Sunday, January 27, 2013

Yurt And Platform Design

I haven't written about the upcoming chapter in my life, partly because so many of the details are uncertain. But big things are coming, so I thought I'd start to share what I know...

For the past year, we've been experimenting with integrating my weaving business into our newly forming spiritual community up in the mountains. Well, it has not been entirely successful. The amount of work that is required and the amount of focus that it takes has proven to be more than this fledgling community can handle.

It's not dramatic, but we've decided that I will create a new life for myself elsewhere. The good news is that it's giving me the chance to act on a dream I've had for years: to live off the grid in a yurt of my own design and construction.

There are many pieces of the puzzle that I need to fit together.

- Structural Integrity
- Ample Light
- Sacred Geometry
- Functional Space Use

Believe it or not, the image above was created using all free software. I used Google Sketchup for all of the modeling, and the free version of Indigo Renderer for the lighting analysis. (Yes, I have years of 3D graphics experience and yes, it helps, but I swear that anyone can learn to use these tools for free.)

In the lighting analysis, I was trying to determine whether a 7'6" roof ring would give me the amount of interior light that I want. I have intentionally modelled only two windows to see how much light is brought in by the roof ring. The answer is: lots!

Here's an overview of the platform with the yurt on it.

And here are the measurements for the yurt itself. I made this drawing to send to people who know more about yurt design than I do. I need to know whether the 12' roof timbers are sturdy enough for the job they'll be doing or whether they need to be heavier. And then, if they are heavier, will the walls be able to hold them up or do they need to be heavier, too?

And today I worked up a design sketch of a way to raise the center of the platform to make space for insulation and ensure that water won't run under the yurt. Here are some of the sketches that I sent off to the contractor who's helping me to build it...

One point of the raised center platform is to ensure that the floor of the yurt stays dry despite the fact that I'll be using the whole thing as a 30'x30' rain catchment system. My calculations show that I'll be able to reliably collect 10,000 gallons a year with this system, making a well unnecessary, even if I irrigate a small garden.

And, as a bonus I'll have 900 square feet of dry storage space underneath the platform.

This is a huge project with multiple concurrent design and construction phases. I'll definitely be sharing more as it comes together... The goal is to be living and working in it by early summer and to have it ready for rain by the time it comes this fall.

I *do* like a challenge.


Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity, of what material will your roof be made and how much do you think it will weigh?

I built a transportable yurt in 1999 that I use for short term camping during the summer months.

One of the things that I see from builders who are trying to re-engineer a design that is some 5000 years old is propensity to over-engineer the rafters. The idea with a yurt is distributed weight. You have many, many rafters so they can be smaller then you think. The only thing they are holding up is the roof ring and the roofing material.

Blossom Merz said...

Those are great questions!

I know that I want it to be three layers. The inner layer is thin white canvas to reflect light. The outer layer needs to be fireproof, waterproof, and slippery to shed snow. Between them is a layer of wool for insulation. I'm looking into getting a bale of wool blankets and stitching them together.

There is a company online that sells fireproof rubberized circular tarps, like the stuff you see on trucks. I'm also looking for suggestions from others who have done this.

I can't believe I hadn't considered calculating the weight of the various roof layers. Thanks!

Andrew Kieran said...


Guess whose college got a lend of an AVL?

Oh aye, just thought I'd drop in and mention that.

It's funny, it was offered to us and the technician (who knows industry, but not handlooms) said "naw, we've nae space" but then it arrived anyway and I went to look at it and I was like "that's an AVL" and he was like "whit's an AVL?" and I was like "Just like the poshest handloom to ever come out of the US"

Suffice to say, I'm chuffed and we're going to try putting it together next week. Happy days. And it even came with it's own creel. Happy days indeed

Blossom Merz said...

Andrew, that's awesome!

And if (when) you come up against problems getting it set up and adjusted, please feel free to drop a line. If you can send pics along with any questions, I can probably help you diagnose and solve them pretty quickly. These machines are tricky to regulate, but once they're going, there's nothing like them!

Have fun!