Geometrica’s Freedome system gives architects the freedom they need to design unique long-span structures
GEOMETRICA, a global company for designing and building domes and free-form structures for architectural and industrial applications, is promoting its trademarked Freedome system, which was used to build a first-of-its-kind waste management facility in the Gulf. The facility is claimed to be largest composting plant in the world.
Located in Qatar’s Mesaieed municipality, the fully-integrated Domestic Solid Waste Management Centre (DSWMC) has been recovering energy and supplying electricity to surrounding communities ever since it began operating in October 2011. Since then, it has treated and processed domestic solid waste for the whole of Qatar.
“The DSWMC recycles select materials and uses organic waste to generate various forms of energy, leaving an exceptionally ‘green’ footprint in the area,” says Melanie Saxton, online editor at Geometrica. “More than 95 per cent of the waste is reclaimed or converted into energy, while less than five per cent of the materials entering the facility is diverted to a landfill.”
So how did Geometrica get involved in the project? “Word of mouth,” says Saxton.
She elaborates: “As designer of the ‘Marchwood Silver Dome’, an energy recovery facility in Southampton, UK, Geometrica had experience developing a long-span structure that included sweeping curves, a whimsical silhouette, a skirt, and a span of 110 m — a seemingly impossible engineering and architectural feat.”
Saxton adds that the facility won the accolade of “Best Designed Project in the UK” as a complete power plant that supplies electricity to more than 22,600 homes.
“Now the challenge was in applying the same expertise within the Middle East while keeping four environmentally-essential processes in mind – waste sorting and recycling; composting; waste-to-energy incineration; and the disposal of non-renewable materials in a landfill. These processes work synergistically, complementing and feeding off one another to support increased energy and material recovery,” she says.
Early in the construction process, Keppels Seghers, the Singaporean engineering firm contracted to design, build and operate the DSWMC, sought a roof structure for the green waste storage building of the DSWMC composting plant.
“Green waste includes yard and garden waste, tree cuttings, as well as food and kitchen products such as expired vegetables or peels. The material is received at the composting plant and subsequently shredded, screened and stored inside the green waste storage facility. Grab-cranes then feed the material into anaerobic digesters, which further break down the waste and produce biogas, which is eventually translated into a form of power generation.
“To house the green waste breakdown process, Keppels Seghers required a structure that could span the large building, and form over the discharge docks, its internal crane, and the material itself,” says Saxton.
“Initially, Keppels Seghers considered a large steel-framed building with roof trusses. However, after evaluating the advantages of the Geometrica trademarked Freedome system, Keppels Segher decided to change the design to a Geometrica dome,” she says.
“We were already aware of Geometrica’s systems,” says Geoffrey Piggott, Keppels Seghers director of the Qatar facility.
“But they visited us, and gave us an impressive proposal that was aesthetically attractive, cost competitive and had schedule advantages to us as well.”
The DSWMC dome offers all the advantages of circular domes, but accommodates a non-circular arrangement. The Qatar Freedome is rectangular in shape and sits on a concrete perimeter that varies in elevation. Almost 20 m tall above its support wall, it is clad in 3,384 panels of painted steel covering 1,923 sq m of green waste storage and various sorting and shredding machinery.
According to the Qatar Green Building Council’s Solid Waste Interest Group, the DSWMC composting facility is the largest composting plant in the world, and Geometrica’s unique structural system of creating long-span structures offered the ideal cover for its waste treatment facilities. Today, the DSWMC is capable of treating up to 2,300 tonnes of domestic solid waste per day, and incinerates approximately 1,000 tonnes of other waste.
Industrial Freedomes can be built in any geography or weather conditions. From corrosive saline water to hurricane-force winds, Geometrica domes are designed and prefabricated to withstand harsh weather and difficult terrain. Flexible design, ease of construction and budget-wise aspects have bolstered the popularity of long-span structures globally, Saxton says.
Geometrica has designed, manufactured and installed domes and space-frame structures since 1992. The company has developed unique technology to build stunning long-span structures for architectural and industrial buildings and has delivered domes and space-frames in more than 25 countries.