EES - Intelligent backbone in FIFA stadia

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Intelligent backbone in FIFA stadia

Intelligent backbone in FIFA stadia will ensure ROI (23/10/09)

The design and implementation of an intelligent backbone at both Cape Town’s Green Point Stadium and Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium is not only helping to make them showpieces for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but will also ensure their owners achieve maximum return on investment (ROI). 

The stadia’s data and electronic services, for example telephony and lighting control, will operate on the intelligent electronic transmission backbone within each of these stadia, making them intelligent infrastructures.  The intelligent backbone makes use of Information Technology (IT), which is reliant on structured cabling systems.

“It is this intelligent backbone that is being built in during construction, which will enable the stadia to generate revenue,” explains Bradley Hemphill, CEO of EES, an ISO 9000 certified electrical engineering company, which offers engineering, project management and business management solutions.  “As these stadia are so expensive to construct, there is a great deal of pressure on their owners, for example sporting bodies or municipalities, to ensure the stadia generate revenue and are profitable.”

EES is the specialist sub-consultant supporting WSP Consulting Engineers, and is part of the consulting team tasked with designing and implementing the stadia’s intelligent backbone.

Owners also need to be able to plan for maximum efficiency in the operation and maintenance of these structures.  “An intelligent infrastructure ensures these stadia can be managed cost-effectively and in turn facilitates a better experience for sports and entertainment fans, who are the real customers,” says Hemphill.  “It also enables stadia to easily become multi-purpose venues, giving owners a choice of customers and a better chance of year-round use.” 

Crucial success factors

Achieving on intelligent backbone entails the installation of IT and Building Automation Systems (BAS).

“Planning must happen upfront”, Hemphill advocates.  “IT infrastructure should be included in the early planning phase of stadia design and development to ensure that the IT and BAS are designed to support current and future information needs.”

There must be sufficient flexibility in the design of the intelligent backbone to allow for future inclusion of feature-rich services that were perhaps not initially envisaged or available at the time of planning.  It must support not only today’s technology, but tomorrow’s as well. 

This has been the case with the Green Point and Nelson Mandela Bay stadia, a key factor that is contributing to their being seen as FIFA World Cup showpieces for intelligent building complexes.


“And the implementation of an intelligent backbone must have a team approach,” Hemphill emphasises.  “There is still a tendency for major players to work in silos rather than integrating systems.  Experts should co-operate and make use of their own particular strengths to deliver a complete solution.”

Using a silo approach contributes to a disconnect between services, which makes it complicated for owners and visitors to the structures to take full advantage of the benefits of intelligent building systems, such as energy monitoring, security systems, and integrated communications. 

“The efficiency with which the stadia in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth are being constructed bears testimony to the teamwork happening between the major players on site,” contends Hemphill.

Nelson Mandela Bay

The Nelson Mandela Bay Multi-Purpose stadium, which is now functionally complete, was the first intelligent stadium in South Africa built to meet FIFA’s exacting standards.  As a multi-purpose stadium it needs to be quickly transformed from a sporting pitch to rock-concert stage or trade show arena, without re-organising the lighting, sound, ticketing, safety and management systems, and this can easily be done. 

“To integrate all these needs is a major undertaking if the intelligent infrastructure is not built into the structure at the start of construction.  Unfortunately most South African stadia are existing and were not built to be intelligent.”

The more intelligent the stadium is, the more cost-effective it will be to host varied events.

“By building an intelligent backbone into the stadium complex at the outset at Nelson Mandela Bay, we realised a saving of about 12% on the capital cost of ICT installation,” Hemphill explains.  “Because all the management system applications that run on this backbone are integrated we are able to give management the tools with which to more easily manage events and streamline stadium maintenance.

“An integrated management system is a major benefit to stadium management, as it enables it to better manage operations and effectively deploy staff.  This means potential problems can be identified and deal with before they become a major issue. All this reduces operating costs, contributing to a better bottom line.”

Green Point

Hemphill says that exceptional collaboration between most parties is ensuring that construction at Green Point, the last new stadium to be complete, is running smoothly with only the occasional hiccup that one would expect from projects of this magnitude.  It is on target to meet the deadlines for next year’s football tournaments. 

“We were fully aware of the time and cost pressures and so have invested beyond the normal scope in our planning and relationship building with all involved, and this is now paying dividends,” says Hemphill.  “Construction at Green Point stadium is on the final home run.”

Leaving a legacy

The various teams on site at the stadia are ensuring that construction of the intelligent infrastructure is being completed in line with world-class standards, making them international benchmarks for intelligent building.  Once FIFA 2010 World Cup has come and gone, these highly efficient structures will without doubt leave a legacy for generations to come.  

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