1. Introduction to Flat Pack Yurt
I built a 5 metre diameter yurt on a slope in my garden using as many recycled and up-cycled materials as possible. I now have an extra room for visitors, an art studio and a meditation space. My yurt features solar powered self-heating walls, a central fireplace that will warm the yurt to 35° Celsius plus even in the winter, with hardly any wood, generous under-storage and all sorts of features. The yurt cost me about £800 in 2019. Find out here how I made it.
My partner Sarah and I had taken a couple of breaks in yurts and really enjoyed them. I loved that they were round and warm and cosy and that you could take them down and move them if you needed to. During one break we had the opportunity to put one up and I discovered for myself this clever structure, the strength of which derives from the rope (or other tensioning device) around the top of the uprights, stopping the weight of the roof from collapsing the structure.
As you know I love making stuff and over time I visualised what it would take to build a very simple version of this structure. There was a bit of room in the orchard and although it was on a slope I set out to build one on an integrated platform with a central fireplace. Although I used cheap fencing wood for structure, I set out to integrate upcycled or recycled materials for cladding and other found or free elements as I could. I feel slightly guilty at using so many fossil-fuel derived, plastic materials in this construction but hope I have offset this slightly by recycling stuff.
Making the plinth for the yurt
Mongolian yurts have a classical layout and are zoned to maximise family-living efficiency. I wanted something more flexible, and winter warmth was a strong element in my criteria. I wanted an off-grid haven with light and heat should we lose connection to the national grids in the chaos of climate breakdown. I had some fanciful notions of a physical diary integrated into the structure that resolved into 12 sections, like our months and like our astrological sign systems. It turned out to be a good decision structurally as well.
With the fire at the centre of the yurt, I wanted to take the opportunity to reclaim heat from a woodstove by sending the smoke out of the back of the stove into a secondary burn chamber. I had an old cement mixer, which I intended to place upside down in a hole at the centre of the structure and take the remaining smoke down (minus the reclaimed heat) and underneath the yurt to vent outside. So the starting place for building this yurt was the chimney vent / plinth, on which the 12 floor beams would rest. I made this from some blocks and engineering bricks lying around in the garden, joined with home made fire cement.
Fire cement recipe: 3 x river sand and gravel / grog, 2 x sand, 1/2 lime and 2 x Portland cement plus water.
Page 9: The doorway