September 03, 2018

Designing a 21st Century Ger

In the Mongolian city of Ulaanbaatar, the cold climate and air pollution go hand in hand. The city is the coldest capital on earth, and its population relies largely on coal to survive the harsh winters.  
 
Compounding the problem is the city's rapid growth—a shortage of long-term housing means that a third of Ulaanbaatar's population, many who migrate from rural areas, make their homes in gers, traditional Mongolian dwellings whose domed shape and portability are uniquely suited to a nomadic lifestyle. Usually heated by coal stoves, gers can contain many of the toxins associated with pneumonia, bronchitis, and other illnesses. As a result, 42% of Mongolia's children suffer from pollution-related health effects and Ulaanbaatar is home to the most toxic air on earth. 
 
To help reduce the city's pollution and bring cleaner air to its residents, a UNICEF Innovation team including KieranTimberlake, Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, and others traveled to Ulaanbaatar to reimagine the traditional ger. By incorporating better insulation and healthier heating options, the team aims to maintain ger culture while also helping families save money and breathe easier.  
 
During the trip, which was recently featured in Forbes, the team built their own traditional ger and met with community members to better understand their wants and needs. The lessons learned from these experiences informed a series of prototypes currently in development that test different materials and technologies. The final prototypes will be evaluated in Ulaanbaatar in the winter of 2019.  
 
To learn more about the project and how you can help, click here.