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by Oscar Wendel on Mar 17, 2012

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Oscar Wendel
Oscar Wendel

Oscar Wendel says that Qatar faces major MEP challenges when it comes to cooling its stadia for the 2022 FIFA World Cup

On 10 April at the Grand Hyatt in Doha, Construction Week will hold its second conference focusing on building towards the 2022 World Cup. The challenges ahead to meet the building and infrastructure needs in Qatar can seem daunting both in scale and the limited timeline.

Whenever the topic of the 2022 World Cup comes up in discussions I have with MEP professionals, it always boils down to the question of whether or not it is possible to pull off projects.

It is essentially a matter of overhauling the city’s infrastructure, including 12 stadia with surrounding sports areas that are all to be air-conditioned with solar energy, all built in less than a decade.

Yes, the challenges do seem overwhelming. But so did many of the greatest and most difficult projects undertaken in modern history.

When I think about the great engineering accomplishments of the past century, two MEP-related endeavours springing to mind are the race to the moon and the Hoover dam.

Yet, looking at the political and economic landscape today, it is questionable if projects of such magnitude could be delivered anymore, in the US or anywhere else.

The infighting in Congress is only part of the US’s inability to vamp up its infrastructure, which has now fallen in ranking and is placed between Spain and Chile.

Its bureaucratic system is practically ensuring that every major public project is delayed, if not cancelled outright. A recent example was the bullet train initiative that was effectively shot down.

The complexities in the US are aggravated by an over-regulated business environment influenced by campaign finance and lobbying of special interests that makes any change tedious.

Looking beyond the US to India, South America and Africa, these regions have their own homegrown barriers to delivering on any substantial projects efficiently. Despite being burgeoning economic powerhouses showing explosive year-on-year growth, many mega projects are pursued but few see completion.

Drawn-out investigations of bribery and political scandals, with ensuing years of delays, are almost becoming an expectation in any large publicly-funded project. The 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi allegedly ran over budget to the tune of billions of dollars, largely due to embezzlement.

In Nigeria, the Economist cites a moderately estimated $4bn to $8bn being stolen yearly from Nigeria’s state coffers, while not a single politician is in prison for corruption.

The competitive advantage in Qatar’s strong and unified leadership is evident in contrast to the paralysis of bureaucracy and stifling business climate seen elsewhere. Is it possible that Qatar might be the last frontier today where achieving seemingly impossible feats is viable?

The build-up to the 2022 World Cup is our time’s equivalent of the race to the moon. The event is a pretext and impetus to gather the world’s brightest engineers and designers to come together and deliver on their ambitious vision in the short time given.

In the decade ahead, the world will again be shown what a determined and collective action towards a shared goal can achieve when it is backed by sufficient resources and a sense of urgency.

The legacy it will leave behind will benefit the whole world with the leaps forward in developing MEP technologies that enable a more environmentally-friendly habitat with the likes of more efficient cooling systems and urban transportation systems.

Oscar Wendel is the Conference Manager of Construction Week.


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