Site visit: Westin Doha Hotel & Spa
The Westin Doha Hotel & Spa has been a number of years in the making
As Doha grows over the next eight years in the run-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the city will undergo a hospitality revolution, with tens of thousands of new rooms to be built. It is hoped that the rooms will be well-utilised after the football tournament leaves town, with a concerted effort to turn Qatar into a bona-fide Middle Eastern tourist destination.
In the myriad of new hotels, one that is sure to catch the eye is the Westin Doha Hotel & Spa in Doha’s Business District. One thing that is instantly noticeable is its physical form; whereas chrome and glass skyscrapers and towers dominate the Corniche and West Bay, the Westin extends to a ground and seven further floors, and is in keeping with what is a more architecturally modest part of the city.
Reynante Cumpas, project architect of the project for KEO, says the surroundings and regulations of the area have enhanced the hotel: “The building has a lot of angles, which maximises the views. It is situated in a residential area so we had some restrictions, such as only going up to seven floors.
One of the guidelines was that we have to maintain the privacy of the local neighbourhood so the façade is perpendicular to the neighbourhood, instead of parallel. That works for us because we have used the angles to make the building look more interesting and allows for great views all around.”
The hotel sits adjacent to the crossing of the Salwa Road and the C Ring Road – two of the city’s key transport routes – and is also in close proximity to the Museum of Islamic Art, Education City and the Msheireb rejuvenation project in downtown Doha. It is an area that is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years with the client of the Westin, Ghanem Al Thani Holdings, having plans for much of the ground surrounding the hotel.
The hotel, which will offer 365 rooms in a built-up area of 67,000m2, has been a number of years in the making. The project first began in 2007, when KEO International Consultants drew up the first concept design, with the process taking around four years.
In that time, a number of operators have come and gone, with hotel originally slated to be branded under the Wyndham Hotels and Resort umbrella, then the Regent Hotels brand, and finally Westin Hotels, which is part of the Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide.
One thing that has remained consistent is the demands of Sheikh Ghanem Bin Ali Al Thani, the owner of the hotel.
“The client had a vision for the hotel when they thought about how the hotel would be designed and built,” says Mohamed Jaber, head of electrical engineering at KEO. “They wanted something that would be different and you can see this for yourself when you look at the building – it is attracting a lot of interest.”
One of the key facets of the brief was that the hotel would attract not just business guests, but also families. As a result, the hotel has an element of fun about it; the Westin will include a man-made beach in a city centre location, as well as a waterfall and a wave pool.
Water is a theme which runs, quite literally, through the hotel. “From the drive leading from the Salwa Road, guests are flanked by palm trees and water, including a dancing water feature that flows through to a fountain in the reception,” comments Khalid Karagoly, senior architect at KEO.
“We wanted the water to continue through the hotel, and that was a real challenge. That has been achieved by using a glass floor with LED lighting throughout that gives the illusion of water.
It follows guests from the entrance, through the hotel and to the river and wave pool. The concept was to have the feeling of water continuing through the hotel, so you can see it, feel it and hear it. It was a very hard task to do, but we’ve managed to do it.”
In keeping with the effort to make the hotel as widely appealing as possible, the Westin will house the biggest ballroom in Qatar, measuring in at 2,400m2. The room can be divided into three compartments with insulated sliding panels, which means sound will not travel across the partitions.
It means a trio of different functions can take place at one time, all of which have access to outside areas. Such is the scale of the ballroom, the beams used in the building are up to three metres deep, with post-tensioning technology used to strengthen the construction.
“If the space is used as one room, it can actually fit 2,500 guests,” says Moataz Hameed, resident engineer for KEO.
“Making the ballroom work was one of the big challenges on this project. The scale of the room is huge, and even when it is fully divided into three separate areas, it is really big. It has been designed so three events can happen at once, and we certainly expect a lot of interest for weddings to take place here. But there’s also the potential for other events, whether that’s a lecture, an exhibition, or even something like the launch of a new car.”
As with any large structure, the hotel will demand a huge amount of power, and steps have been taken to ensure that the Westin can still function even in the unlikely result of an outage, says Jaber.
“The project itself has two keys areas for electrical services. One is in the North parking, which has a central chiller plant, substations and generators that provide electrical distribution.
We also have back-up generators that provide back up for one of the chillers, as well as the kitchen cooler/freezers. So if there is an event in the ballroom or the reception area, it’ll continue to work through a power outage. We didn’t want an important function to stop in the event of a loss of power.
“Then there is the south parking area where there is a substation, generators and electrical distribution that goes through the hotel. That backs up the life safety systems and 30% of the lighting within the building in the general areas. If the power goes down for any reason, there will still be some lighting in the public areas, so the hotel can still function.”
Getting power to the construction site itself was a major challenge, as it was not possible to secure the necessary 15MW of power from anywhere in the surrounding area.
To make the project possible, the client worked with Kahramaa to build a sub-station to feed electricity to the site. With the hotel fast approaching completion – KEO estimates that construction and fit-out will be finished this summer, at which time it will be handed to the client – one of the next jobs will be to ensure the Westin is hooked up to primary power.
Lighting design and associated lighting controls including the guest room management system as well as the building management system provides a complete green design with sustainable lighting in the hotel. Dimming controls provided throughout help that cause as well.
The façade lighting and landscape lighting complement the architectural features that were designed by KEO, and they also utilise LED technologies that help reduce energy consumption.
And – as seems to be the case on the majority of projects in Qatar – the issue of materials has caused headaches. It is hoped that the New Port Project will alleviate some of the stress on supply, but its completion remains many years away.
"One of the challeneges is suppliers don't have what you need and offer alternatives that are not suitable for the job, or in very small quantities. You have a situation where a shop says you can have 200 floor tiles – that is not the scale we are working on," states Hameed.
But despite the challenges, there is a sense of satisfaction of a job well done. “I think that the guests are going to enjoy what we think is a five star plus hotel. Everyone who has worked on it, from those in the office, to those working on site can take pride in it; it’s been a real effort. There is something for everyone here, whether it is a business guest or a family. The hotel will offer a really good guest experience.”