Yurts are comfortable in so many environments and that’s a good thing for Hawaii dwellers. Heck, there are about ten general climate zones on Big Island alone. From shore to high altitudes, yurts make sustainable sense here. Hence, the popularity continues to grow in paradise.
The purpose of constructing a yurt may be for a home, office, store, workshop, rental, camp, or vacation lodge. The yurt design may include a loft, be surrounded by a large deck, or be a two-story structure. It can be permitted to satisfy building codes, or be off-grid and hidden.
Preparing the groundwork for a yurt is much like that of a conventional building. Yet yurt kits (custom or pre-fab), are sold without consideration of your building site. You may be honored a discussion with a helpful yurt salesman, but the responsibility is ultimately yours. Thankfully, yurt builders are kind to share instructional videos. These are helpful to determine your preparation budget, so check out the videos listed below.
After you determine your purpose and site, follow these steps to refine the process:
GROUNDWORK - Any trees? You may love the idea of your yurt in the middle of a forest, but there are many reason why you want some distance. Plan to clear enough to walk around your structure. You don’t want limbs falling, so I recommend at least topping the tall trees in close proximity. There are many ways to maintain privacy from nature with creative landscaping. Don’t forget your rain water catchment and gutter system need clearance too.
ARCHITECTURAL DRAWINGS OR PERSONAL RENDERING - Drawings with the architectural stamp are required from Hawaii Public Works for any buildings to be inspected and permitted. This is done by a professional draftsman and typically includes your foundation, plumbing and power. If off-the-grid is your goal, don’t hesitate to ask for a “non-permit” quote. Illustrated plans are imperative for good teamwork and labor ― even if it’s a crude sketch without the draftsman!
FOUNDATION - Post and pier is the preferred choice for Hawaii terrain. That applies to all altitudes and it’s ideal over lava. However, one can get creative ― not to mention luxurious. Remember, your yurt order does not typically include the floor. It is possible to erect it onto a concrete pad. Pour the cement circular, same diameter as the yurt. Attach a flexible bender board around the outside of the platform.
CEMENT OPTIONS - If your location is tropical-chilly or high altitude, you may wish to consider installing radiant tubing within a concrete slab. With paint and stain to artsy-inventive finishes, you can create a beautiful floor with concrete. (Maybe even hempcrete)? Another option is to build a ferrocement water catchment tank as your foundation under the yurt. Yeah, get inventive!
DECK + ENTRY - Back to the drawings ― figure out how to get in and out of your yurt, how many doors, and if rain cover and shade are needed. How easy will it be to open and close your windows? In some areas, you may wish to have your wall open and close instead.
SIP OPTION - That’s structural insulated panels over concrete footings and framing. This has become so popular with yurt kit manufacturers, most of them offer it as an add-on option for floors and decking. It makes the framing process much easier and faster. Shelter Designs Yurts of Montana explains how to use SIP platforms well. For SIP products without glue, see RAY-CORE panels. Find more SIP resources here.
Platform Construction, by Ron Trout the owner and designer of Light Feet Yurts
How to Make Hempcrete
Mixing Hempcrete in a Drum Mixer
SIP Platform Build Video, for 20-foot Mongolian ger
Delia is a Big Island yurt design consultant by request.