Ah, the sound of quiet serenity that seems to always accompany the sight of a yurt as they nest right into a natural setting. They also seem to be ‘popping up’ in many unexpected places. Maybe it’s part of the quest for nature after being plugged into a cell phone, computer, television, or in the car and office for too many hours in a week, but they seem to be popping up in unexpected places. A quiet retreat in a lovely setting–that is just what a yurt promises.
Yurts are traditional tents that were used by Mongolian nomads for centuries living on the grassland steppes of central Asia, and still are used by many on Asian plateaus. Their beauty and functionality invites one to be in rhythm with nature.
As more park campgrounds are opening for business–or working to draw visitors to existing ones–yurts are becoming a wonderful and economical choice for owners and managers. More and more people are becoming environmentally conscious and yurts are an attractive alternative to traditional cabins because they are usually built on decks with minimal environmental impact. They are warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
In the world of eco-tourism, yurts are a real draw. One could be used for additional living space for visiting family and friends, (a very attractive and viable option for many for just that purpose). Originally constructed around a wood frame covered with wool, modern yurts are made of wood, but covered with vinyl or a combination of polyester and cotton.
A standard yurt uses the following basic structure:
There are options that can be purchased with a yurt to increase the high wind and snow load capacity, as well as other amenities, such as ADA accessibility. These structures can be primitive or very upscale, depending on preference and its use.
There is a wide variety of companies out there providing the basic yurt. The differences between them include cost of shipping, use and availability of green building materials and company-provided installation. Another includes the unique histories of the businesses’ origins. All the yurt manufacturers contacted are in the western, northwest, and very northwest United States.
Pacific Yurts, located in Cottage Grove, Oregon, was established in 1978 by Alan Bair, president of Pacific Yurts. Beginning in an old Oregon dairy, it is the original manufacturer of the modern lattice wall yurt that is sold throughout the world today.
Aside from a quality product, the company has found success in maintaining a strong community commitment. During difficult economic times, Pacific Yurts provided jobs to people who were displaced from the timber industry. In addition to contributing financially to a variety of community causes, the company has a commitment to reverence for the environment and have created a product that helps people to feel closer to nature while disturbing it minimally. In addition, Bair has been a featured speaker at ecotourism conferences because of his commitment to the environment.
Pacific Yurts also has a reputation for responsible, environmentally-sound business practices. For example, small wood pieces are donated to crafters, and sawdust is donated to local gardeners for recycling and reusing.
Nomad Shelter Yurts
Jess and Lee Tenhoff’s first yurt was built in January 1987 after losing everything in a house fire the day of the birth of their first child in Fairbanks, Alaska. From that harrowing experience, they built their yurt the traditional way within a month, lashing poles to form the latticework in their yurt. The founders lived in Alaskan sub-artic maritime, central maritime and interior climates in their own family yurt.
Over time, they experimented with the yurt, and developed one which could withstand the harsh Alaska climate zones. Nomad Shelter has a test bed on the Bering Sea Coast where many of the yurt design challenges were addressed and solved. Their yurts come standard with climate protection features, which are optional with other yurts.
In speaking with Jess Tenhoff, she relayed Nomad Shelter Yurts is a family-run business–she does the fabric work, Lee builds the wooden framework, their son helps with set-up, and other family members help with the business. They also maintain nine rental yurts on trailheads accessible only by water in Alaska’s Kachemak Park. Their yurts are used primarily in expedition camps, as they are very rugged and durable.
Yurtworks offer a complete yurt package. Floors come already insulated, sheathed and framed. Walls are finished to the outside with the windows preinstalled. The cedar siding is stained and installed. The ceilings are finished to the outside and the inside. The roofing is also installed. The work left for the owner is to bolt these together, run shingle hips, then building is waterproof and ready for the interior finishing! Included in this package is the hardware that is necessary to complete the exterior application.
Having a wood-mill nearby reduces the cost of raw materials. The amount of factory construction completed, can save the owner time and labor.
Their knowledge and the availability of “green” building materials is above most builders’ common usage. Yurtworks do take and fill requests to build entirely green. This adds to the cost to the yurt, but is well worth it.
Based in Seattle, Washington, Rainier Industries is an international supplier of fabrics for shelters and displays. The origin of Rainier dates back to 1896 when they supplied fabric camping accessories and tents to hopeful prospectors heading to Alaska for the Klondike Gold Rush.
Jenny Pell and Will Hays began the company that originated the Rainier Yurt design: Nesting Bird Yurts. The goal was to improve on the design of yurts that were available in 1994. Pell and Hays’ primary concern was to use modern products that were environmentally safe for yurt owners and the craftsmen who made the components of the yurts.
Rainier purchased the assets of Nesting Bird and moved the operations to their Seattle facility in March 2004. The mutual philosophy of Nesting Bird and Rainier is to deliver the highest standards of beauty and quality. Rainier has established itself as the premier high-end yurt in the industry. Rainier also has developed a more economical Raven yurt to fill out their product line.
Originally known as Earthworks, Dan & Emma Kigar’s first shop was located along the Blue River south of Breckenridge, Colorado. From the beginnings in 1977, the Kigar’s have maintained their simple business philosophy that success comes from making a quality product and treating people right.
At Colorado Yurts, the Kigars also make tents. They also make tiipis which now bear the name Earthworks. Their products are internationally known.
Dan and Emma Kigar made their first yurt in 1983 and it is still in use on a mesa in southern Colorado.
The earth shelters are highly appropriate for environmentally sensitive areas, very adaptable to any need budget-wise, and are climate friendly. Depending on the owner’s construction capabilities, they can be even more cost effective.
The aesthetic value, the natural feel and low environmental impact of a yurt is priceless. It is time for such things to be in vogue, permanently. I can hardly wait!
Nomad Shelter Yurts
1285 Wallis St.
Eugene, Oregon 97402
18435 Olympic Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98188
28 W. South 4th Street
Montrose, Colorado 81402