50 energy-efficient homes planned for the world's second most polluted city
When asked to think of the most polluted cities in the world, one’s mind often darts straight to first tier cities in China or the well documented issues of areas such as Mexico City but according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the cities suffering from the greatest pollution are Ahvaz in Iran and Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia.
Ulaanbaatar’s problems stem from a clash between urban growth and the continual use of traditional practices as highlighted in a piece published by The Observer this past October in which Tania Branigan noted: “60-7-% of winter pollution comes from the old-fashioned stoves heating the circular felt tents or gers that sprawl across the slopes around the city.”
As temperatures plummet to -30°C, the residents of these gers burn wood, coal or rubbish to stay warm. The adverse effect of this traditional heating method is a thick cloud of smog that collects over the city, reducing visibility and contributing to a high percentage of medical conditions in Ulaanbaatar.
RW Allen, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University released a report in March 2013 which stated: “We conservatively estimated that 29% (95% CI, 12-43%) of cardiopulmonary deaths and 40% (95% CI, 17-56%) of lung cancer deaths in the city are attributable to outdoor air pollution. These deaths correspond to nearly 10% of the city’s total mortality, with estimates ranging to more than 13% of mortality under less conservative model assumptions.
“Air pollution represents a major threat to public health in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and reducing home heating emissions in traditional housing areas should be the primary focus of air pollution control efforts.”
Gradon Architecture (UK) has submitted design proposals that may provide a blueprint for future energy-efficient homes in the Ulaanbaatar area, addressing these issues head-on. Should the development be successful in reducing emission production, it could have a significant effect on the city if rolled out at a larger scale.
Located in the Nukht Valley area, the development includes 3- and 4-storey townhouses with photovoltaic panels, solar hot water heating and insulation that exceeds British Building Regulation standards. Should the plans receive approval by the Government Department of Construction and Planning, the project will begin work onsite this summer.
Chris Allan, associate architect at Gradon Architecture, details: “Many buildings in Ulaanbaatar date back to the Soviet era. This means that many people are living in poor quality accommodation, which lacks even basic polystyrene insulation as well as double glazing. In one of the coldest and heavily polluted cities in the world, this is having a real impact - especially on public health.
“We believe that designing modern, sustainable homes for the future can truly improve people’s lives. Therefore by raising the standards of energy-efficiency as part of this scheme, we hope to create a blueprint for the way both executive and affordable homes will be built in the city going forward.”