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” districts 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.
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 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.