ПАССИВ ГЭР - Why Not?
In a time where crises feel as though they are constantly bombarding us, ensuing an anxiety induced world of mistrust and heightened aggression, I was fortunate enough to experience a less recognized side of human nature - the good side. Blessed by a year of excitement in Mongolia, my time was filled with a slew of adventures that lead me to build my second energy efficient home - the Passive Ger.
The pilot is an evolved version of a traditional vernacular housing typology - the Mongolian Ger. The design takes into consideration a year’s worth of research; incorporating an assessment of the various air pollution reduction initiatives undertaken in the past and present, as well as personally living in the Ger Areas of Ulaanbaatar in winter for a few weeks and months worth of insights collection, design development, fundraising, and team building.
The prototype is a hybrid between the traditional housing typology, modern construction methods and housing amenities. The design has an increase areas of 52 Meters^2 with a Ger diameter of 6.5 meters. The render bellow illustrates a more spacious home, allowing for storage and a flexible division of rooms for privacy and functionality depending on the occupant’s preferences; including a living room, bedroom, bathroom, and loft space above the kitchen. Two triple glazed windows are incorporated into the design; including a large south facing window and square window in the Toono (the oculus at the center of the Ger) which allows for more light, passive ventilation, and passive solar heat gain.
The energy consumption of the Passive Ger is approximately 9 times more energy efficient than a traditional Mongolian Ger, requiring an estimated 83 kWH/M^2 of heating energy per year. The low energy requirements of the Passive Ger allow for the use of an electrical heating system - which will provide the family with greater savings on their expenses related to energy consumption over time. As a result, the Passive Ger will no longer produce air pollution as an individual housing unit. A huge improvement in comparison to the average 6 tons of coal that families currently burn living in a traditional 5 Khana Mongolian Ger throughout the heating season in Ulaanbaatar - currently making up approximately 30% of the city’s housing.
These energy consumption reductions are due to the strategic application of building materials. The building envelope properly manages energy and moisture flows in the assembly, applying the appropriate air and vapor barriers, 4 thick layers of MongolBasalt stone wool insulation, and a PVC exterior membrane acting as a weather barrier. The approach relieves families from the demanding and strenuous seasonal maintenance of a traditional Mongolian Ger - where families normally take apart the enclosure of the Ger in the Spring and the Fall to air out the felt due to water damage, often needing to purchase and replace new materials for the wall and roof assembly. Furthermore because the structure is permanent - this enables the instillation of a certified plumbing system that can work with the water well system of the Ger Areas. As a result the pilot project was able to address the air, water, and soil pollution challenges facing Ulaanbaatar.
While I’m happy to say today that the project is under construction and fully funded, the true value of the experience comes less from the completion of the pilot - but more importantly from the people I met along the way. Arriving to Mongolia I had only a single contact at GerHub and my host institution at the Institute of Engineering and Technology. I was steadily greeted by a body of strangers full of beautiful contradictions and unexpected anomalies, and over time enough people appreciated my earnestness and youthful enthusiasm that eventually lead us to building a Passive Ger together. The project grew out of conversations and collaboration with:
Mongolian Urban planners and psychology majors taking risks and developing energy efficient products for Gers because they believed in comparison to popular belief that this is the right thing to do
A Mongolian University seeking to expand their student’s minds and allow for new curriculum outside of their traditional pedagogy
A Mongolian Garage door maker who recited the words of Abraham Lincoln to me, “We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.” A mantra he chanted to himself as he fought for a better future for his country that he loved.
Mongolian business men and energy experts in Mongolia’s coal industry, guiding me towards other allies in green energy initiatives and potential partners
Previous Mongolian government policy makers and architects leading me to established programs to support green energy pilot projects with the Mongolian Green Finance Corporation
A Mongolian materials engineer turned architect, who grew up in the Ger Areas and sees truly engineered and energy efficient architecture as the way to solve Ger District issues
A company with the faith to let me roam to the farthest ends of the earth in order to let me discover what they already new was there
Mongolian strangers who aloud me into their homes and ask them personal questions about their financial situation, their health issues, their living aspirations and so much more
My time in Mongolia was proof that we live in a world filled with people who do not limit themselves by their backgrounds or education to take on a world of challenges and subjects that are not yet understood. We did not solve every problem in this project but something meaningful was accomplished. We missed our low-income cost mark, of approximately 780,800 MNT per M^2, but we also know we planted a seed around an idea that created a collective conscience and that this design is one of many to come. We know we are not yet finished and are hopeful that the construction of long term pipelines for future project iterations and long term investors will in time reverberate the same benefits for other families.
I recognize the risks of speaking this way in an era of resource competition, dizzying skepticism, and mistrust - but I also recognize it is a rare honor in this life to be greeted by such kindness and generosity. My contention, however, is that we have no other choice. With the UN’s recent report that reveals we have 12 years left to change our ways, it is important to engage in scientific inquiry and evolve beyond global climate change. Because perhaps more than any other time in our recent history, we need a new kind of approach to the way we build our homes just as well as in the ways we relate to each other. One that can excavate and build upon shared understandings that pull us together. I offer not a unifying theory but hopefully something more modest; personal reflections that reveal the existence of a common good - which are all too often forgotten and misunderstood.
See Passive Ger Drawing Set Bellow: