hexa.jpeg The hexayurt is an update on Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome and is a sturdy, affordable, easy-to-build temporary shelter. The geometry has been adjusted slightly to make it easier to build domes from materials like plywood, insulation, plastic, cardboard and more. The hexayurts are made from only one kind of triangle: an 8' x 8' isosceles triangle, rather than the strangely-shaped triangles which are standard for Fuller-style geodesic domes. They are not strictly geodesic, either, but it doesn't seem to matter much in practice. The slightly stiff, angular lines look a lot like any other dome. The most common place to see hexayurts is at Burning Man. The first one was built there in 2003, and was only a little bigger than a tent. There now range in size from 50 to nearly 500 square feet. A typical year at Burning Man will see a hundred or so of the silver huts lined up on the playa.
hexayurt2sm.jpg (photo by tonx) The design is public domain and build-it-yourself. People using the shelter for Burning Man usually buy the materials (about $300) ahead of time, including mail ordering the hard-to-find extra wide tape which is used to hold the shelter together. It takes about a day's worth of effort to cut out the roof pieces, playa-proof the edges and do a test assembly. Putting the hexayurt together on the playa typically takes a small group of people about two hours and can be a struggle if there is wind or a dust storm which coats all the pieces in a fine layer of tape-defeating dust. The joy of the thing is a building which stays relatively cool in the desert. The shiny surface of the hexayurt reflects away a lot of the sun's heat, and a mix of pump sprays, swamp coolers and even the occasional air conditioner make the inside quite habitable even in the middle of the day when tents are far too hot for comfort. There are lots of plans and instructional videos on the Hexayurt web site, and handy people seem to have little difficulty putting them up. A few simpler units, made from plywood, have been tested by local charities in Sri Lanka and Haiti. The jury is still out on whether this shelter will be useful beyond recreational use in the desert, but field trials are underway. -- Howard Rheingold and Vinay Gupta Hexayurt Free, public domain plans Hexayurt Instructions Supply checklist Model papercraft Hexayurts PDF Don't forget to comment over at Cool Tools. And remember to submit a tool!


  1. A big part of what makes these things so simple to build, is the one-time usage for the tape. When it’s time to go home, you cut the tape, and you have to buy more for the next build.

    A better reusable join seems possible, but it’s going to be more complicated.

  2. including mail ordering the hard-to-find extra wide tape which is used to hold the shelter together. … Putting the hexayurt together on the playa typically takes a small group of people about two hours and can be a struggle if there is wind or a dust storm which coats all the pieces in a fine layer of tape-defeating dust.

    It seems that there are two pitfalls to having decided to hold everything together with tape, and one of them — the fact that sand or dust will make it impossible to erect — seems tailor-made to screw you over at Burning Man.

    Has no one come up with a good alternative to tape? Use toggles, maybe? Attach fabric to the edges and use buttons? Attach small loops to each edge and put a rod through the loops? There must be some better solution.

  3. Not sure this makes a lot of sense for a 6 day festival. It would cost $100 to get a 6-person tent, and another $20 to get some reflective fireproof sheets
    you can tape the sheets together at home so that they ‘re the same size as the tent fly, then just run the tent stakes through the corners of the big sheet.
    I imagine making a shelter out of reflective foam insulation would make a lot of garbage, too, because I think reusing it would be a pain in the ass (panels breaking, tape not sticking to it).
    As far as temporary refugee houses, sounds like they could be a really good idea, especially in desert countries.

    1. we’ve had an 8ft walled 3 sleeping node yurt for 2 burns. Even without air conditioning the yurts stays reasonably cool in the AM. You can’t sleep easily in a tent due to heat and noise, no matter what the shading. the yurt will last many seasons, and is well worth the cost. Visit us around 10 & J camp overkill, with the green laser beacon. )'(

  4. Hello, I’m Vinay, the creator of the hexayurt.

    The reason we use the tape at Burning Man is that the tape is really, really, really strong. It’s 3M 8959 in 6″ wide, or an equivalent. That’s a breaking strain of something like 400 lbs, multiplied by 12 continuous straps going up and over the point of the hexayurt, and down into huge metal tent stakes.

    As a result, we haven’t had any hexayurts that I know of blown away in duststorms at Burning Man.

    I’m sure there are lots of other ways of doing the fastenings of the roof panels together which would work in less severe environments than Burning Man, but nobody has yet figured out something which is easy, cheap, reusable and playa-proof.

    It’s a whole different story elsewhere, though. Burning Man is a hard test case!

    Oh, and the prime reason for doing it at Burning Man is that you can sleep until high noon in a hexayurt if you bring a hand spray pump ($15) which feels like having two more days at Burning Man by the time you’ve been out there for a week. It’s awesome compared to being baked out of your tent before 9AM.

    Seems silly, but it’s a quality of life thing.

    Hope that helps, V.

    1. Hi Vinay,

      I’m very interesting in building a modified HY design for BM. However I’m very concerned about the flammability issue of ThermaMax – even though there is no plan to use open flame. Do you have any feedback on this?

      Feel free to post a reply but if you could also email to andy@enginuity.com that would be appreciated (or anyone else who has had experience with HYs)



  5. Buckminster Fuller? Really? Unless you’re mixing up geodesic dome and dymaxion house, that’s tantamount to blasphemy in my books.

    1. Tarp on the floof attached with the tape in and out ( protects from rain and for structural strength ) overlaid with shag/fur carpet….)'(

  6. Basically, wind and rain are the same the world over, but the ground is different everywhere you go.

    Generally my advice is “do floors how the locals do them, or use softtiles”


    But for Burning Man, softtiles insulate the floor too much, so they tend to make your hexayurt hot during the day, rather than letting the coldness of the earth pull the heat out of the air in the yurt. But for other uses, they’re great. But not cheap. On the other hand, they last forever.

    Outside of Burning Man, I think rammed earth floors are pretty amazing, but it all comes down to a simple fact: we have no special insights on flooring. Yet. No clever plan, just do what seems sensible.

  7. Yup, being able to sleep past 9 am is a whole different experience, especially given that on most nights you’ll be going to bed past 4-5 am.

  8. Making something playa-proof is probably among the greatest challenges a designer can encounter on earth. I’ve ridden out some very intense dust storms in these things, they are a great design.
    I believe Black Rock City is the refugee camp of the future. If I had a few million dollars laying around I’d launch a scholarship fund to bring staff from humanitarian organizations to Burning Man every year so they can find inspiration, test radical ideas, share knowledge, and have an awesome time. I bet Burners Without Borders would love to have them camped next door…

  9. maybe you can use heavy duty velcro instead of tape. you can get some extremely tough versions.

  10. I built a hexayurt for the 2009 burn and it was fan-freaking-tastic.
    The build doesn’t generate much waste, only some fiberglass shavings from the sections that are cut.
    The great thing about the 8″ foot model is that it folds into a 8x4x4″ package inside a 100″ tarp (which makes good flooring).

    At the playa, or really any camping conditions a hexayurt with a solar powered ventilation fan is comfortable pretty much 24-7. We ran a 14 watt swamp cooler off the camps generator during the day to help humidify the atmosphere and pull some of the dust out of the air, but otherwise we didn’t use any electricity for cooling unlike all the RVs out there which are basically big, poorly insulated, convection ovens without AC.
    I would say that our yurt was more comfortable than most of the RVs out there.

    So the yurt is comfy, reusable, spacious, moddable, inexpensive, sturdy, and energy saving. Sounds like a solid win to me.

    Also, I order my 6″ bi-directional filament tape from http://www.taperite.com/dr-tape.html, they’re a good company with a good product.

  11. Is that Tuff-R type foam fire resistant enough to be safe for something like this? Has anyone tried setting one on fire from the inside. The design overall isn’t far from being a well-insulated, foam-lined rocket stove, just about tailor made for incinerating things that wouldn’t otherwise burn well

  12. It does look like a nice structure. Only problem for me is transporting that big stack of 4×8 foot sheets in my tiny rig, which is already packed super-full.

  13. We’ve done extensive flame testing. The results are not apocalyptic, but not that reassuring. I’m going to be a lot happier when everybody going to Burning Man switches to Thermax HD, which is fire rated, a hell of a lot tougher, and not much more expensive – but requires a minimum order of about 30 hexayurt’s worth.

    If you dig around you can find various videos of people doing their own flame tests – damn hard to get the stuff lit, once it’s lit it burns with difficulty, but it’s not hard to imaging real problems under some circumstances.

    So, yes, for now folks seem to be choosing the easier-to-access, somewhat riskier option. I hope the switch to Thermax HD happens this year.

    Does that help?

  14. We LOVE our cardboard hexayurts. We’ve taken 2 of them to the playa the past 2 years and are going for a third time this year. Hexacomb cardboard is amazing stuff–very strong and still lightweight. We can put one up in a half hour and take it down in about 20 minutes. We accordion the walls and leave the roof triangles partially taped (6 wedges instead of 12), and this really speeds things up. Of course we tie them down using the ingenious tape anchors…they don’t even budge in a dust storm. Cons: we put a huge shade structure over them because otherwise they be about as hot as a tent in no time without it. The s-structure takes a lot longer to build than the hexayurt. Also, water+cardboard is not good combo. We had a panel or two take some damage in last years rain storms. At least we can rip off the tape and recycle them!

    1. “Yurt” is a Russian word, considered derogatory when used in reference to a Mongolian “ger”. It has similar connotations to the English words shack, hovel, and hut – an inferior, lower-class dwelling.

      If you want to talk about indigenous mongol tent/houses, you will be better off referring to them as gers so as not to unnecessarily offend the people who know them best. How would you react if someone came to your dwelling and said “I’d like to study this primitive kakashka you live in?” instead of “Hi, can you talk to me about your cleverly designed home?”

      If you are talking to ethnic Russians, or talking about non-Mongol designs like the hexayurt, there’s nothing wrong with using the Russian word for a shanty. But it’s best not to use it to refer to Mongol dwellings.

  15. Vinay Gupta – so many years ago we were stood in a field in Bromsgrove, surrounded by enough bamboo to feed a large panda – I never expected the icosahedra would turn into futuristic-sheds-from-outer-space! It’s good to see you’re still building.

  16. For tape if you use cardboard you can use paper tape. It is really cheap compared to bi-directional tape. It also came in various strengths. I used heavy duty which is reinforced. I also pre taped the whole hexayurt so putting it up was easy. I am working on some type of coating to allow it to withstand most weather. I tried Spaceage paint except that made tied down tape not stick.
    This design is layman easy. Set up is harder than a tent except you benefits that no tent has. Use for a day a week a year is possible depending on climate and conditions of the environment.

  17. Just thinking on the tape thing. When I was nursing we’d use this extra wide beige velcro stuff. It was about 3-4 inches wide, and we’d get it from the PT/OT department.

    When I larped I got a roll of it, and used it to attach bits of my “home”. It held like whoa, and was reuseable. I have no idea how it would work with dust, but it would be an idea to try out experimentally.

  18. I wonder if anyone has compared the silver ones with, say, ones painted white.

    I was shocked when I glued some space blanket to (part of) the white roof of my RV — and it got hotter underneath that part.

    Things shiny in VIS aren’t necessarily shiny in IR.

  19. thanks for the great advice! Thermax HD does not appear to be available in Canada – can anyone who lives in a US State bordering Ontario (New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan) advise if/where they were able to purchase Thermax HD? I do have a note off to the manufacturer, but wanted to find out from those who had been successful.

    Thanks so much!

  20. I’m having difficulty finding the 6″ tape, even on the site mentioned above. Suggestions? We need to get going ASAP to build our first hexayurt!

    Thanks from Seattle, WA!

  21. 6 inch Bi-Directional Filament tape for Hexayurt Construction is can be sourced directly at hexayurttape.com

    Hexayurt Tape is Fiberglass Reinforced Polyproylene tape and comes in 2 inch , 3 inch and 6 inch widths.

  22. I am taking a Nissan Quest mini van to BM this year (2011) and are wondering the following:

    • I understand that the ground beneath a Hexayurt cools down significantly once the yurt is in place for a day or so – yes?

    • … and this is due to the fact that the ground stays at a constant temperature under the surface?

    • … and this helps to cool it in the day and warm it at night?

    • If the van noted above was fully covered top to bottom in a product such as Prodex, does anyone think we could achieve the same effect?


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