Hexayurt Construction

Hexayurt building went well – a 7/16″ Oriented Strand Board (OSB) structure with 4 inch wide, 32 gage galvanized flashing as the ‘tape’ to hold it together. Being familiar with standard construction methods, I had my doubts concerning the structural integrity of a tension srtucture. I have been converted after this project.

The opposing walls gave strength to each other and to the roof. Once all panels were in place they could support people walking on top. Using minimal resources we were able to construct a space of 166 sq feet in two full days – at a cost of $132 for panels and flashing- not considering paint, tar, screws, nails, and 2x4s used in the walls. We decided to go with six foot walls instead of eight, saving us three sheets of OSB and making the peak a more manageable ten foot height. The main concern was that the OSB would take on moisture over time, swell, rot, and lose its rigidity resulting in decreased life of the structure. Precautions were taken. Marcin, Rich and I site prepped the building site and materials in one day – with the LifeTrac tiller as the main workhorse. Site prep included leveling the building area by means of rototilling then pushing earth by hand and laying down and tamping fine gravel where the walls would sit to protect the OSB from wicking up moisture from the ground. The nature of compressed wood products is to take on moisture at the edges where pores are exposed. Thus, we used latex primer around the edges and roofing tar around the base of the lower panels prior to assembly. We cut all the pieces to size by day 1.

Day two started with the manufacture of the six walls. The full (4 by 8 foot) sheet and the half sheet (2 by 8) were joined length wise using a eight foot 2×4 laying flat with 30 degree end cuts. Like this /__8 foot__ . We prepunched holes in the 4 inch wide flashing so we can screw with ease. On top of each panel, we attached a shelf made from a 2×4 – so we could stand the roof panels on this easily. With the leading edge flashed we screwed each panel to the next quite quickly using our foundation as guide.

There were challenges – the roof was not that easy to put on – it required at least three people to position and support each roof triangle as it went up – and it took some messing around to line the roof panels up to meet at a single point. Next, time, we’ll build the roof on the ground – and then lift it into place with at least 4 people. This would be doable with 6 foot walls – but would be rather difficult with 8 foot walls – for anyone wishing to try this at home.

All in all, our experience was thoroughly fulfilling. We conclude that the Hexayurt is a remarkably materials efficient, cost-efficient, building-time efficient, and structurally-sound tension structure. This is a secret weapon for temporary housing – as we begin CEB construction. I suspect many more people could use it if they knew about it – other farms, villages, retreats, and other temporary housing situations – where you can literally bring the materials with you to an uninhabited place – and have ready shelter that will last about 10 years if appropriate rain protection measures are taken if you use OSB. Thumbs up to Vinay.


  1. Richard Schulte

    dont forget bob, it was a lot of fun too!

    nothing more rewarding than visiting friends and building something like this in one weekend.

    one could envisage a full on process for a refugee situation,

    1. Painting and tarring

    2. Measuring and cutting

    3. Wall and Roof panel construction

    4. Raise the walls, top it off

    with a team of 25 people you could probably build 10 of these a day, housing 200 people in a week, at a cost of $50 a person. this could be part of a 3 stage habitation process in global village construction… tent > hexayurt > CEB buildings. The hexayurts will remain as great 3 season temporary housing and for storage, barns, or any other kind of multipurpose usage.

    Factor E’ers, I suggest testing a similarly sized structure, except the stretch one, for testing purposes. This will make a nice temporary kitchen, given the oblong nature, which will serve as a great cooking and eating area. The heat from the stove should keep it warm well into november.

  2. […] Read the whole story here. Sep 29 2008 08:50 pm | Hexayurt | […]

  3. Vinay Gupta

    Skip tent. A tent is $150 to $250 per unit, and that’s enough to pay for a plywood / OSB / similar Hexayurt.

    I can’t tell you how much this rocks, and thank you so much for doing it!

  4. Lucas

    If people have tents already, they can be used and then packed away or moved somewhere else.

    Great job, people! We’ll have to wait to see the videos. If we chip-in do we get the videos sooner? 😉

  5. Sasha

    Yep, this looks great! But I would like to see more pictures! You should have a crew memeber only for taking pictures and writing the documentation 🙂
    I volunteer 🙂

    Another note, maybe ferrocement would be great for a hexayurt material? It would be a longlasting hexayurt! But less transportable.

  6. Richard

    i only said that because we were staying in tents as we were making it.

    there is lots of video. ask marcin! awaits! him and bob can both give you very detailed information for documentation.

    about the ferrocement, what would it take to build a buried hot water tank from this material? what is the projected life of such a tank?

  7. Richard

    hey, i’ve started the documentation page for the hexayurt. you can read it at

  8. Richard
  9. Sasha

    Hi Richard, honestly I don’t know the answer to your question. What I know is that ferrocement is an excellent choice for water tanks. There are experts on the net who could answer this. I’ll try to ask someone.

  10. Sasha

    Here is a book on FC tank building

  11. Percival

    I wonder if, for doing an 8′ tall wall structure in this manner, you might first build the roof, and then lift that onto a 4′ wall structure, and attached. This all then gets lifted onto the next 4′ structure and secured. This might make the building easier. For your design, it might be roof on 2′ structure, then that on the 4′ structure, to achieve the 6′ tall walls. On the other hand, it might be very heavy.

    Also, as a second assistance, you might want to build a (temporary) center-poll/tripod, with a platform at the top to hold the center of the roof pieces in place during construction.

  12. Richard

    awesome sasha, thanks for the help. good thing we can share information! i will finish the documentation for the hexaurt as time allows this weekend.

    it looks like a pit will need to be dug, then the tank built and buried. it will be worth it and it will be MUCH cheaper than buying a steel or bronze tank, and possibly healthier than plastic storage as far as fungal habitat is concerned…

    also, awesome treehugger forum post!

  13. […] Hexayurt can be made in plywood for $132 plus paint for a long-life, durable dwelling, or a rapid deployment unit using folding components […]

  14. Cathy

    I am impressed…and excited. This is exactly what we were looking for! And I think for many of my friends. We might just have to have a hexayurt party! I was wondering what did you use for your roof? I might have missed it. Did you use the OSB board? I am wanting to figure out how to put a safe hole in the roof for a pipe for a wood stove. Does anyone have an idea?

    I also have an idea for a solar shower hexayurt using the Polystyrofoam stuff. I figure since it is reflective could postion a black trash can above the yurt where all the sun would reflect onto it…to heat the water inside the trash can (or whatever you wanted to use) Because this building material is resistant to water problems it will work great for a shower room. Just a thought.

    Thanks for sharing what you have done!


  15. Marcin

    The roof is also OSB. A video is forthcoming with details, stay tuned.

  16. Phil Slade

    Using plywood panels will also give you the option of using the plywood kayak makers’ technique of stitching with wire, waterproofed with glassfibre strip and resin.

    some info here

  17. […] addition, we built one Hexayurt, received an insulated army tent on loan for a year, and published our initial CEB CSM business […]

  18. Percival

    Cathy You would need quite a bit of height for a solar shower to have a lot of pressure, and lifting a garbage-can worth of weight up the 30 or so feet to get good pressure might be a bit of a strain, but, if you use the 5-gallon, pre-made, solar shower bags, you can hoist as many of those as your structure’s weight will bear, and, it gives you the benefit, if you number them, that, using them in order, you can lower the empties and refill them, without having to interrupt the shower procession.

    You could also use some sort of pressurized bladder to simulate height.

    Be well,

  19. […] minor errata: the “third of the price of a tent” Hexayurt is the OSE-style plywood hexayurt, at around […]

  20. […] far, we’ve built a Hexayurt, two Hexacubes, and now we’re adding Hexahatch to our hexaform product line. Hexahatch is a […]

  21. Vipen Mahajan

    Amazing !.
    I am an ex-mechanical engineer from india. Who drifted into Information Technology and Management. I am semi-retired now, and have settled down in new Delhi. About 3 years back I dabbled with hydroponics and aquaponics, to investigate sustainable agriculture. I had never done ANY gardening nr even had an fish tank, or gold fish !
    Starting from seeds I was able to raise a few cherry tomato plants, about 25 kg of Indian carp fish (raised from spawn from a hatchery.

    I neede a more knowledgeable person for the both the plants and the fish. Ran out of time, and money for the project. But I DO KNOW THAT IT CAN BE DONE.

    I am now back to my domain, IT and management/change consulting, besides Alvin Toffler Third Wave, Future Shock and Revolutionary Wealth. I am working on an IT enabled KnowledgeMachine, where learning using eLearning, Social Networks, Moodle Learning Management system, and OLPC/Netbooks/Thin Clients and Amazon Cloud computing, to create “Learning Centers” for remote learning and continuous education.
    By the way I have been into pen Source, ERP (Compiere), since 1998. I do Yoga too. Cheaper than taking beta-blockers for maintaining my hyper tension.It works !
    My Son who continues to be in the USA, Boston,is dabbling with solar electric power generation, using concentrated heating, a Tesla turbine. He suggested that I revert back to my engineering roots.(I had made a steam engine and a Hot Air, Stirling engine in engineering. school).

    Your adventure is very inspiring.I would like to put the learning on the Knowledgemachine, and make this knowledge available to the world, especially the poor, of the land of Mahatama Gandhi, India.

    Are there any such initiatives afoot in India? Vinay?



    I would like to mentor and create such communities, using the Open Source designs,

  22. […] As usual, it has taken way longer than expected. I had to clean and make uniform the salvaged materials. My toolset is a bit funny. But mostly I agonize over every detail. These things can be built in a few days if you just follow instructions. […]

  23. […] it has taken way longer than expected. These things can be built in a few days if you just follow instructions. C’est la vie. The hexayurt now has provisional solid and screen doors. It still needs […]