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A yurt at the Palais des Nations to celebrate World Habitat Day

Published: 01 October 2012

A traditional yurt, provided by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Kazakhstan, was installed in the gardens of the Palais des Nations to mark World Habitat Day and other UNECE events and meetings to discuss sustainable housing.

The yurt, a traditional home for many people in Central Asia, was chosen as it represents the quintessential sustainable house:  energy efficient, made of recyclable and green materials, and with a close to zero ecological footprint.

Celebrations on World Habitat Day involved Geneva-based Ambassadors and UN high-level officials presenting and discussing examples of sustainable housing practices throughout the region. The gathering was accompanied by a video exhibit, entitled “Building the Future We Want”, displaying photos of sustainable buildings and green design from countries in the UNECE region. The exhibit was also linked with UNOG’s Strategic Heritage Plan to green the Palais des Nations.

On opening, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Director General of UNOG, stressed the achievements of the Palais des Nations: “Over the past 10 years, we have put in place a number of measures to cut the consumption of water by 40 per cent, carbon emissions by 34 per cent and the use of electricity by 20 per cent.  We aim to do even more through our Strategic Heritage Plan”. Sven Alaklaj, UNECE Executive Secretary, noted that “Sustainable housing can be simple, affordable and adequate. Building sustainably is not necessarily defined by luxurious architecture, expensive investment and unaffordable technology, and is more accessible than often thought. However, to make sustainable housing accessible to everyone, there is a need for collective action by international organizations, national governments, political leaders and experts.”

Projects presented included:

  • The United Nations Palais des Nations, which incorporates sustainable features, such as: air conditioning insured from water from Lake Geneva, energy-efficient lighting, solar panels for the production of hot sanitary water as well as  solar lamps;
  • The plus-energy Aspern IQ Technology Centre in Vienna, which produces more energy that it consumes;
  • The Green Lighthouse in Copenhagen, which is the first carbon-neutral public building in Denmark;
  • The High Line in New York City, a unique public park using green roof technologies which resulted from the concerted action of citizens to rehabilitate a urban neighbourhood;
  • The new symbol of Astana- Khan Shatyr Shopping and Entertainment Centre, resistant to both cold winters and hot summers through the use of energy-efficient technology, ensuring comfort under one vast tensile structure;
  • The recently built energy-efficient school in the city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan, from which energy savings are estimated to be around 40 % ;
  • The Pilke House in Rovaniemi, Finland, with its ecological wood construction.

The video exhibit, in addition to the examples above, featured sustainable design from 19 other countries, including hospitals, schools, research centres, housing and residential buildings. Some of the projects presented included:

  • The American Heart Institute in Nicosia, Cyprus, which received the EU’s Green Building Award 2011, for its role as a high performing, energy saving building;
  • The “Efficiency House Plus with Electric Mobility” in Berlin, which is more than just a single-family home; it is a micro power plant, resource depot, research project, platform for dialogue and, last but not least, a contribution to improving the quality of the built environment;
  • The Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research Administration in Negev Desert Highlands, Israel, which integrates a number of climatic response strategies, including internal thermal mass for heat storage and external thermal insulation to minimize heat loss;
  • The National Laboratory for Energy and Geology- Solar Building XXI in Lisbon, Portugal, is a building with low energy consumption, integrating solar and thermal renewable technologies and passive systems for heating and cooling.

The exhibition is a result of communication work of the Committee on Housing and Land Management, which has been working on assisting member States towards improving the sustainability of their housing sectors in the course of the last 65 years through the provision of policy guidance, advisory services and capacity building activities.

For further information please contact:

Gulnara Roll
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
Phone: +41 (0)22 9172257
E-mail: gulnara.roll@unece.org
Website: http://www.unece.org/hlm/welcome.html

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Information Unit

Palais des Nations, 

CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Tel.: +41 (0) 22 917 44 44

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