Yurt now a realistic alternative

CALLY MARTIN AND ALASTAIR PAULIN
Last updated 13:00 16/01/2014
Hilary Pedersen
MARION VAN DIJK/Fairfax NZ

PERSONAL FLAIR: The interior of Hilary Pedersen's yurt.

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A new approach to affordable housing has come to Mapua via Mongolia, with a new yurt design having gained building consent.

The yurt, owned by freelance journalist Hilary Pedersen, is about to be given full consent by the Tasman District Council as a second dwelling on a rural property.

It is the first yurt design in the district to have been given building consent and one of a handful in New Zealand.

A yurt is a traditional home used by nomadic cultures in Central Asia, with the ones being built in New Zealand expected to last around 15 years.

Mrs Pedersen's yurt is made with a wooden frame, a polyester lining, has wool insulating the walls and ceiling and the roof is kept watertight with a PVC canvas.

Her yurt is 40 square metres, and comes complete with a small fireplace and mod-cons such as internet and Sky TV.

The project in total cost around $40,000, with the yurt itself being in the ballpark of $35,000.

Tasman District Council spokesman Chris Choat said past instances where yurts were classified as illegal dwellings have been due to lack of consent and zoning issues.

He said the reason this yurt had been allowed as a second dwelling on an urban rural site where others had not was because all the correct planning and building consents were applied for.

Mr Choat said "the fact that it was a yurt is not the issue", and that zones where dwellings were planned needed to be taken into consideration.

Council environment and planning manager Dennis Bush-King said the council had nothing against the construction of yurts, they just need to be built to code.

"If people choose to use that kind of construction, then that's fine by us," he said.

Mrs Pedersen said the relative cost-effectiveness of building a yurt could possibly be the solution to soaring house prices, and ease the demand for houses.

"I would like the yurt to be regarded as a credible form of dwelling, and if I can help that happen in a public sort of way then I'm happy to."

Mrs Pedersen, who learned to love yurts through frequent travels to Mongolia, said she was drawn to the spirituality that came with living in one. As a new permanent resident of a yurt, Mrs Pedersen treats her time in her new home as "an adventure".

She said getting to the point nearing the final tick of approval for the Hoddy Rd yurt was a "learning curve" for her, the builders and the council.

One of the main conditions for being granted consent was that Mrs Pedersen has to be living in it.

Another issue for the council was the visibility of the dwelling, so its natural colour is something Mrs Pedersen jokes makes it hard to tell apart from a dark green water tank.

She did manage to inject her own personal flair on the outside by making the window panels purple.

The yurt's designer and builder, Rowan Boot of Origin Tents in Motueka, said that having been through the process to gain consent meant he had a lot of expert backing behind his product.

"We can stand behind it with more confidence because we have other people saying it will stand up structurally and that the fabrics and methods we are using are suitable for the New Zealand market."

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Origin Tents has been making yurts for several years, often as sleepouts, but the drive to gain consent for one as a permanent residential structure came from a client in Hastings. Their design for that yurt, their first to be given building consent by a local council, won an Award of Excellence from the Industrial Fabrics Association International last year, which cited the fact that the design met New Zealand's high thermal efficiency standards.

He said the process of gaining consent was not easy, and it quickly became clear they would have to work with engineers and an architect in order to satisfy the council that their yurts were structurally sound. The process took several months and overall, he found the staff of the Tasman District Council "cooperative and encouraging".

Consentable yurts cost about $1000 per square metre compared to at least double that for new home construction, he said.

He liked yurts because they are "a light and airy structure and they are full of really attractive timbers and they are well ventilated. They are always full of fresh air."

Mr Boot's partner Monique Patterson said they were popular with people who wanted their dwelling to "touch lightly on the Earth".

- The Nelson Mail

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