Reminiscent in shape of old-style mobile homes, the i-house’s contemporary styling and high-end, energy-efficient components bring it well into the 21st Century.
Clayton Homes Reminiscent in shape of old-style mobile homes, the i-house’s contemporary styling and high-end, energy-efficient components bring it well into the 21st Century.

Kevin Clayton, CEO of Clayton Homes, one of the largest factory-built home manufacturers in the country, gave the company architect three guidelines for designing a new product--It should be “green,” affordable, and buildable in the company’s existing factories. Then he stepped out of the process. The architect added a fourth--different--and the i-house was born.

With its slanted “butterfly” roof and contemporary finishes, it looks nothing like anything else in the company’s current stable of traditional modular and manufactured homes. Those houses work hard to look like on-site-built homes.

This home’s narrow, rectangular form and tight, bare-bones floor plan harks back to its trailer park roots, despite its strong contemporary elements. Even the separate “flex” unit addition to the home, which provides the “dot” to create the i-shaped footprint for which the house is named, is a retro-chic nod to outbuildings commonly found in mobile home parks.

“We wanted to use a non-traditional home form just so people would understand that this is really something different than they have seen before,” said Wes Boyd, the Maryville, Tenn.-based company’s first architect. Boyd worked with student architect Andy Hutsell to design the home.

Clayton, which built 32,000 homes last year, has seen a bit of a drop off in business, and is looking to tap into a new buyer segment – the young and hip or older and hip, environmentally conscious buyer.

 “We wanted to appeal to a market that we haven’t considered before,” said Boyd. “This house makes a statement about being green.”

The i-house officially became available May 1, but early unveilings were met with enthusiasm. “We took it to our Knoxville show in October and the response was outstanding,” said Boyd. “The traffic was amazing and, for the most part, the feedback was really, really good, and East Tennessee is not known for being that progressive architecturally, they are more of a traditional audience.”

The prototype house was trucked all the way from Tennessee to Omaha, Neb. to attend Berkshire Hathaway’s famous annual shareholder weekend May 2 and 3 where it was displayed along with products from Berkshire Hathaway's other companies.

Consumer interest was high enough for Clayton to start offering the home from four of its 38 manufacturing sites: Hermiston, Ore., Sacramento, Cal., Albuquerque, N.M., and Knoxville, Tenn. Prospective customers can visit those plants to see an i-house model before buying. If demand climbs, the company will start building the home from its other plants as well.

Buyers can select their i-home components and configurations and determine the cost, including delivery charges by zip code, online at claytonihouse.com

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Atlanta, GA.