Building permits for yurts


Questions around the need to permit yurts (or not) have become more frequent in the last years. We have received feedback both from our own direct experiences and enquiries, and those of many customers who have interacted with various authorities around the country. There are many uncertainties and grey areas surrounding the construction, purpose and perceived permanence of yurts. Information here reflects our current knowledge and experiences but we do not profess to be experts or to guarantee accuracy. Before committing to purchasing, it would be wise to consult your local authority either directly or through an agent as to your proposed plans. The need for permits varies substantially depending on size, purpose, positioning, zoning, permanence, length of inhabitation etc. Also different authorities vary widely in their interpretation, application and enforcement of regulations, codes and consents.

We have had yurts permitted for full time dwellings in different areas of the country, which requires full compliance with the building code. For other purposes (sleep-out, studio, workshop, yoga space, glamping, Air BnB, tourist accommodation etc), the needs may be less but the process is the same. The format is that you are required to submit an 'Alternative Solutions' document that details all the aspects of the code: structure, durability, moisture control, light, ventilation, insulation etc, which will show how your yurt performs up to the performance criteria of the building code. We can provide supporting paperwork for almost all situations from temporary to permanent, studios to full-time dwellings, in any zoning with wind rating 'High' or below, and snow loading 1.5 Kpa or less (up to 400m anywhere country wide), but ultimately it will be up to you to ensure that you can meet your local authority requirements. We do have a charge for the paper work (see price list on yurt page), and you will have to either submit the application yourself or engage a local agent. We can provide examples of other previous applications.

We are confident that we can acheive building consent within the above parameters so long as you can gain resource consent to build. Should you for any reason fail to secure your permit and therefore not order a yurt there will be no charge for the documentation. During/after your yurt is constructed, it will need to be inspected to ensure compliance, as with any structure. this can sometimes be done by a regular council building inspector, but sometimes a council will require an engineer to certify that the yurt has been constructed up to the requirements of our PS1 and PS3 Producer statements. This can be a local engineer or an agent of the Engineering firm that produced our documentation. Most people choose to erect their yurt on a timber deck. When you order a yurt from us we will provide architectural plans for a simple deck that is built to code requirements, with all the cut lengths, angles, measurements and materials included. Many other flooring options have been employed, eg concrete pad, and we may be able to give some tips and experience.

Permanent residence seems to be deemed as occupation of longer than 60 days, although we hear time frames from 30 to 90 days from different authorities. Temporary or Removable structures only seem to have the stipulation that they have to be able to be moved, but no specifics of how often or how far. We have heard a square meterage of 30sqm (7m yurt 38.5sqm, 6m yurt 28.5sqm) quoted for being required to have a resource consent even for a temporary structure, but depending on zoning, proximity to boundaries etc. Some authorities have classified yurts as tents when constructed on the ground being that they are canvas clad, have no fixed braced frame, or fixed attachment to foundations and are held down with guy ropes.

Woodburners and other forms of heating are permit-able. We supply plans for a flue bracing system outside the yurt, and interior requirements are just the same as in any other structure. We will install a flue seal gasket in the roof, usually about 600mm from the wall that will enable enough clearance between the unit and the nearest combustible surface. Standard flue fittings and systems bring the flue through the roof. Regarding insulation there is a clause in the code H1 that if you are heating with renewable resources (eg wood) and not using grid electricity, coal etc, there is no specific insulation requirement. Otherwise permitted yurts will have to upgrade to our woolen insulation specs.

Most customers using yurts as a dwelling would also choose to build a separate services building.  You are allowed to build up to 10sqm without a resource consent (must be built up to code of course) which can easily house bathroom, toilet, laundry facilities, eliminating the need to have these within the yurt, however as soon as you include sanitary fixtures  the building will need to be permitted. Composting toilets can be used, eliminating the need for expensive septic systems. Kitchens can be built inside the yurt but will need to comply with standard code requirements (we can istall either a gasket for moisture extraction or place an opening window) Simple kitchens (motel style) may be able to be installed without the code conditions. Many people chose to make a 'bush kitchen' ie covered area outside the yurt eliminating the code requirements.

Having said all of the above, we have heard of people erecting yurts without consent for various purposes. The grey areas around size, length of habitation, purpose, etc do seem to mean different things to different authorities. Is it a glamping tent or a permanent structure? How they are perceived does appear open to a range of interpretation. If for instance if a yurt is pitched on a block of land away from neighbors, used occasionally to access the land, and of no concern to anyone, it is unlikely that it would be of interest. Councils are required to respond to complaints, which we have heard of, although often on inspection the authority has either turned its back or a blind eye so long as there are no other factors causing concern. We would always recommend approaching council to ascertain their requirements according to your plans. There is a format for retrospective permitting, called a Certificate Of Acceptance (COA) but this can be tricky for instance if a deck has beeen constructed. An engineer may be required to sign off any construction. Also, if we are building a full compliance yurt the materials we use need to be of a higher grade, which unless built to originally may not get past an inspection. 

Bottom line (or almost) is that if any permanent structure is over 10 m2 (all our yurts are) it should be consented no matter what the purpose. Long term habitation in any structure requires compliance with all aspects of the Code.

We always appreciate customers feedback and stories regarding authorities responses which enables us to pass on more information, clues and hopefully paperwork. If you have any personal experience to pass on as to how your application has been treated, and the paperwork that was needed, we are collecting as much info as possible to pass on to other yurt owners. Any applications become public information, but we always appreciate customers sending us their succesful completed application. Thanks!

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