East Sooke yurt wins
temporary OK after tussle over code compliance
BY NORMAN GIDNEY
Times Colonist staff
September 19, 2005
The big yurt in
East Sooke doesn’t meet building code requirements for fire
safety, handicapped access and washrooms but it can stay at
scenic Glenairley as a temporary structure.
Children explore the yurt, an increasingly popular Mongolian-style
cabin, on the grounds of the Glenairley Centre for Earth and Spirit
that will be used for eco-programs and gatherings.
Nine metres across, it
was put up this summer on the 10-hectare waterfront property, owned
by the Sisters of St. Ann since the 1950s and leased to Glenairley
Centre for Earth and Spirit.
“The yurt is
beautiful, absolutely beautiful,” said Maureen Wild, one of the
founding directors of the centre. The round structure is
sand-colored with a mocha top, she said.
Douglas fir beams hold
up the roof.
Building inspectors from the Capital Regional District ordered a
stop to the work on the yurt in June, and it was completed later in
the summer after Glenairley met with building inspectors.
She said the yurt is a
place for people in programs at Glenairley to come indoors out of
the weather. The property on which the Centre for Earth and Spirit
is only a tenant “is a place to have quiet gatherings.”
A report from Seamus
McDonnell, the CRD manager of engineering services, said the
cottage-sized building contains about 58 square metres of floor
“It is apparent that
the yurt, as constructed, is not in compliance with a number of
requirements of the code, the most significant of which are the fire
For such “unusual
structures,” the report said that building inspection requires a
code compliance analysis carried out by a qualified professional.
It would consider fire
safety, number of washrooms, accessibility to persons with
disabilities and other requirements in the building code.
Members of the CRD’s
electoral area services committee voted to deem the building a
temporary structure, allowing it to stay until the end of the
centre’s fiveyear lease with the Sisters of St. Ann.
No one lives in the
yurt or stays overnight, Wild said. “We’re not a motel, we’re just
not in that business.
Darin Gradin, one of
the owners of Yurtco in Burnaby, said the company has sold several
hundred yurts, all over B.C., to Hawaii and elsewhere in the U.S.
Yurts are now in B.C. provincial parks, available for sleeping
“They’re a Mongolian
cabin and the classification is semi-portable,” said Gradin.
Yurtco Inc. has never before had to deal with the kinds of issues
raised by the CRD about the softsided structure, which is covered in
the same kind of fabric as the roof of B.C. Place stadium in
“If you go to most of
the (Gulf) Islands, they’re all over,” he said. “We’ve got them
everywhere. They’re getting more common.”
They’re catching on as
bunkhouses in the north in place of the boxy trailers and can be
insulated for temperatures down to 50 below zero.
A yurt can be fitted
with plumbing, kitchen and bathroom as well as a wood or gas stove
for heating. The biggest ones, like the yurt at Glenairley, sell for
between $16,000 and $18,000, depending on the features, Gradin said.
The centre puts on
environmental education programs and rents its facility to
like-minded groups, said Wild. Its website says it “welcomes
children, youth and adults into educational and contemplative
It’s a “nonprofit
ecological learning centre committed to the protection and healing
of Earth through a mutually enhancing human-Earth relationship.”
copyright 2005 Times Colonist