Qatar National Convention Centre
Written by Stephen Pritchard
From 2011, Qatar will play host to one of the region’s largest conference venues.?
The raw statistics of the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC) are impressive enough. The site will boast 40,000 square metres (430,000 square feet) of exhibition space, a conference hall large enough for 4,000 delegates, a 2,300-seat theatre, and enough space to accommodate 10,000 at a banquet.?
If that is not enough to put the new venue on the map, then the centre’s ambition – to be one of the most technically-advanced, as well as greenest venues – surely will.?
Work is already well underway to ensure that the best in technology is on tap for delegates and visitors throughout the QNCC, and also to ensure that the vast new centre treads lightly on the environment.?
“The Qatar National Convention Centre will set a benchmark for venue design, technology, and, we hope, service as well,” says Paul D’Arcy, the facility’s general manager. “There are things that are being incorporated here that we believe are in no other building. Many of those will bring time savings, and economic advantages, to event organisers.”?
The last couple of years have not been easy on the conference and events business – as Mr D’Arcy says, it has been a better time to be building a venue, than to be operating one. But he is confident that, come 2011, the market will have recovered significantly. He also adds that, as one of the QNCC’s focuses is events for global trade associations, its market has been less affected than those that deal primarily with corporate or commercial exhibitions. The QNCC’s broad base – including its theatre and banqueting options – will also boost its appeal. And, Mr D’Arcy suggests, visitors and exhibitors alike will be attracted to the venue’s mix of cutting-edge design and advanced technology.?
The venue is being fitted out with a number of innovative technologies, which will make it more flexible, more cost-effective for exhibitors, and more attractive and productive to visitors.?
The entire venue is connected by an integrated network, from US company Cisco, which carries both voice and data traffic and supports the building’s advanced management system, and Wi-Fi. “Wireless internet access will also be provided to all delegates and exhibitors, and free of charge,” says Mr D’Arcy.?
As communications are also all under the QNCC’s direct control, the venue will be able to avoid many of the delays and costs involved in setting up internet or communications access that can cause disruption for event organisers, he says. The QNCC’s network also supports the venue’s audio and visual facilities, which provide streaming media both to and from the venue. This will allow organisers to mix live, remote video feeds with what is happening on stage locally. This gives organisers the option of allowing high-profile speakers from anywhere in the world to participate in events, even if they cannot travel to Qatar in person.?
Smart displays throughout the venue, including 107-inch flat screens in meetings rooms, provide an easy way for delegates to set up presentations. LCD screens will also provide signage and promotional information that can be updated throughout an event. Rather more unusually, the QNCC will also have fully-equipped video conferencing, or telepresence, suites. Instead of competing with conventional conference business, Mr D’Arcy says, the suites complement it by adding another option for businesses in the region that need to communicate internationally.?
“A lot of smaller meetings are happening via video conference now, and this allows us to host the Doha part of the event, even if the other delegates are in London or New York,” Paul D’Arcy explains.?
Perhaps most advanced of all, however, are the buildings’ integrated management system, and its RFID (radio frequency ID) tracking system. The RFID system will allow event organisers and exhibitors to track which delegates attend which stand or talk; it will also allow QNCC staff to track assets, such as furniture and equipment, making it easier and quicker to ensure that an exhibitor has the equipment they need.?
The building management system, again running over the venue’s main system, provides very precise control over air conditioning, lighting, and power use – which also contributes to the centre’s world-class environmental footprint (see box: Greening the QNCC). “We know that if a meeting starts at 9am, and we want the meeting room at 21?C or 22?C, we need to switch the cooling on at 8.45am, but not before,” says Mr D’Arcy.?
It might be the dramatic architectural design that captures delegates’ imaginations when they visit the QNCC. But it is the technology that is working away behind the scene that will create the most lasting impression.?
Greening the? QNCC
Today’s convention and conference venues have to meet strict environmental criteria to attract corporate business. But in a desert environment, environmental responsibility goes much farther, so the QNCC is taking a hi-tech approach.?
A solar array covering 44 square metres will provide 12.5% of the venue’s power needs, and the centre will recycle its ‘grey’ or waste water for the outside planting; there is even a system for harvesting rain water.?
As a result, the venue hopes to achieve LEED Gold standard, one of the highest environmental ratings for a building.?
“Having a green building is no longer a marketing tool, it is something you have to do,” says general manager Paul D’Arcy.?