A two story yurt makes for a unique sustainable home. Image: Colorado Yurt Company

It seems that yurts are popping up everywhere – campgrounds, spas, vacation homes, guest quarters, even a home office.  And why not, yurts are low impact and comfortable.

Traditional yurts, called a Mongolian Felt Tent or Ger, are designed to be portable, carried by a single pack animal, and set up again in under an hour.  The term “yurt” is a derivative of a Russian term and is widely used in western culture but Mongolians use their native term “ger” exclusively.

American yurts are modern adaptations of the ancient Mongolian technology and most use modern high-tech materials such as vinyl, polyester, Plexiglas, and other manmade materials.  Some American yurt companies offer customization of all kinds including French doors, skylights, heavy-duty windows and roofs, and even hot tubs. They can range in price from $3,500 to $25,000 and be as large a typical apartment unit.

Somehow, this modern yurts do not seem to embody sustainable and low impact living.  An alternative to modern American yurts is being offered by a company called Vishai (www.vishai.com) that imports authentic handmade Mongolian yurts made without the use of power tools and with the use of 100% sustainable materials.  The yurts are complete with carved wood doors, and oiled yak wool felt, canvas, leather ties, and horse or camel hair ropes.

Vishai practices fair-trade commerce and purchases support traditional nomadic Mongolian families through direct economic compensation and through the funding of a foundation devoted to legal protection and education of traditional nomads.

When considering purchasing a yurt it is important to consider your priorities.  If you desire low-impact living but with the modern conveniences including skylights and running water then a modern American –style yurt is probably better suited for you than the rustic traditional Mongolian yurt.  However, if sustainable and naturally organic products are a higher priority than the traditional Mongoloian felt yurt is probably for you.

Regardless of which style is best for you, it is important to ensure that the yurt is compatible with local building codes and the local climate.

Image:  Colorado Yurt Company