Friday, March 24, 2023

Road To Qatar: Extreme temperatures, air-conditioned stadiums and coping mechanisms

In our first installment of a series on 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar, Peoples Gazette highlights efforts to provide suitable conditions for the football mundial.

• August 27, 2022
Qatar World Cup
Qatar World Cup

The world will converge on Qatar from November 20 to celebrate greatest football fiesta, the FIFA World Cup. More than 1.7 million people from the 32 qualifying countries and beyond could visit the Gulf nation during the month-long mundial, per ICAO projections.

But Qatar is not just an usual nation, the oil rich Middle East country possesses stark peculiarities that stands it apart, even so as the first Gulf nation to hold a global football show which could have about five billion people viewing from all over the world.

In our first installment of a series on 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar, Peoples Gazette highlights efforts to provide suitable conditions for the football mundial.

Qatar, while bidding to host the 2022 World Cup, had assured to maintain the normal summer calendar of the quadriennial championship, promising the most technologically sophisticated air conditioned stadiums to cope with shooting temperatures. This is despite the period being the hottest period (usually above 40°C) of the year in the country. FIFA, nonetheless, baulked at the prospect and shifted the actions to cooler November to December date.

Nevertheless, the afternoon games may still feature conditions of 25-30 degrees, and in the future, Qatar plans to use these venues for much more of the year.

Air conditioned stadiums

Qatar’s stadiums deploy all the passive forms of cooling that any hot weather architecture uses. First, the stadiums have been carefully oriented on their East-West axis to allow for the sun’s movement over Qatar and to create a maximum amount of shade on the pitch and in the stands. 

Third, the stadiums are designed not to let the heat in, in the first place. The surfaces and shapes of their external facades have been designed to reflect heat and divert the warming winds.

Fourth, most of Qatar’s new stadiums have retractable roofs. When closed, these considerably improve the efficiency of the cooling process, meaning that the water and energy usage needed for the air conditioning systems will not be overburdened.

But in the heat of Qatar, all of this will only take you so far. Bring on the air conditioning and all air conditioning systems require electric power to run the pumps and fans that move air and water in refrigeration and cooling systems, and power, as electricity or heat, that is used to run the refrigeration systems themselves. Qatar’s stadiums use both.

At the Khalifa International Stadium, for example, photovoltaic panels on the roof generate electricity that powers the motors of giant dual compressor chillers. The stadium also draws on systems of district cooling in which centrally chilled water is piped to the stadium and then used to cool the air inside.

However, most of the cooling work at Qatar 2022 is being done by extraordinary, expensive and energy-hungry machines called absorption chillers. Amazingly, they use the energy stored in water superheated by solar power to chill a separate water circuit.   

The cooled water is pumped through a set of heat exchange pipes, which cool the air. Solar-powered fans then blow the cool air through large pitch side nozzles set into the walls at the front of the stands and through grills beneath the seats. 

Behind the seats is another set of grills that suck the air back into the air conditioning system, where it is filtered and cleaned of dust and microbes before being cooled down again and sent back into the stadium.

None of this is particularly groundbreaking, but Qatar has also invested in a decade’s worth of research in fluid dynamics – examining the air flows in stadium spaces – and in the creation of sensor systems that allow an incredibly detailed and accurate picture of the movement of air and changes in temperature to be built up.

Based on this work, the angle and speed of air movement have been precisely calibrated to maximise cooling and minimise discomfort for spectators. It is designed to create just a thin layer of cooled air around them rather than cooling the whole stadium space.

Seats and other fixtures have been designed with materials that absorb and store as little heat as possible, keeping them cool easier.

Transferable technology

Generously, Qatar has chosen not to patent these innovations, offering them to any nation that would like to use them.  And as climate change drives global temperature rises and heatwaves become more frequent, there should be plenty of takers. 

Whether they can afford the immense investment in solar technologies, district cooling and high-end chillers that this all requires, however, remains to be seen.

Coping in Qatar

Away from the air conditioned stadiums and it’s technology, millions of fans and visitors willing to explore the beauty of the Gulf state will need tips to cope with its extreme heat and humidity.

There are two ways of dealing with this climate challenge: avoidance- moving exclusively between air-conditioned homes, malls, offices and cars- or actually getting out to enjoy the atmosphere. But there are methods to this.

Here are five tips:

One. Drinking water from fountains usually provided at mosques and other public-spirited buildings can be a live saver. However, chilled water at very hot temperatures can cause stomach spasms.

Two. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat keeps the head cool by keep the sun off. The hat can be soaked in water at drinking fountains to provide cooling before the fluid evaporates.

Three. Wearing sun-proof lightweight clothes protects skin from harsh rays.

Four. Wearing underwears are uncomfortable in sweaty conditions. 

Five. Lightweight pair of sandals are the best for hot weathers.

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