Often called nature’s insulation, straw-bale building materials have been proven to increase energy efficiency. This super-insulation both reduces heating costs significantly – by up to 70 percent – and cuts greenhouse gas emissions. Given the brutally cold winters, lack of wood products in many parts of Mongolia, and the abundance of locally available straw that is seen as a waste product, straw as a building material seems ideally suited for Mongolia. And, considering that the country’s capital, Ulanbaatar, the world’s coldest city (annual average temperature is -2ºC), has a rapidly growing population, straw bale housing presents a number of other advantages, like improved living conditions and cleaner air quality.
Over the past 13 years, development of the straw bale building industry in Mongolia has been supported by US$7.39 million, though financing by the GEF and co-financing by partners including the Government of Norway, GTZ, and others. The first phase of the project began in 1997 with the introduction of modern, energy-efficient straw-bale building materials and technologies into the public and private sectors. Now in it’s fourth phase, the “Energy Efficiency in New Construction in the Formal Buildings Sector in Mongolia,” or project BEEP, will apply new efforts to expand the already growing straw bale building sector and identify the building code barriers, improve training programs, and facilitate access to energy efficiency financing to allow a full-scale transformation and commercialization of straw bale building technologies.
Conditions now exist for sustainable market development, and the goal is to retro-fit or build 1200 gers (yurts) annually. Currently 440 gers are built per year, which ranks Mongolia as the leader in the number of straw bale buildings in the world.