I-House goes green

Clayton Homes rolls out new efficient, modern home

Clayton Homes CEO Kevin Clayton knows what to call his company’s latest home now on display at the Showcase of Homes at the Knoxville Convention Center. It’s an I-House. He just isn’t sure exactly how to describe it.

It’s not trailer. It’s not a mobile home, and it looks nothing like a conventional manufactured home.

The I-House boasts from $70 to $28 a month energy cost and an energy rating 30 percent more efficient that standard homes.

Is it a modern home?

“Exactly,” said Clayton with a satisfied smile as he walked down the stairs from the second floor deck of the off-site constructed home that architects named “The I-House.”

The I-House is on display at the 2008 Showcase of Homes at the Knoxville Convention Center. The show runs through Nov. 2.

The I-House is designed with efficient windows, a tankless water heater, recycled materials in the decking, siding and other areas and has Ikea furnishings.

The structure also boasts such features as GE Energy Star rated appliances and Andersen windows.

The I-House is built with an exterior of cement board and metal siding and has a roof over the main living area that’s shaped like a flattened V. That rectangular living space has a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, and a deck connects it to a separate square-shaped living area that has a roof-top patio. Inside, the prototype is stocked with Ikea furniture, dual-flush toilets and bamboo flooring and the decking is made of recycled materials.

Architects Andy Hutsell of Blount County and Wes Boyd of Knoxville shared their thoughts on the new I-House, calling it a “green modular” home that sets new standards for efficiency and environmental design and is also aesthetically pleasing.

“For the company, it’s important as a tool for research and development. It made us look at new ways of doing things and new products. I think it will do nothing but move us forward in improving our products,” Hutsell said. “Then you start to hopefully affect market-share in the industry. It’s very important to our future that we have done this and continue to look at new ideas and stay aggressive about it.”

Clayton said the idea for the I-Home started about a year ago. “We knew we wanted to push the envelope,” he said, and knew that designing a home that was energy efficient, environmentally friendly, looked good and efficiently used space were worthwhile goals. “It took nine months to get the design down. Then we turned to our Bean Station team. They’re the finest craftsmen in the country.”

Clayton said with the solar panel option, monthly energy costs average $28. The house also is built to efficiently use space. “It takes a smaller square footage, and you feel as if you are in a 1,500 square foot home when it is a 1,000 square foot home. The design is so efficient, you feel you’re in a much larger home,” he said. “I think it would be a huge second-home option.”

Now that the first I-House is being unveiled, Clayton said the company is anxious to gauge the public’s response. “I think we did it well,” he said. “I realized if I got out of the way and let my architects take it….”

The features of the homes should appeal to 25 to 40 year olds, Clayton said.

Clayton hopes to get honest feedback from supplies, retailers and customers to help them market it better. Clayton said other I-Houses are in the planning stages, and they want to get the concept into development within the next three months.

People who have seen the home liked the feel of the it, Clayton said, and also like the aspect of it having space for outdoor living on top of the detached bedroom/bath. A sail extends over half the deck on top of the detached bedroom. The siding and decking also are made of recycled material, he said.

It even features a way to capture rainwater to use for irrigation or washing your car, Clayton said.

The appliances in the kitchen are GE Energy Star rated and flooring is made of bamboo. “There’s an abundance of it, and it’s renewable,” Clayton explained. The tankless water heater saves hundreds of dollars a year compared to conventional water heaters.

While the I-Home has a different look, Clayton has been happy with the concept Hutsell and Boyd developed. “It’s better than I thought or hoped. A few people thought we were crazy,” Clayton said.

Charlie Hemphill, general manager for the Norris Homebuilding Facility, said the crew there takes pride in doing specialty projects such as the I-House. “Our guys like a little bit of a challenge,” he said. “They’re proud of what they do.”

Hutsell said Clayton often brought magazine articles to him and Boyd about new innovations in home designs.

“I’ve always been into this modern architecture,” Hutsell said, “so this is appealing to me personally.

In January, both Boyd and Hutsell put together presentations for green modular homes. They had similar plans that were well-received by the marketing and sales group, but nothing happened, Hutsell said. It was in June/July that a decision was made to move ahead with creating a new design. “Wes and I started sketching, and a week later we had a rough concept of the I-House,” he said.

Hutsell said that after the concept was defined, the hard work started. “We had pretty much whomever we needed in the company to help with research and construction documentation, and we had the Norris facility involved,” he said. “In about 60 days from July 1 -- kick off of the concept -- to the first of September, we went from concept to rolling out of the plant, not complete but coming off the production line.”

Hutsell said lots of finishes were applied in one of the company’s other facilities. “It was viewed as a research and development project, and we really pursued every angle in terms of green and in terms of design aesthetics for it being a modern look,” he said. “We were able to do one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever worked on.”

Hutsell said the structure has been well received by everyone who has seen it. “There’s a lot of optimism, and there’s definitely quiet a bit of effort going forward to continue to develop this product,” he said. “What we’ve heard retailers say they like about it is that it may not be right for the average person looking for a home, but it tells them we’re really forward thinking, and we’re looking to the future and being aggressive about it. That is encouraging to them.”

Hutsell said retailers for Clayton Homes include Love Homes, Oakwood Homes and Clayton Homes lots.

“When I take people through it, I talk about how exciting it was to work on it. It was for me personally a great experience, and I started talking about what makes it different from products we build every day,” Hutsell said.

Hutsell said the high insulation quality, high efficiency Andersen window and the IKEA furniture cabinets set the I-House apart from other homes. The solar panels also affect the utility bills. With a variety of different configurations, the potential for the line is unlimited, he said.

Boyd said the structure is a modern, very contemporary style. “For our industry, it breaks the mold. It’s not a traditional home in exterior appearance. In terms of green, anything we’ve done green in this home we can apply to our other houses -- extra insulation, use of sustainable material such as bamboo floors,” he said. “The compact florescent lighting was a huge part of this house. All the fixtures use this. With the exterior look, we went with something we thought would be attention-grabbing to let people know this is a different kind of home.”

Boyd couldn’t hide his enthusiasm for the project. “I am very excited. It was Kevin’s vision, and he came to us and told us to get out of the box and do something creative,” he said. “It doesn’t happen often that you’re allowed to let your imagination run. It was an enjoyable process.”

Boyd joked that he and Hutsell “abused” a lot of people along the way in completing the concept. “The manufacturing facility and our other plant maintenance facility that did metal work, they’ve never seen or done it, but it didn’t stop them from giving us their best effort,” he said.

Hutsell praised the capability of the Clayton Homes personnel. “So many people were involved and integral to the process besides just Wes and I. The Norris facility was incredible, as was our home office team,” he said.

Hutsell recognized Tracy Webster in the Engineering Department, Kris Naeliez in Costing (product pricing) for helping find green products like the air conditioning, the water heater and windows; William Gregory; James Harrell - professional engineer, Gavin Made - professional engineer; Jan Colyer- product designer (drafting technician) and Brad Russell - staff engineer in modular engineering department.

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Comments » 2

Marty writes:

Thanks for the photos, one which I haven't seen before. I'm looking for one of the front or interior of the red "bedroom unit." Hopefully, it will come along, with a video tour as well.

Anyway, I'm crazy about this very issue, and to a Clayton's rep's face, I probably would tell him about how much I like the interior, and the whole effort, and concept, which is what other people seem to be saying.

I love modern, and have a wide latitude in tastes for the way modern homes look. I see the potential of manufactured homes to go green, and am ALL FOR IT. So you would think I would like everything about this i-house right?

Unfortunately, I feel the main unit looks too much like a single wide trailer, and can't believe the architects didn't see this. Along with that, ANYTHING that looks like a single-wide is going to be a terribly hard sell, to customers, and probably in areas like where I live, that are zoned for double-wide only, not to mention the bulk of areas that are zoned against all manufactured homes.

I think that incorporating water catchment ruined the potential of the design. It rules the look of the house. Let's say the house had a simple shed roof design, with a good angle for solar panels, even that could have a gutter or roof design that could be used for water catchment.

Maybe it will be explained/justified by the i-house architects.

Seriously, I would like to like it, but I don't. I like the window placement in the living room, and from what I can tell, it looks to be well made. I like the materials. But the bisected look, of the bedroom half of the main unit...yikes, it just looks peculiar. I could get used to it though, if the company wants to give one to me for free, in exchange for giving tours and doing a running video blog on the web.

More seriously, I'm middle aged and I've never lived in a manufactured home. I want one though, and when I get one, for sure, it will be a green one. I look forward to the designs to come.

I don't care if a billion other people have the exact same modernistic manufactured home I have, one day, I want to live in one.

Such a house won't look like Fuller's DYMAXION house -- which was poorly insulated and had some other major flaws -- but instead it will have to be something beautiful. If it isn't beautiful, it is going to have to work very very well, and be reasonably priced.

Marty writes:

One more comment. Fuller was a true genius. One thing I like about his Dymaxion House, is all the utilities coming up through a core. It saved in pipe, and wiring.

Anyway, a small company about a year ago, made a solar house with a similar shape roof as this, which they called a butterfly shape, but they also offered the house with two other conventional roof options.