Soccer World Cup host Qatar is touting a new cooling system for open-air stadiums as the energy-efficient model for the future—but will it catch on?
Architects and engineers of Al Janoub, a 40,000-seat venue in Doha for the 2022 Soccer World Cup, said they found a technological solution to beat the unbearable desert heat of Qatar.
Soccer fans and players can enjoy a game at a comfortable 75 degrees in the outdoors, even as temperatures soar past 120 Fahrenheit.
Small ducts under the seats and nozzles at field level gently diffuse cool air. “You’re living inside a micro, climate-controlled bubble,” said Saud Abdul-Ghani, a Qatar University mechanical engineering professor who led the design.
Abdul-Ghani said the system requires about one-fifth of the energy typically needed to cool spaces of the same size, such as airport terminals or closed baseball stadiums. This is because the new system continuously recycles air into small zones.
Nadia Elrokhsy, associate professor of ecological design at Parsons School of Design in New York, said while she appreciates the four-fifths reduction as a step forward, she is less convinced about the overall impact.
“They are comparing it to business as usual. … Business as usual is never as business we should have been in,” she said
Qatar wants to see its new cooling technology spread beyond its borders.
“The Americans, Mexicans, and Canadians will surely look at this because of thermal stress on players,” Abdul-Ghani said, referring to the host nations of the 2026 World Cup.
The system has been left unpatented for anyone to adopt. Still, it is uncertain whether other countries will be willing to pay for the upgrade.
Thani Khalifa Al Zarraa, the project manager for the stadium, said the cooling system increased the cost of construction by two to three times, or around $6,000 to $7,000 per seat.
Reuters contributed to this report.