Yurts: The Ultimate Low-Impact Housing

Interior of a yurt homePacific Yurts has seen international sales double in the past several years. Image: Pacific Yurts, Cottage Grove, OR

If you’re a well-rounded individual, you might be attracted to the idea of living in a yurt — those charming little cupcake-shaped dwellings made of sticks and canvas that have been much in vogue on the steppes of Mongolia for the last several thousand years.

If you’re a well-rounded individual, you might be attracted to the idea of living in a yurt — those charming little cupcake-shaped dwellings made of sticks and canvas that have been much in vogue on the steppes of Mongolia for the last several thousand years.

Actually, yurts are increasingly popular in North America, too, where they are prized for their easy-to-build, go-anywhere adaptability. In fact, yurts make perfect getaway cabins and backyard retreats — check out our slideshow, “Extreme Homes: This is Yurt Life,” to see a potpourri of cool yurts.

“Yurt sales are increasing,” says Alan Bair, owner of Pacific Yurts in Cottage Grove, Ore. One of the oldest yurt manufacturers in the U.S., Pacific Yurts has seen international sales double in the past several years.

“In particular, it’s due to an increased interest in eco-resorts and low-impact camping,” says Bair, who has sold more than 200 yurts to the state of Oregon as rentable accommodations in its many state parks and recreational areas.

Yurts are widely available as kits, making them good DIY projects. Most kits contain walls, structural members, rafters, windows and doors, and weatherproof coverings, and cost is relatively modest: You’ll spend $5,000 to $6,000 for a 16-foot-diameter yurt. Note, however, that flooring and other niceties, such as plumbing and electricity, are not part of the basic yurt gestalt.

Would you consider a yurt? How would you use it?