One of the great benefits of the yurt design is the open room concept. The lack of walls means that air moves freely. Combined with the round yurt structure, this means that a greater efficiency in both air movement and its contingent heating efficiency result. However, modesty demands that we build our homes with a private bathroom. Even in a yurt, this means walls, and a barrier to smooth air flow. Similarly, many of us want closets and wardrobes, whether they are built as standalone units or integrated into the bed enclosure. Again, the natural flow in the yurt is interrupted by such barriers.
In our yurt, we built a six by eight foot bathroom, but left the ceiling area open. While the walls do provide impediment to air movement, the open ceiling concept means that warm, moist air is able to move out of the enclosure, and reduce heat and vapour pooling. By combining our closet space into the rear, outer edge of the bathroom, we were able to reduce the number of structural breaks.
Still, these barriers created condensation problems within the yurt. In the late fall, cooler outside air and a lack of air movement in the corner areas where wall met outside wall, a severe moisture problem resulted, with development of mould. We solved that issue by implementing several strategies.
First, we installed small 12 volt fans in these vulnerable portions of the yurt. The fans were salvaged from desktop computers, yet are sufficiently powerful to move the air away from these stagnant areas.
Next, we doubled up on the insulation factor where floor, outside wall and inside wall met, installing a one inch thick segment of polystyrene rigid insulation, extending six inches above and below the floor level.
The third change that we implemented was to install two fans along the top plates of the bathroom and closet, forcing air to move from floor to ceiling.
By moving our furniture and small items away from the outside wall, we increased air flow.
Lastly, we bored two inch holes at the base of the wall, allowing the air to move freely between the main yurt floor space and the bathroom and closet.
It is imperative, if you are choosing to build a yurt for efficiency, that you consider what makes the yurt an efficient design. Vertical air movement, allowing hot air to rise in the summer and vent at the apex of the dome, as well as moving it downward with small fans in the winter, is a significant feature of the yurt design. It is more imperative, though, that you reduce barriers to air flow in dead spaces and “corners” of the yurt. Simple layout alternatives provide this free flow of air. Where possible, consider moving walls a few inches from the outside, and tie them together in a free-standing box system, so that there is a space along the entire height of the exterior yurt wall, keeping air flowing freely. Ensure that insulation is installed properly and evenly, with no cold spots to encourage dead air and condensation.
Built properly, the yurt design is a marvellous system. Done carelessly, and it loses its structural integrity and natural efficiency.