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.