noted that Al Bayt Stadium now features a lighter façade, with the original darker one being replaced after it was found the new version brought down the temperature inside the stadium by approximately 5°C.

Saud said: “The most important thing to cool effectively is that you don’t want the outside wind to enter the stadium. That’s why the size and design of the stadium have to be studied and altered accordingly so that they block warm air from entering the stadium.

“The biggest thing working against you when you’re trying to cool a stadium is the opening of the stadium’s roof because that is where external hot air enters. That’s why studying where air can exit and how we can push and pull back air differs from stadium to stadium as it depends on its shape, height and width.”

For Qatar 2022, stadia will be cooled to between 18-24°C. Regarding future use of the tech, Saud added his line of under-seat diffusers has not been patented to allow wider adoption. “The reason I joined the 2022 team was to serve the Arab region so that people here appear to others around the world in a different light,” he said. “The Middle East has a lot to offer and there’s nothing better than football to show that.”

Image: Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy