Clayton Homes’ iHouse a PR Score for Warren Buffet

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Warren Buffet may have announced a dismal quarter, but Berkshire Hathaway-owned Clayton Homes just released a PR hit. Fast Company has more on the iHouse, a prefabricated home pimped out with energy-saving features:

Clayton Homes, the largest manufacturer of modular homes in the U.S., officially introduced its i-house this past weekend at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting. Popular Mechanics says the i-house “looks like a house you’d order from IKEA, sounds like something designed by Apple and consists of amenities–solar panels, tankless water heaters and rainwater collectors–that one would expect to come from an offbeat green company out of California selling to a high-end market.” But the much-anticipated house, which Clayton claims is at least 30% more energy-efficient than traditional homes, is perhaps the most affordable option for a low-carbon lifestyle, with monthly energy costs of under $70.

The house comes in two packages: the $74,900, 723-square-foot i-house I, and the $93,300, 1,023-square-foot i-house II. Both homes can be configured in at least seven different ways and come with a number of standard features, including galvanized metal roofing, corrugated steel siding, a butterfly roof with rainwater collection, and non-VOC paints. Customers can also tack on solar panels, tankless water heaters, and low-flow faucets for a price.

Clayton’s i-house will likely be attractive to first-time home buyers due to its low price, but the modular home could also appeal to anyone searching for a cheap, energy-efficient vacation home. The company, which has sold 1.5 million homes since its start in 1934, expects to sell 2,000 i-houses per year within 18 months of its launch.

The iHouse’s design making it appealing for uses beyond the trailer park, eg. as a vacation home. It’s not cheap, especially when you factor in land purchase, but a worthy jab at mainstreaming green homes. It would be nice to see a smaller, cheaper version. As it is, I don’t see any reason to buy an iHouse over a deeply discounted McMansion.

PR-wise, however, it’s a hit. The trailer is progressive, attractive to a niche market, and eco-friendly. It borders on being hip–not bad for old Warren Buffet. And the amount of attention the iHouse is garnering can only help BRK’s reputation.

Now, if they would only update their Berkshire Hathaway activewear collection.

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