Sunday, November 2, 2008

A tale of two parts: Clayton’s revolutionary green i-house

When I first read the article in the Knoxville newspaper (find link in my first post of this blog), announcing the debut of Clayton’s first green manufactured home at their home show, perhaps the most striking thing about it, is not the butterfly roof for rain catchment, or its ability to accept solar panels, but that it comes with a 2nd bedroom and bath which is detached from the main home. The orange structure with stairs on the side is the second bedroom/bath. In effect, it is like a guest house, or it could be used that way.

My mind started spinning with the advantages and possible disadvantages of that feature alone. After thinking about it for a while, I concluded that the advantages would outweigh the disadvantages for me, and probably for many other people too. In fact, it would be great.


When it comes to guests, I know how practical it is to have a home with a split bedroom design, and a 2nd bathroom of course. A few years ago, I lived in a newer home -- a custom stick-built adobe imitation -- before my stocks went south and I downsized. The home was only 1400 sq. feet, but had two bedrooms, each with bath, and each bedroom was on the opposite side of the house, diagonally. That was a better design than having to put guests in the room next door, or even across a hall. It gives everyone more privacy.

Better yet, would be having a home like the Clayton i-house, where you could put guests in their own separate guest house.

It would also make sense for people with older children, or an elderly parent, to give them their own space. A separate guest house is usually a luxury item that only wealthy people can afford.


Anyone with smaller children, or an elder they need to keep a close eye on, putting them in a separate structure might make them feel a little isolated, or difficult to monitor. However, in this age of technology, an audio or video monitor might be an option. Also, some people have homes large enough, that even having a split bedroom plan, especially one upstairs and one down, makes bedrooms farther away from each other than this separate house.

During the winter, someone sleeping in the second bedroom, would need to go outside when they wanted to come over for breakfast or enter the main house for any reason. If they were in the main house, and needed something from the 2nd bedroom, they would have to step outside. Doing that would allow heat to escape.

However, would the difficulty of going outside be that much worse than going up and down a flight of stairs in a two story house. It would probably be easier.

One other disadvantage of the two part structure, is that more walls to the outside decrease energy efficiency. Along with that, more wall per enclosed square feet, takes more material to make.


Design the 2nd bedroom so that it comes in two models. One as it is now, a 2nd bedroom and bath. Offer another floor plan as a small one-room cabin with kitchenette, that could be purchased separately from what is now the main part of the house.

In that way, Clayton could sell the small unit as a vacation cabin, or as a guest house. With the tiny house movement heating up, and people vacationing and even living in homes that are 100 sq. feet and less, this, at about 200 sq. ft., would be fine.

With regard to design, the orange/red 2nd bedroom structure is especially attractive. I like the proportions, the stairs, the roof deck, and the size. Not only does it in no way look like a trailer, it looks better to me than pretty much all the prefab cottages, cubes and homes that were shown at the Museum of Modern Art this summer.

Used as a summer cabin, the roof deck would be handy for enjoying a view, eating outside, or pitching a tent to use as a extra sleeping room in warmer weather.


  1. you need to post an email address. I would like to talk with you.
    Gary Fleisher
    Modular Home Builder

  2. Like the house boat at
    my trailer park

    Ugly and impractical. Can only imagine my wife getting caught in her robe by the lawn service guys going to the spare bedroom, like adding an outhouse.

  3. Looks like an electrical sub-station or other utility bunker. All the disadvantages of a single wide, no closet space, like living in a rail road car or shipping container. Few lots are going to accept that thing. What's wrong with a green double wide? Of course a well laid out house doesn't need point of service hot water or toilets that need to be flushed twice and can't be repaired. A real house might have a walkway between the house and garage with an apartment above. The idea of a courtyard is ok if fenced in and sheltered from rain, snow, sleet, hail, etc. Seperate building just adds to the plumbing nightmare.

  4. Some good points, anonymice, thanks. Never thought of the sub-station, but now that you mention it...

    I think it looks better than some of the homes that are made out of shipping containers, but it doesn't have the recycling advantage of the ones that are. Shipping container homes sometimes have low ceilings, but I like the industrial look.

    One of the reasons I'm intrigued about this to start my first blog, is the mystery of it.

    Yes, why not a simple double-wide design like Burk's GreenMobile. And the article about it talks about it being a good vacation what we need is a green vacation home for people who can pretty much afford anything they want, and would never buy anything resembling a single wide in the first place. We need something for the masses, and for lower income people who have no low cost option to even have an efficient home, let alone one with several green features and solar.

    Indeed, right where I live, 10 miles outside of Santa Fe, where each of us own several acres, it is zoned against "single-wide" homes. Has to be a double-wide. No RVs, no single-wide.

    One justification for the single-wide vs. double. It takes two trucks to tow a doublewide, one for each section, not that I see both these structures fitting on one truck.

  5. To address some good comments... I think it is better for medium to low cost manufactured housing not to come with a garage, because there are parts of the country where it is not needed. People can always erect a separate carport or garage as needed.

    I'm with you on the idea of an apartment over garage manufactured unit. Plus, it would sell to people who want a garage and a guest house which could be used as a rental unit in some places, vacationers who like a place to store things, and tiny house dwellers, who are fine living in a small space, but need extra storage.

  6. It's a mobile home with a roof view.


    Just wanted to leave an update, here for those of you who find this post through a link. Check out my most recent blog post here:

    Or, just go to Clayton's ihouse website for all the plans, a 3D tour, and pricing available for the i-house. Their nation-wide roll-out has begun.


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