Leading firm Populous, which is designing the Sports City stadium in Doha, is trying to persuade Qatari organisers to scrap plans to have air conditioning at the venue. Populous director John Barrow said the system is too expensive and “notoriously unsustainable” for the environment when used on a large scale.

“I think you can be more clever. It is about air movement, moisture in the air and it is about temperature at the right time of day,” Barrow told delegates at the International Football Arena conference.

“If we get it right … that is the way ahead.”

Air-conditioned stadiums to beat 50-degree desert heat in June were a defining theme of Qatar’s winning bid last year. Qatar hired Populous to help its campaign, drawing on the firm’s experience in building signature projects such as the new Yankee Stadium, London’s 2012 Olympic Stadium and Arsenal’s Emirates arena.

The firm built a small prototype of an air-conditioned stadium in Doha to help persuade a FIFA inspection team that the tiny nation’s ambitious World Cup project could succeed. However, Barrow now believes the planned Sports City arena can be kept cool by shading seats and using traditional Arabic methods for ventilation.

“We are doing away with all the air conditioning kit that is going to cost a fortune to run,” Barrow said.

Instead, he is proposing wind towers that suck up hot air to create fan-like air movement inside the 47,000-capacity stadium.

“It is part of the building tradition in the Gulf to create wind towers which naturally ventilate. If you have got an air movement which keeps you cool like a fan that makes all the difference.”

Qatar promised FIFA that its 12 World Cup stadiums could be regulated at around 26 degrees. Now, Barrow says spectators could be kept comfortable at 30 degrees during evening matches.

“It doesn’t need to be 26 degrees. Fan expectation needs to be a little more relaxed,” he said on the conference sidelines.

Seating areas also need to be kept in shade during searing daytime temperatures, instead of allowing stadiums to “suck in” heat that is retained after dark.

“Suddenly you are sitting on a radiator. It is totally counter productive,” Barrow said. “The objective for me is to keep the (stadium) bowl sun-screened during the day, with natural ventilation and also encouraging a vortex by using all kinds of clever tricks.”