The key difference between Mongolian and German buildings is neither design nor appearance, but heat loss. If our buildings are built with greater regard for required standards, they would lose three times less heat than the current average. Even if construction standards were nearly met, our buildings would still be losing twice as much as the average German building. We can cut our heating costs in half if we replace the roofs, windows, and doors of our old buildings. One report suggests that such maintenance reduces heating costs for 50 to 60-year-old schools, kindergartens, and brick buildings significantly, and has resulted in a 35 percent decrease in the number of days students were out sick.
THE COSTS OF COLD BUILDINGS
Since 2014, a project named “Energy Efficiency” has been implemented with aid from the German and Swiss governments. This project has improved heating in public buildings such as schools, kindergartens, and hospitals in some soums in Khovd and Zavkhan provinces. Approximately three billion MNT has been spent on retrofitting heating and water piping systems covering 10,000 square meters, including Kindergartens No. 3 and 5 in Jargalant soum of Khovd province; School No. 2, with a capacity for 920 students; a hospital for infectious diseases; a health center in Duut soum; and a kindergarten in Chandmani soum.
One of the outcomes of the project has been a decrease in the amount of heat energy required for one square meter, dropping the requirement from 550 kilowatts per hour to 120 kilowatts per hour. In other words, one fifth of the cost to construct a new building was spent on retrofitting work that extended the use of the buildings by 30 to 40 years.
A non-governmental organization called Chuluut Uul has published a report on their study of energy efficiency, comparing retrofitted buildings to those that have not seen any improvements. The report suggests that the improvements made to heating systems and heat retention made the learning environment nicer for students, reduced cases of infectious disease, improved parent and teacher satisfaction, helped household budgets, as less medication was purchased and students had fewer sick days. With the savings made available from improved heating efficiency at one kindergarten, new toys were bought and the quality of food served has been enhanced.
When Chuluut Uul NGO did a study of 348 state-owned kindergartens and schools in Ulaanbaatar in 2012, the average temperature in kindergarten rooms during winter was 15 degrees Celsius. The study also revealed that children were sleeping in rooms with mold on the ceilings exacerbated by cold temperatures. Although newer kindergarten buildings are warmer, the temperatures in rooms still fail to reach the standard, which is 22 to 250C. Children spend more time at kindergartens and schools than they do in their homes. Therefore, creating an environment that meets health and safety requirements is essential, and it keeps children from getting sick. ‘LOST’ BUILDINGS
Mongolians know well how much energy their cars expend. However, we are not as aware of how heating works in our offices, and homes, or in the schools and kindergartens of our children.
Examples of the work that was done in Khovd and Zavkhan provinces show us that reducing and eliminating heat loss in all of our buildings could bring about significant savings and positive change in our society. So, what is stopping us from checking the heating systems in our buildings, fixing what needs to be fixed, improving our energy efficiency, and seeing savings?
First of all, a database needs to be created, so that all buildings are registered with information on ownership, the building’s age, engineering design, infrastructure, heating, and its monthly utility and maintenance costs. Without such a database, it is impossible to make an effective investment in any building.
This has already started in Zavkhan Province, with information on 1,036 state-owned buildings in 24 soums already recorded in their database. We cannot ignore the “lost” buildings that have no registration or record in our system. Therefore, we must set up this database at the province and soum levels. If all cities, provinces, and soums have a database, we will have a great opportunity to make optimal investments that meet the needs of people, and to make mid and long-term plans more effectively.
The Energy Efficiency Project team has expressed their willingness to promote the database and energy efficiency projects to all city, province, and soum officials, and to provide support.
By decreasing heat loss in offices and homes, Mongolian people can contribute to reducing air pollution, creating a better environment, and fighting global warming. Given that it contributes to global visions for sustainable development, there are good opportunities to attract investment from abroad.
This project shows that we can register all buildings in one database, regardless of whether they are state-owned or private. Currently, only 200 entities account for 50 percent of our total energy expenditure, while they run deficits in energy use and make air pollution worse.
Mongolians say, “Keeping warm is worth 1,000 taels” (one tael is 37.3 grams of silver, nearly one ounce). We need to improve our energy efficiency and work hard to make it happen.