A yurt of sticks and mud

2011 has been a year of yurts, w/two opportunities to try out this simple design of sticks and mud — a more permanent adaptation of the traditional, portable, Mongolian design. One was for a friend and neighbor. The other was a workshop at Aprovecho Institute, as part of their sustainable shelter building series. Lots of people helped! Both were made with locally harvested bamboo and fir poles (arranged reciprocally to make a self-supporting, conical roof w/a central skylight, which I’m still trying to figure out how to cover cheaply…) Here’s a little picture book about the whole process.

About Kiko Denzer

I live in western Oregon with my family and run Hand Print Press with help from friends Max and Eva. We are interested in restoring the arts of living to their rightful, traditional, public role, as cultural medium – and think the web is a poor substitute, but until we can fashion something better, we try to make the most of it.

11 Responses to A yurt of sticks and mud

  1. Angela Jones says:

    I think I would use a large pole or post, about the size of a telephone pole (without the chemical) planted about 6′ in the ground, then attach the roof sticks around it. I believe that would make a more stable and stronger roof.

    • Kiko Denzer says:

      Ya, this would work, but then you have a pole in the middle of a (small) building. The traditional yurt design that uses a central compression ring to arrange and contain the rafters allows for a wonderful combination of strength, practicality, and beauty.

  2. Ray Woods says:

    Dear Kiko,

    We are totally in love with your cob yurt project!! we have a self-sustainable organic farm in the tropical rainforest of Costa Rica. We would love if you come and teach us a class on how to build cob yurt houses…. please email us at: unitedrawdom@yahoo.de


    Ray and Fita

  3. Linda Ryan says:

    We have many feet of snow per year how strong is this construction?

    • Kiko Denzer says:

      Hi, Linda, No snow load tests yet! The whole thing is still in “development,” as they say. You might be able to find useful information on load capacities through a (thorough) web search, but really, everything will depend on you and how you build: what materials you choose, how (and where) you build, and how carefully you do the work, etc. Theoretically, at least, the yurt is a strong design (think how much snow they must get in Mongolia!)

      About the reciprocal roof, however, keep in mind that roof failure can happen w/nothing more than the loss of a single attachment between two rafters. Since each rafter supports all the others, the loss of one connection can easily cause catastrophe. That’s why I’m revising this part of the design — but I won’t have more documentation until next year. If you’re interested, I’d look at traditional and other yurts and look at the design of their compression rings at the top center of the roof — the woodwork is complex for a reason. But I am hoping to come up with some simpler, easier techniques. Stay tuned!

  4. Pingback: Circling the Yurt | aprovechonaturalbuilders

  5. Ann Sayre Wiesman says:

    Great idea. instant guestroom for in-laws and out-laws.

  6. Ron McClung says:

    Though you’ve already done the rather resourceful plastic water bottle, why not merely do a cupola?
    Double- or triple-glazed 360 degrees would admit massive amounts of light while keeping the rain out & BTU in.
    You could open top level windows to vent excess heat – if you build screens into it.
    Only the framing would block “view”.
    Paper-crete that puppy to insulate it, then see how little winter heat is needed.
    I’ve yet to read anything that says what you use to prevent some of these creations from becoming huge anthills. Any thoughts there?
    Living in north Florida means far too much sand (ants) and buy clay to do cob.
    Will cat litter or Floor-Dry work for small projects?
    Keep pushing the envelope.
    Cmdr. Ron

  7. Bob Theis says:

    Nice adaptation of yurt construction, Kiko.
    Regarding a cheap skylight: how about the huge translucent plastic salad bowls they use in cafeterias? Not sure if it will withstand UV, but worth a try.

  8. Trey Jackson says:

    Neat!!!! Note: the link to the picture book isn’t a clickable link.

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