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The Rise of ‘Green’ Modular Homes

Credits: ©2010 Francesca Lyman / New York Times

February 2010 by Francesca Lyman, New York Times -- Kevin Clayton, the chief executive of Clayton Homes, a modular home manufacturer based in Maryville, Tenn., predicted last year that his company’s “i-house” — a solar modular home — would command 10 percent of its profits. That prediction hasn’t quite panned out, but the manager of Clayton’s i-house division, Brandon O’Connor, says it is raising production of the energy-efficient model — even as other builders are cutting projects in the down economy. The company also introduced its first green mobile home, the e-home, last December. “Green and energy efficient homes are here to stay,” Mr. O’Connor said, having just returned from last month’s International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas. “Practically every builder had products on display they were touting as green.”


Modular Homes Nationwide Cottage

A line of small, efficient “eco-cottages” were among the green modular homes on display at the 2010 International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas. This small, modular house by Nationwide Homes is only 475 sq. ft. http://www.nationwide-homes.com/ecocottages/ ©2010 Nationwide Homes

According to the National Association of Home Builders, only 2 to 3 percent of homes built in the United States today are modular — that is, prefabricated in sections, trucked to a building site, and, unlike mobile homes, mounted on a foundation.

But all four demonstration homes displayed at the builders’ show, sponsored by the National Association of Home Builders, were smaller, greener prefab structures.

Champion Homes, meanwhile, another big modular home builder, used the trade show to unveil its “GoHouse,” a traditional-style home built to the N.A.H.B.’s green certification standards. And Nationwide Homes unveiled a line of tiny “Eco-cottages” — including the Osprey, a 523-square-foot cabin the company describes as useful for “home offices, hunting cabins, pool houses, workshops or hobby spaces.”

The Osprey also comes with a thin-film solar option mounted in its roof — though Mr. O’Connor was quick to point out that only Clayton’s i-house offers solar panels as part of its package.

Michelle Kaufmann, a pioneer in green prefab designs like the solar-ready “Glide House,” which was exhibited at the National Building Design museum, applauded efforts by big manufacturers like Clayton — which is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

“It’s a huge legitimizer of this concept,” Ms. Kaufmann said, “when Warren Buffett says this is the future.”


iHouses Modular with Solar Panels