Center for Environmental Building & Design

Interview on Bloomberg TV Mongolia

Design Recommendations for Mongolian Ger - Bloomberg TV Interview

Ger Hub promotional campaign

Since the 1990s, the population of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia has nearly tripled. Unfortunately, due to a lack of conventional housing infrastructure in the city center, many new arrivals to Ulaanbaatar live in ger (also called “yurt” in Russian, lightweight, easy-to-assemble, tent-like dwellings traditionally used by nomads living a pastoral lifestyle) as permanent, fixed-location homes.

The informal, peri-urban ger districts surrounding the city are estimated to house about 60% of its residents. Unfortunately, this increase in population, coupled with these new settlement patterns, has contributed to a dramatic rise in air pollution.

As a result, Ulaanbaatar is listed as one of the top five cities in the world with the worst air quality. In 2009 it was estimated that 10% of the total deaths in Ulaanbaatar are attributable to poor outdoor air quality1, and in 2016 it was estimated that roughly 3,300 Mongolian people (or about 0.1% of the country’s total population) died from diseases attributable to poor indoor and outdoor air quality2. Pollutants comprised of ultrafine particulate matter (PM 2.5) is one of the primary concerns in Ulaanbaatar.

It has been estimated that burning solid fuels (e.g., coal, wood, trash, etc.) for domestic heating in ger districts accounts for 60% of the total PM 2.5 generation in Ulaanbaatar. Thus, reducing the PM 2.5 produced by ger households is acknowledged as a critical first step in addressing the pollution crisis in Ulaanbaatar.

Since 2017, the Center for Environmental Building and Design (CEBD) at the Stuart Weitzman School of Design at University of Pennsylvania has been studying and monitoring ger households in cooperation with Gerhub, UNICEF Mongolia, the Building Energy Efficiency Center (BEEC) at the Mongolian University of Science and Technology (MUST), and others.

Based on this research, it was concluded that the combination of thermally inefficient ger enclosures and the primary reliance on combustion for heating during the winter season were the main causes of the high indoor and outdoor PM 2.5 concentrations.