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Qatar World Cup – a wide goalpost

While being good news, it comes with a number of challenges for the HVACR sector

| | Feb 20, 2011 | 6:06 pm
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While Qatar 2022 spells good news for the HVACR and related sectors and professionals, it comes with a number of challenges. Pratibha Umashankar highlights them.

Qatar, geographically a mere speck on the world map, successfully marketed itself as a viable venue for the 2022 football World Cup. The event is as much an image-building exercise, as an economic strategy. The authorities believe that their sight is set beyond the World Cup, in terms of financial dividends.

The country is reportedly investing over $30 billion into its infrastructure out of a $40 billion earmarked for the event. The new international airport is slated to be ready by 2013, and reportedly comes with a price tag of $13billion. According to a statement issued by Moody’s Investor Service, on December 5, as reported by Global Arab Network (Banking goals – Qatar gears up to host World Cup), it pegs the government spending to $57 billion over the next decade, for infrastructure development projects and upgrading of existing transportation systems.

With world-class air conditioned stadiums; accommodation and other facilities for visiting teams, officials and spectators, on the cards, Qatar will witness tremendous spurt in all-round growth, which will certainly impact the HVACR sector. Ramiz Gabrial, a consulting engineer, who was ASHRAE Oryx Chapter’s President till January 2011, affirms that the HVACR sector, as a whole, will be positively impacted by the event. “I believe that the positive impact will extend beyond Qatar, as there will be many major projects that will require dedicated research and development programmes to ensure that they meet or exceed expectations of Qatar Football association, FIFA and the world,” he says.

The spill-over effect is likely to be two-fold: benefit for other related sectors and to countries in the region. “The computer and energy simulation fields will get more focused on, as these unique projects will benefit from the available technologies,” says Gabrial. “In return, the same projects will benefit the HVAC profession, as it will create feasible business opportunities for many local, regional and global consulting firms to invest in further developing the technology.”

The volume of work will also give a positive nudge to two other important areas: Project design and construction management. Gabrial believes that the time frames that will be set for various projects and associated challenges will lead to major development in these fields.

“Facility management is another field that will have to get higher focus and get upgraded to required standards,” Gabrial adds. He elaborates: “The volume of work will require large number of HVAC professionals at all levels – senior and junior designers and managers, CAD professionals, energy and other computer simulation professionals and construction managers at all levels. This large and concentrated need will sharpen and shape many professionals who will work from inside or outside Qatar. Accordingly, the whole profession will benefit from the experience.”

Despite rich predicted pickings for the HVACR sector, especially of the low-hanging fruits from mega projects, the situation comes with its attendant challenges. Gabrial lists some of them:

  • Procurement of equipment and materials from reputable manufacturers: Due to the volume of work, the industry needs to be careful about the source of equipment and materials they will bring in. Globally, all manufacturers would want to take a share in this market; some may not have the acceptable standards and/or certifications.
  • Lack of sufficient design detailing: As the volume of work intensifies, consulting engineers may tend to leave some of the important design detailing for the contractors to take care of and, hence, leave a gap that could create future contract- or facility-management issues.
  • Water consumption: Water-cooled systems will be used to serve large projects. This will create an increased water demand to cover the required cooling water volumes.
  • Shortages and rising costs of building materials and equipment could be another challenge. This could lead to projects being delayed or, worse still, shoddy workmanship, with mounting deadline pressures. Also, depending heavily on outside skilled workforce, equipment, material and outsourced jobs might prove to be detrimental to the sector, if there are weak links in the other end of the supply chain.

With Qatar, in particular, and the HVACR sector, in general, pushing for green technology, whether the growth is at the cost the environment is another issue that needs to be addressed. “One specific area that will definitely receive major attention is sustainability and green building design,” agrees Gabrial. “Qatar has taken big steps in supporting and implementing sustainable building designs and solutions. Energy and water conservation, reducing carbon footprint of buildings and the use of regional materials, are among the issues that will get major attention as part of the sustainable design effort.” He cites the example of Qatar Foundation as an important player in the effort in the sustainability and sustainable building design movement in Qatar, which is a major element of the design, procurement and construction phases of each coming project.

In this context, the role of the local ASHRAE Chapter gains significance. “ASHRAE Oryx is already focusing on issues that are of interest to the HVAC profession on energy, water and major equipment selection,” Gabrial says.

The January issue of the ASHRAE Oryx Chapter’s journal, in an article titled, FIFA 2022 – The engineering challenges, succinctly sums up both the onus and the rewards: “The amount and type of construction projects that will take place during the coming 12 years will be the dream of any construction professional. However, this excitement and thrill impose added responsibility on us. We are morally responsible to make sure that the hard work that was put to win the FIFA 2022 Bid is translated to bigger success in building world-class facilities that tells the world another great story about what dedication and determination can achieve.

“The mechanical engineers will have their share of the challenge, as these facilities will have to be designed to satisfy specific environmental conditions. Sustainable and Green building designs will be another mission to show our commitment to the environment.”

Calling it an “intense engineering experience that is going to be built in Qatar”, the journal says that the lessons learnt can serve the profession in the long run. The sector, therefore, will certainly be a beneficiary of the World Cup, probably financially, but certainly professionally.

The long and short of it 

Russia, the world’s largest country has won the 2018 bid to host the sporting spectacle. It is a geographical giant when compared to Qatar, a mere speck. It is interesting and instructive that Qatar has sold a dream based entirely on its growing economic heft. The year 2022 is over a decade away. A lot – both good and bad – could happen between now to then. In the meantime, it’s hard work ahead for Qatar, if it wants to deliver on its promise. The goal would have been reached, not when the expected crowds throng to watch the sporting spectacle, but when the applause has died down and the bills have been paid and the country is left with mammoth stadiums and worldclass infrastructure that will have to pay for themselves. How it will affect the HVACR sector is still anybody’s guess. Will short-term gains sustain it in the long run?

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