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Yurts are beautiful, charming, quirky, easy to build, portable, and cheap.

I bought a 30' yurt from Pacific Yurts. It includes the insulation kit.

Can I use it as a dwelling?

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What defines 'yurt' for you? Is it the shape, the materials, or the combination of the two? I could see conical buildings being called "yurts" passing inspection... – Alex Feinman May 22 '12 at 18:03
@AlexFeinman: I'll clarify. – Jay Bazuzi May 22 '12 at 19:36

Probably not, but obviously it depends on where you are.

The main concern is insulation. It's difficult to get enough insulation on a yurt to satisfy most building codes. My yurt came with an insulation layer of foil-faced bubble wrap. It makes a difference, but it's no where near what you find in a modern house.

Consider that in much of the USA, exterior walls are framed with 2x6s, allowing 5.5" of fiberglass. A yurt doesn't have deep stud bays for insulation. You could add them, but then you'd be very close to building a house. However, if your local building codes don't require much insulation, then you may be able to get by.

In my part of the world (Washington State, USA), you're allowed to put up a yurt for up to 6 months without a permit. No heating or plumbing.

Another possibility to consider is a non-dwelling yurt, for example as an outbuilding. In my jurisdiction a non-dwelling yurt can be permitted, as long as there is no heating, no plumbing, and you can provide engineering documentation to the building department. We're in an earthquake zone.

My yurt manufacturer (Pacific Yurts) provided this documentation (it's 80 pages long!) but it depends on having a few upgrades to the yurt structure, called the "snow and wind kit". This basically adds studs (2x4s, roughly 22" O.C.) around the perimeter of the yurt, with metal brackets providing a continuous load path from the floor to the compression ring at the top of the yurt. Screws through the lattice wall in to the studs protect against racking. It also includes a pair of wires that tie the rafters together more securely. Finally, you must add blocking between the studs, somewhat like a top plate in conventional construction.

Another option is to live somewhere else! We parked an RV next to our yurt. No permitting required for RV, and it provides all dwelling needs (kitchen, bathroom, etc.) while the yurt is an open space for daytime use.

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Was this supposed to be an answer or part of your question? – DA01 May 22 '12 at 17:21
"...provided this documentation..." in the second last paragraph. Should there be a link there? – Niall C. May 22 '12 at 17:24
@DA01: This is my attempt to use the new answer-your-own-question feature, so it is intended to be an answer. – Jay Bazuzi May 22 '12 at 19:35
@NiallC.: No, they sent it to me in email. – Jay Bazuzi May 22 '12 at 19:36
Ah! Gotcha. Kind of crazy that yurts need to meet earthquake regulations. Seems a big tent would be one of the safer things to be in when there's an earthquake. I do love the idea of a yurt + RV set up though. I wonder if you could circumvent the heating by building a small 'cabin' right next to it with a wood stove. Maybe an 8x8 shed just for housing the wood stove, then have a door that would open into the yurt. – DA01 May 22 '12 at 19:42

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