Yurts revisited: Erin Everett answers readers' questions and revisits the subject she wrote about in 2004 just in time for 2009's economy.

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Q: "I just finished reading your (not so new!) article in NLJ about living in a yurt. My husband and I would like to live on land we already have, but we don't have the money to build right now and don't want to get involved with life-long debt. I was wondering if you had to get a building permit, or how you described your house to law enforcement. I think even if I described the yurt as a temporary structure, they may argue if we were planning to live in it for a number of years!"--Erin

Q: "I had planned to purchase a couple acres of land and build an earth-sheltered house. However, I would need temporary shelter while building. I understand that a yurt (or a tent) doesn't meet inspection and is classified as temporary housing. How long can you stay in a temporary house on your own land and what are the legal ramifications and boundaries of this?"--Jon

A: Well, Erin and Jon, this appears to be the million-dollar question, as I've received many similar emails over the years. My impression from experience and the techno-talk from our local permitting department leads me to the conclusion that if architecture and building codes were a family, yurts would be the red-headed stepchild, the black sheep, the branch of the family tree that nobody talks about and everyone tries to pretend isn't there.

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Acclaimed as an "architectural wonder" by Architectural Digest for its sturdy performance thin layers of lathe and canvas, a yurt is a study in the timeless success of simple, ingenious design, A comeback makes well-rounded dollars and sense in this stressful economy. I'll discuss a few pros and cons before I get into the permitting issues.

Yurts rate five stars for economical sense, ease Of building, portability, aesthetic beauty, and keeping inhabitants connected to the nature around them. My husband and I bought our used 310-square foot yurt in 1998 for $3,000. You can bring home a brand new yurt or yurt-like structure for anywhere between $2,100 (Red Sky Shelters' "yome," here in Asheville, NC; http://redskyshelters.com) and $9,500 and up (Pacific Yurts' spacious 30-foot diameter model with options like a rainwater catchment system or French doors; www.yurts.com).

But if you're working a professional job with professional hours and stress, yurts rate one star or worse for comfortable temperature (zero R-value means...

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