09 April 2018

PHOTO ESSAY: Innovation experts set to reinvent Mongolian Ger

Ulaanbaatar – home to half of Mongolia’s three million population
– has the most toxic air in the world during winter.

 The biggest source of air pollution comes from coal-burning stoves in the “ger
 district which makes up 60 percent of Ulaanbaatar’s population. “Ger” 
district consist of self-built detached houses and traditional
Mongolian gers, a round, felt nomadic dwelling.

 Air pollution has now reached critical levels, with city residents exposed to annual average 
concentrations of particulate matter (PM2.5) over a dozen times higher than WHO standards.

 Children are the most vulnerable to adverse health effects of air pollution from the day
they are conceived, including stillbirth, preterm birth, lower birth weight,
pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, and even death.

©UNICEFMongolia/2018/Mungunkhishig Batbaatar
 In addition, emerging evidence suggests that breathing in toxic air (PM2.5)
can damage brain tissue and undermine cognitive development in babies
and young children – leading to lifelong implications and setbacks.

  “Designing the 21st Century Ger” is a UNICEF’s initiative to reduce coal
consumption and improve indoor air quality for families living in gers.

 To kick start this initiative, UNICEF Mongolia, UNICEF’s Office of
Innovation, along with local implementing partner GerHub, organized
a five-day in-country, immersive workshop in March 2018.

Local and international experts from the fields of architecture, design,
education, material science, urban planning, building science, and international
development gathered to exchange knowledge and ideas for design
improvements that could upgrade ger performance.

 The group of experts traveled to the countryside
to understand rural ger dwellers.

 The group assembled a ger and experienced it overnight to
better understand what it takes to live in a ger.
 The participants also spoke with local vendors at the black market, Narantuul to learn
about imported and locally available materials used for ger construction.

 To understand urban ger dwellers, the experts went to a ger district in the outskirts of
 Ulaanbaatar and interviewed families.

 The participants learned about challenges related to ger thermal performance
and maintenance, including heat loss and indoor air pollution.

 The families also stressed out the importance of issues surrounding air pollution and monitoring,
knowledge sharing, health impacts, heating systems, ger design and living costs.

 One of the key findings was that there was quite a bit of household innovation
already taking place but there was minimal sharing of knowledge with others.

 The group spent a day in EcoTown, a ger area community center which tests out different
ger designs, to reflect their findings and thoughts from family interviews.

 Based on the findings and experience from the five-day mission,
UNICEF, GerHub, and experts group planned the way-forward
for the Ger Innovation Challenge.

 The expert groups will work on prototypes and community engagement initiatives
between May and October.

A larger group will return in October at the beginning of winter
for further research and to trial solutions…

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