Clayton Homes’ Concept Houses Push Boundaries of Manufactured Housing

The Saltbox plan by Clayton Homes includes a spacious living room and kitchen, with features like Summit appliances, oak hardwood flooring, Delta faucet and more.

With modern features like Summit appliances, oak hardwood flooring, Delta faucets, white subway tile and more, the Saltbox is a tiny home by Clayton Homes that lives large. Photo courtesy of Clayton Homes.

Most people probably don’t think of manufactured or modular homes as the inspiration for innovative design, but with the explosion of tiny homes on the scene, consumers are seeing just how far manufactured housing has come from the stereotypical mobile home park.

But innovation in manufactured housing design isn’t brand new; Clayton Home Building Group has been pushing innovative design through its concept houses for a decade now.

Clayton introduced the i-House in 2007 to present an energy-efficient and tech-forward home. While the home was sold in limited numbers to environmentally conscious homebuyers, it wasn’t cost-effective to market to the public. However, the builder was able to glean numerous lessons from the home, including evaluating popular features, such as low-e windows and Energy Star appliances, for inclusion in other models.

“One of our guiding principles at Clayton is to ‘try a lot of stuff and keep what works.’ We are always trying to find more innovative solutions,” says Jim Greer, Clayton’s National Tiny Home Brand Manager.

That practice can be seen in how the builder has emphasized energy efficiency in its tiny home designs. The tiny homes Designer Series is the latest from Clayton’s concept houses, created in response to consumer demand for living with a smaller eco-footprint. Introduced in 2016, the Designer Series is now available to consumers in select locations around the country based on state and local building codes.

The Gen Now Home was designed to transform or change to accommodate whatever stage of life a homeowner is in. It included interchangeable floor plan features called “smart points” — charging stations, unique storage, sliding barn doors and other design elements — that are now available in many Clayton Homes models to provide greater flexibility and customization for homeowners.“We have been working for more than two years designing prototypes and manufacturing processes as an innovated option to the demand for smaller spaces,” Greer says.

The tiny homes were designed by world-renowned architect Jeffrey Dungan, who brings a modern approach to traditional and classic architecture to the two initial models in the series: the Low Country and the Saltbox.

Both models include luxury amenities and fixtures and are constructed in an ISO 14001-registered, climate-controlled building facility in Alabama using a production line system.

“They feature Summit Appliances that have earned the Energy Star rating, energy-efficient PlyGem windows and doors and an efficient ductless, mini-split heat pump heating and cooling system,” Greer says. “The way the home is designed, with vaulted ceilings and dormer windows, allows the heat to rise during the day, to heat the home at night and, in the end, saving energy on heating and cooling the home.”

Another concept house that has informed Clayton’s other models is the Gen Now Home, developed in 2014. Inspired by the Millennial market, the Gen Now Home was designed to transform or change to accommodate whatever stage of life a homeowner is in. It included interchangeable floor plan features called “smart points” — charging stations, unique storage, sliding barn doors and other design elements — that are now available in many Clayton Homes models to provide greater flexibility and customization for homeowners.

But Clayton is also pushing the design envelope by looking at different building techniques and materials, such as seen in its 3D Printed Home. Clayton collaborated in 2015 with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tru-Design and Skidmore, Ownings & Merrill to design and construct an energy-efficient home using Oak Ridge’s 3D printer. It was an exercise in energy and waste management in home construction, and while 3D printing a house hasn’t reached the practical and cost-effective point yet, the possibilities are exciting for where this technology can take the industry down the road.

And whether it’s through design innovations or technological advancements, Clayton Homes continues to improve its processes to bring the latest solutions in manufactured housing to homebuyers.

Judy L. Marchman is a freelance writer and editor, with 20 years of magazine and book publishing experience. She covers a variety of subjects, including home-related topics. Her work has appeared in Kentucky Monthly, Keeneland Magazine and the Official Kentucky Derby Souvenir Magazine, among other publications.

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