Published: September 25, 2007
From the fabric membrane peaks that echo Kuwait’s southern sand dunes to the saddle-shaped steel latticework that links the region to its nomadic past, the canopy design of Jaber Al- Ahmad International Stadium offers spectators an effective shade system with a touch of Middle Eastern flair.
The 64,000-seat facility, located in the city of Safat, is scheduled for completion in December and is the largest soccer and Olympic-standard sports venue in Kuwait. Given its large scale, the building’s owner, State of Kuwait Public Authority for Youth and Sports, enlisted the help of Birdair, Inc. to design, engineer and install a tensioned fabric membrane roof to shield fans from the searing desert heat, where summer temperatures regularly exceed 130° Fahrenheit (54° Celsius).
Construction on the shade system’s skeletal structure began in January 2006 and was completed within one year. Using 147,637 square feet (45,000 sq. meters) of PTFE-coated Sheerfill II fabric, workers unfurled the highly translucent membrane across the compressed steel and heavy-duty cable framework in 282-foot spans (86 meters), venturing from the roof’s outer edge to an open inner ring, measuring 348 feet (106 meters) in diameter.
According to Birdair Professional Engineer Wesley R. Terry, P.E., the canopy design provides spectators with much-needed comfort while allowing daylight to reach the stadium’s natural grass playing surface.
“The difference for fans will be dramatic,” said Terry, who supervised on site during the canopy construction. “I sat in the stands after the membrane was installed and it does an outstanding job of lowering the temperature inside the stadium.”
Birdair’s team of engineers and designers capitalized on Sheerfill II’s extensive daylight harvesting properties. Due to its inherent translucency, light pours through the woven fiberglass material to brighten the stadium’s interior space, thus lowering operating costs by reducing the need for supplemental electric lighting.
Moreover, because the membrane is Teflon coated, it provides a durable defense against Kuwait’s unforgiving landscape while resisting staining and soiling, thereby extending the lifespan of the structure.
Terry added that the canopy shape was also cost effective. “With its concaved, load-bearing profile, it required only a minimal, single-layer cable net to support the fabric membrane,” he said.
But minimal does not mean delicate.
Four-inch diameter radial cable was used throughout the structure’s design, weighing more than 385 tons and encompassing an area of 137,795 square feet (42,000 sq. meters). The inner ring, also constructed using compressed steel, weighs approximately 1,950 tons. Applying these sturdy components to the roofing system allowed engineers to suspend a pair of 15-ton scoreboards from opposite ends of the massive canopy.
The roof is serviced by a suspended maintenance catwalk that also serves as the structural means of support for the floodlighting, public address and evacuation systems. Looking up towards the sand dune fabric peaks, 450 illuminated holographic glass cupolas are visible, contributing to its overall light transmittance.
According to Michael Sparks, Vice President of Construction for Birdair, the owner’s vision was to create a structure using a tent or cone-shape that linked the roof to Kuwait’s Middle Eastern heritage. The resulting structure did not disappoint.
Construction of Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium and the adjacent grounds began in September 2005, occupying a total land area of more than 1.3 million square feet (400,000 sq. meters). The stadium, which is certified by the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to host international soccer and athletic events, features spectacular sightlines, air-conditioned concourses, 52 luxury boxes and numerous amenities for spectators and competitors.
Beyond the building itself, Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium marks a major capital improvement effort for Kuwait, where new residences, hotels and office buildings have sprung up throughout Safat’s Ardiya district. As part of the stadium development, direct road access to the facility and other transportation projects were also completed.
From the sand dunes and saddle to the stadium’s exterior which resembles a traditional dhow sailing vessel, Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium conveys a look that is uniquely Arabian. Today, thanks in large part to Birdair’s expertise, this elegant Kuwaiti venue ranks as one the finest sports facilities to be found anywhere in the Middle East.
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About Birdair: Birdair, Inc. is the leading specialty contractor of custom tensile structures throughout the world. In addition to pre-construction services such as design assistance, budgeting, construction methodologies and project scheduling, Birdair provides design-build solutions in all aspects of project design, engineering, installation and maintenance. The company offers a selection of architectural fabric membranes, including PTFE fiberglass, ETFE film, PVC and Tensotherm™. Birdair, based in Buffalo, NY, is a member of the Taiyo Kogyo Group, with operations serving North and South America and other international locations. For more information about Birdair, like us on Facebook, call 1-800-622-2246 or visit www.birdair.com.