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


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.


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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