What is a Hexayurt?
A hexayurt is a new design for refugee shelters. The “hexayurt design pattern” simplifies geodesic dome geometry so that it can be built using standard 4′ x 8′ sheet goods of whatever kind are appropriate to the task at hand: hexacomb cardboard, plywood, foam. The design has been slightly tested in the real world and stands up very well.
Major Site Updates Pending
The Hexayurt project is now in High Gear.
Things really began to pick up when the Hexayurt was feature in Design Like You Give A Damn, a book on refugee housing by Architecture for Humanity.
Since then, the building has been selected to appear at Strong Angel III, which is a demonstration based around disaster response in an urban context.
If you would like to build a Hexayurt or a Stretch Hexayurt for yourself, we have some new plans:
Hexayurt Cutting Plans
Hexayurt Assembly Plans
Stretch Hexayurt Plans
Those doing steel conduit geodesic dome construction might find these plans for a steel frame hexayurt (top view) useful also. 30 poles, only six cuts, 20 feet across. More-or-less a plug in replacement for a 24′ dome.
By the way, please excuse the sorry state of this site. Although I’m (from time to time) a web development professional, I’ve never had the time to bring my own site up to scratch. I’d accept any offer of help organizing it and making the material more presentable. Everything is here but you have to dig a little.
The Hexayurt is now being manufactured by a company in Illinois. You can buy a commercially made prototype unit in any size including the 12′ version. We are still fine tuning materials, particularly seam tapes, but as of now production is live.
I was over there today and the new laminates look great. I’m very, very excited to be able to offer not just ideas and plans, but products. If you are interested in one, please send me an email at the address at the top of the page.
Google SketchUp Hexayurt Models
You can find various Google SketchUp models of the Hexayurt in the 2006 Hexayurt designs folder. Sorry there isn’t more organization! Particular of note is this SketchUp file which has models of all the hexayurts with full dimension information layed out using the “layers” menu so you can turn the dimensions off and on. Don’t forget the right-click “explode” option either if you want to edit each yurt individually.
Burning Man 2006 – How To Stay Cool On The Playa
This is a long email I sent out before Burning Man explaining the relevance and utility of reflective barriers, and the hexayurt, to Burners. Burning Man is an excellent test ground for these kinds of structures, particularly given the self-funding nature of most of the construction!
This email contains instructions on how to stay cool on the playa using some kinds of insulating materials you might not be aware of, plus detailed construction diagrams for some shelters you could build yourself in a few hours, These shelters are prototypes of a disaster relief building system and your help testing them on the Playa for yourself would be deeply appreciated.
There’s also a section on evaporative coolers, which are a very good option for playa air conditioning.
Seen a space blanket? Insulation companies now manufacture what are called “radiant barriers” which are industrial grade space blankets made for buildings. They block 100% of visible light and reflect up to 97% of the heat of the sun. On the playa, that means a sheet of this stuff over your tent creates “black shade” – complete absence of light, and can make it possible to sleep until ten or eleven before you overheat.
You would look for these materials at some Home Depots but they are usually special order. There are two kinds, a roll material like a very heavy tarp, and a shiny bubble wrap product. Neither produces any moop to speak of.
http://insul.net/ is one brand I have used before very successfully.
http://www.reflectixinc.com/ is another
Astro-foil is the super-heavy tarp type material: http://insul.net/prod_astrofoil_all.html
Bubble wrap style: http://www.reflectixinc.com/script/products/product.asp?ID=79
Prices are around $0.25 per square foot.
For the past few years we have been working on a new range of refugee and transitional housing. These buildings are very easy to build with ordinary building materials, and range from very small units suitable for the playa through to much larger buildings that might find applications as gathering spaces or in disaster relief situations.
Called “hexayurts,” they feature many of the best properties of Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic Dome geometry, and the Yurt. Unlike most domes, they can be cut very easily from 4′x8′ building materials. For the Playa, we recommend building your hexayurt from an insulating board (like they use in house construction) which already has the reflective vapor barrier applied to one or both sides. You should be aware that these board products can be incredibly moopy to cut and no cutting should be done on the playa, or DPW will hunt you down and hang you by your intestines. I have made this mistake myself and the 14″ scar is quite impressive.
The design has been tested in 2003 and 2005 and works very, very well. It was featured in “Design Like You Give A Damn” by Architecture for Humanity, and was selected for Strong Angel III, a high-profile disaster response demonstration.
The attachments to this email provide detailed construction information for two Hexayurts. A unit can be built for about $70.
If you build a Hexayurt, please send us pictures and let us know how it worked out for you. It’s really important we see a broarder range of builders and techniques and really see how these things work for people other than us!
There are also some diagrams of much, much larger hexayurts. These should not be built using the techniques outlined in the small hexayurt diagrams because the board materials will probably not survive the wind loads and could crack. We are producing a few units of the large size using custom laminates and higher spec insulation boards and will publish results when we have them.
If you are interested in building one of the larger units, or would like to buy a prototype unit from the run we are making for Strong Angel, please get in touch. Prices will be somewhere between $500 and $1500+ depending on configuration.
We can also produce a few of the smaller units for $200-$300 each, if you would rather have us build them for you than make them from the designs.
Staying cool on the playa with evaporative cooling
The 0% humidity and high temperatures on the playa make it idea for evaporative cooling. However, unless you are in a building or shelter which has a good seal against both the sun and the hot, dry wind, as fast as you cool down from your spray bottle, you are hot again. The cooling power of evaporating water is overwhemed by the heating power of the sun and air.
If you have really solid shade from the reflective barriers, however, even a hand mister can keep you cool very effecitvely. Inside of a hexayurt, a hand spray bottle is capable of dropping the temperature far enough that you wind up shivering at noon, using only half a cup of water.
Feburary 2006, we’re getting some new traffic
The Hexayurt seems to finally be breaking as a story – a lot more traffic and enquiries, some possibility of a commercial manufacturer. Partly this is as a result of the diaster in Pakistan, where a fully-tested and commercially-available shelter of this kind could have saved a lot of lives. Partly it’s just a matter of time.
I’ve posted the Full-sized Hexayurt Gallery. Being so close to the design, I thought that the previous generation of diagrams made the general idea clear enough for people to understand and, well, I was wrong . Sorry, folks.
You can see some further discussion of the design at Worldchanging.
PS: Burners, you may want to check out the “frame” version of the Hexayurt geometry. This form uses standard conduit-and-sledgehammer construction. Materials are 30 10′ poles, only six cuts, for a structure roughly equivalent in utility to a 24′ dome. View 1 View 2. Ideal for a utility structure. Also very easy indeed to skin with 60″ wide fabric, which is easily and cheaply available.
September 2005, post Hurricane Katrina update
It seems that the large Hexayurt design might be used to help people displaced by Katerina. Here’s a brief overview.
The design uses 12 or 18 sheets of 4′x8′ sheet goods: plywood or polystyrene typically.
The walls of the design are made of whole boards. No cutting is required.
The roof is made by cutting six boards on the diagonal, forming two right angle triangles. These are joined to make an isocelese triangle. Six of these triangles (using six whole boards) form the roof.
For waterproofing use a reflective insulation product. They come in rolls, four feet wide by 150 feet long typically. Cover the building, staple to the surface, duct tape over the joins. Should last about a year or two in the sun.
Total cost: around $500 per building, and construction time of less than one man day.
large hexayurt diagrams here should give you some idea of what the resulting building looks like. The version with an eight foot high wall simply uses two 4x8s for each wall section, rather than one on its side.
I’m working to get a better version of the diagrams of the large hexayurt prepared.
The goal is to get the design to a point where the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by Katerina and waiting for federal assistance can take matters into their own hands: drive to home depot in a borrowed vehicle, invest $500 in building materials, and get a livable home which will tide them over until the Federal folks have sorted out the remaining issues. I don’t think this is for everybody, but it’s a good hack for the five or ten percent of people with the skills, the resources, and a place to put the thing. Might be useful in the remains of the city also.
To this end, I’m putting the entire Hexayurt design, and all the materials on this page, in the public domain. You can do anything you like with these works, including commercial manufacture.
I also built a hexayurt for Burning Man 2005 out of a cynaoacrylate insulating board sold at Home Depot. It was a splendid material: reflective foil on both sides, foam insulation in the middle. If anybody is building these structures now, I’d suggest giving that material (in the two inch thickness) a look. Also, Duck Brand duct tape is rated to 200F which works well in hot areas (like Huston) where regular duct tape may fail.
In the 2″ thickness, on the full sized unit, duct tape will not work to join boards, and in any case, in the full size unit, it’s hard to see how tape alone would possibly hold. I think for those units the smart move is probably to duct tape along the edges of the board (i.e. a strip of tape along the edge) and then poke holes through the insulation in the taped area and tie the whole thing together with cable ties. Then duct tape over the cable ties and joins between boards to make it waterproof. But, really, plywood and a reflectex skin is probably the way to go.
Finally, my email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m available to help in any way I can. There are a lot of little fiddly things like how to anchor the buildings to the ground which are a lot easier to explain by telephone, for instance.
Friday, August 13 2004
Welcome, Burners! Looks like we’re getting traffic from people looking for Burning Man shelter and, well, it’s a lot easier and more comfortable than a standard conduit geodesesic
If you build a hexayurt for use at Burning Man, or some similar structure, please, please send me pictures and performance reports afterwards. Please pay particular attention to the construction coreography – how it went up, and how it came down.
And email me if you’ve got questions – the contact link above works. Enjoy the burn, I may yet see you there!
June 20, 2004
Cameron tells me that he’s posted a link here to Architecture For Humanity’s newsletter. If you’re visiting because of that link, greetings!
The “Hexayurt” is a very small shelter which is makes very efficient use of both materials and labor. The design completely uses 4′ by 8′ sheet goods producing no waste, and construction requires only six straight cuts across the diagonals of 4′x8′ sheets (to make the roof triangles).
A hexayurt can be built using many different kinds of materials. Plywood, polystyrene, cardboard, plastic and even metal might be appropriate for different environments.
The desert hexayurt in these pictures is a half-scale model built from hexacomb cardboard, using a reflective vapor barrier for insulation and waterproofing. Because it kept out so much light and heat, it was possible to sleep in the building until around noon in the Nevada desert, and a 10 watt solar panel connected to an improvised swamp cooler actually helped cool the building significantly, although not as much as evaporative cooling with a spray gun.
Here are the diagrams of the full sized hexayurt and the gallery of images of the desert hexayurt. The diagrams have some reversed text on them due to an OS bug, but I should have fixed ones up later today.
Finally, here’s a blog thread to discuss the hexayurt – just leave your feedback as comments, by clicking that link, or email me.
Thank you for your interest!
Sep 15 2003
Large Hexayurt Diagrams – this is the full scale hexayurt – 12 sheets of 4×8 sheet per unit, 8′ roof, 166 square feet of floor space, more details later.
Sep 15 2003
Hexayurt Diagrams now online. I need to prepare some more images to help with the whole silver foil skin, but these give all of the necessary info on the basic structure.
A bug in the beta of Panther which I am running has caused some of the text to come out in mirror-writing. I’ll repost these images once that bug is fixed. It’s an operating system problem, not a SketchUp problem – Mail.app does it too!
Sep 9 2003
I’ll be posting cutting and construction diagrams shortly, but in the mean time here is the Gallery of Hexayurt Images which give a fairly good idea of how the structure works. These are only the take-down images, as my camera with all of the pictures of the hexayurt being assembled was destroyed.
The Hexayurt is a prototype for a family of refugee shelters. At the moment, most refugees wind up in poly tarp structures held up by PVC pipe. These structures rot rapidly, offer little protection from the elements, and in the long run feel like tents.
Tents are fun for a while, but few people would choose to live in one for years at a time.
The Hexayurt is a first draft of a different kind of super-low-cost housing. This prototype is made from cardboard, but the design holds good for any 4′ x 8′ sheet goods, allowing different materials like plywood or styrofoam to be used in different climates.
The exterior is made from a reflective insulating material, which lends both insulation and waterproofing. Separating the structural and waterproofing elements means a much wider range of structural materials can be used.
Finally, the Hexayurt is made to be portable on a car, truck, donkey, or at worst, on the back of humans. A single adult can carry the hut in this picture without undue difficulty, and two adults could carry a hut for many miles in a single day if the need arose.
This prototype was made with materials given to me by three companies. Pactiv Corporation donated their Hexacomb board material, which forms the sides and roof of the hexayurt, Innovative Energy donated Heatshield, the reflective insulation which surronds the structure, and 3M donated the fibre tape which holds the structure together.
SketchUp very generously provided me with a copy of their amazing 3D sketching program. I had used the time-limited demo to make the diagrams which helped me explain the project to the people who gave me the materials, and all of the construction diagrams you can see on the site were made with this amazing tool.
I’d like to thank all four companies. I was completely amazed and gratified by their generosity and genuine interest in this project, and I hope that their time and money will turn out to be a worthwhile investment.