Our iHouse can be ready in three weeks!

We left Chattanooga this morning after a sweet two day visit. Chattanooga was five sets of tennis; a couple of world-class walks; the world’s best hamburger from Zarzour’s, the oldest restaurant in Chattanooga (by many years); two wonderful meals and a great visit with Jim’s sister and her husband; and fantastic weather. We left for Mississippi early, very early, Wednesday morning for Cleveland, Mississippi.

Our route took us from Chattanooga through Huntsville, AL, and Muscle Shoals across the MS border through Corinth and over to Olive Branch, MS, then down through Clarksdale to Cleveland, MS, to visit Jim’s aunt and uncle. This was a really easy one-day drive, four lanes highways all the way, and very pretty across northern Alabama and Mississippi.

Earlier, before Chattanooga, we had an exciting pair of stops in Bean Station and then Alcoa, TN. We toured a Clayton Homes production facility in Bean Station, TN, and viewed the prototype iHouse in Alcoa, TN.

The plant manager, Charlie Hemphill, met us and guided us through an extensive tour of the Norris Plant. The plant produces high quality modular homes, including i-Houses. An i-House II with two large Flex units on the lot piqued our interest. These were in final stages of preparation for shipping to an owner, and have highly customized floor plans and appointments. More interesting still is the work flow and coordination inside the production facility.

We saw many modular homes, in various phases of production, throughout the plant. Every part of the process seemed attended by numerous skilled individuals, working together to complete their tasks and send the house on its way. The production process is a finely choreographed ballet of floor frames, interior components, and wall and roof systems to compose completed modular homes in five day to twenty day cycles, depending upon the complexity of the model.

Our favorite part, of course, was surveying the i-House and Flex units at the production facility.

We spent awhile peering inside and all around the exterior of the i-House and Flex units at the Norris plant. The production facility was fun and our tour very educational. Charlie Hemphill, the plant manager, has been with Clayton 36 years and at this plant 21 years. He operates a very clean and effective operation, and was a great guide for our tour.

Now let’s go to Alcoa, TN, to meet Brandon O’Connor, Clayton i-House Product Manager. Brandon introduced himself to us months ago after we had written a couple of blogs about our impressions of the i-House. He invited us to visit Bean Station and Alcoa. We felt like we already knew him when we arrived at Clayton’s retail campus in Alcoa.

The i-House entrance still captivates us as sharply as it did at our first visit in Everett, Washington, last September. The soaring roof overhangs the entrance doors, the two lights bracket the doors, and the entrance just seems to call to us, “Come on in!”

We could look forward to coming home to this beautiful and clean-cut interior. The kitchen is very inviting and fresh-looking with IKEA-style cabinets, glass-block backsplash behind the range, recessed-can CFL lights and pendants over the island and dining table.

We love how the i-House looks from every angle. Natural light abounds, the open floorplan works great with this IKEA furniture. The ceiling rises from the kitchen to the entrance wall, creating a tall ceiling height. The glass entrance wall and large windows on one side combine with clerestory windows on the other side to light up the Shaw bamboo floor.

Another cool angle, the view down onto the roof shows this roof is about more than just keeping the interior dry and collecting rainwater for storage in a cistern — this roof supports all the solar panels you want to throw onto it. We counted 1,800 watts of photovoltaic panels, almost ten times our Airstream’s panels. The panels are connected to a grid-tie to feed the kW back to the power company. Everybody wins!

The Norris production facility has tuned all parts of the home-building process very finely. Floor systems are built on one side, roof structures on the other. Walls systems are built in-between. Completed floors move ahead, are locked together for the remainder of the production process. Components like tubs and interior wall sections are added onto the floor systems before exterior walls are attached. Roof structures carefully crane overhead and into place atop the walls, insulation is filled onto the ceilings, the roofs are sheathed and shingled.

The i-House requires more time to build than the production facility’s other models due to it’s more complex materials and other features. Like an Airstream trailer, it can be a bit more customized and has features requiring more time to finish, like smooth ceilings. Still, Charlie Hemphill and his team have optimized the production cycle so the i-Houses are built both with high quality and expeditiously.

What amazed us most about our tour? We learned our i-House can be ready in as little as three weeks production time. If only we knew where to put it. . . We’re looking for a place with 75 degree temperatures.

Jim and Debbie
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13 responses to “Our iHouse can be ready in three weeks!

  1. Great post. I have a feeling that IHouse people are going to offer you two a position in the publicity department. Of course they would have to throw in one for you to live in so that your work could have even more depth. That would not prevent, though, all the travel involved. Best of both worlds!

    • Faith,
      We’re not looking for work, and the i-House would require ten times the truck we tow with now — the i-House is a cool 68,000 pounds, without the furniture, dishes, food, and clothes. That’s more than our Airstream! Yeah, by ten times. Plus, there are some campgrounds and Cracker Barrels we couldn’t park in with the i-House — it’s 66 feet long without the tow-vee.

      The cool thing would be inviting our campground loop over for a keg party on the i-House porch, though. Maybe we should think this over before just throwing the idea out?

      We are enjoying being i-tourists too much to stop now. Besides, where would we stop?

      Jim

  2. All good points. The visual of you towing an IHouse down Highway 95 in Idaho is a hoot! The worst part would be trying to convince WBCCI that you still qualify as members. You could get a little Airstream toaster and put it on your front deck. Little flags and all. I don’t really vote for all that to happen, because we don’t have a big enough guest spot in Garden Valley for it.

    We like you just the way you are. :)

  3. Great post! Sounds like youall are about ready to find a spot to put one of these. Let’s see…….where is it 75 degrees all the time?

    • Barry, It only needs to be 75 degrees while we’re there, not all the time. Same principle as our current plan, eh? I’m thinking north Minnesota in the summer, or south Texas in the winter, or maybe we just hook the i-House to our truck and move it with the seasons. We’ll figure this out some day. Jim

  4. We have also looked at the i-house in everett, and made an offer on it, but it was built to Oregon specs, which arn’t as up-to-date as Washington’s if I understand correctly. We think that we will have one built for our property in Hoodsport WA

    • Tom,
      We agree with you on having it built specifically for your needs instead of offering on a model. You’re correct, the one in Oregon is not built to the Washington State building standards you must meet. I worked in building codes and standards my entire career. Sometimes the difference between one state and another is more the state code council’s emphasis on different issues (Washington state requires greater roof insulation values, for example, and North Carolina requires roof overhangs all four sides). Maybe not so much who is lagging as which consensus standards the Washington code council thinks are important for houses and buildings in your state.

      The best part of having one built for your Hoodsport property can be the little specials you can select and deselect for your own i-House. Each site we visit, we find a little different touch. Some we like more, some less. We’ve seen only one with a gas range and asked. “Of course you can specify a gas range!”, they told us. We want a vented range hood — you know, to get the burnt toast smell out (Jim’s toasting, not Deb’s). We like wire shelving in the master closet instead of solid shelving above the closet rod. We don’t want dimmer switches with the CFL lights, if we even go CFLs at all (so many choices now). The solid bamboo floor is kinda trendy but we really like the Pergo much better at this point. Corian in the kitchen, but not on the bathroom and laundry counters, perhaps. Swinging doors both ends, swinging door on the bedroom end and double meeting sliders on the living room end?

      These are just a few of the myriad choices you can make, and it’s fun to consider all of them and see what might make the most sense for your shelter. Every time we visit an i-House, even the same site (Mesa X 3, I think) we get a little different look on it.

      Good luck, and keep us posted on your visits and when you commit on this — we’re excited for you!

  5. Hmmm…an i-House. Good to know about. Just checked out the website and virtual tours and I’m intrigued. My husband and I know we want a small house someday when this Airstream wandering ceases to be full-time. We also would be interested in building a place so we can build to our liking (environmentally friendly, energy efficient, etc.) Good to know about the i-House – will keep that in the “when we settle down” storage compartment of my brain.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Lani, You might just believe how often Deb and I converse with each other about i-House. Earlier today, at lunch, we were discussing a neat new door we saw in another Clayton home built by Karsten in Albuquerque, NM. The door panel is fluted glass (or acrylic?), one big panel framed in wood. Very nice, passes light but obscures the “picture”.

      The i-House II only has three room doors from the corridor: master bdrm; bdrm 2; and ensuite. These would all provide light from the rooms to the corridor if the doors were like the Clayton Homes/Karsten Loft home. Pretty cool notion, we can kick this around for a few years or longer.

      A friend mentioned to us another fun idea, apparently based upon fact or rumour. Build your house in modules. When the kids grow up they can just take their pod with them. Kind of like a dowry or something? Neat idea, if workable. But we thought of a better one for us.

      How about just the i-House FLEX 1, just the 15′ X 17′ unit with skydeck above, and dock the Airstream to the deck? How cool would this be for your “not really ready to stop full-timing” place to hang out for a month or so now and then? Wow! Now there’s something we’ll talk about over banana splits for weeks and weeks.

      Jim

  6. Yes! a docking station! We’ve been tossing that idea around for a few months. Chris wanted to build one in the north and one in the south. But, I like adding the FLEX I. Let the dreaming begin! Now, if only I knew where to put them…

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