Innovation in Design, Construction, and Delivery

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In the last few years, we have seen an amazing amount of innovation happen in home design and construction, much of it driven by the goal of reducing cost. Indeed, some of the long held views of home size, construction materials, site plan and other design considerations are being fundamentally re-thought. The panelists in this session are all working on innovations that have already been brought to market or are in the pipeline. Find out what’s in store for homebuyers of the future. 

Speaker Bios

John Weldy, Director of Engineering, Clayton Homes

John Weldy has more than twenty-six years of experience working in the manufactured housing industry and has been serving at Clayton Homes in Engineering since 2005. John began his career at NTA following graduation from Purdue University with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Civil Engineering. While with NTA John served as a structural engineer, Director of Testing Services, DAPIA coordinator, and Director of DAPIA & IPIA Services. Mr. Weldy is a Registered Professional Engineer (Civil & Structural) in thirty-nine states, holds the International Code Council (ICC) certifications for residential inspection for all disciplines. Mr. Weldy just finished serving on the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC) where he has served as chairman of the Technical systems subcommittee as well as chair of several Task Force groups. John is an active member of the Manufactured Housing Institute, where he serves on the Technical Activities Committee. John is a member of the executive board of the Systems Building Research Alliance where he serves as treasurer. John serves on several Technical Activities Committee’s for national research projects. John was honored with the 2017 MHI Frank Walter Standards Award.

Andrew McCoy, Beliveau Professor, Virginia Tech

Andrew P. McCoy, Ph.D. is the Director of the Virginia Center for Housing Research (VCHR), Professor of the Department of Building Construction, and Associate Director of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction (MLSoC) at Virginia Tech. He currently holds the Beliveau Professorship in the Department of Building Construction and previously held the Preston and Catharine White Fellowship.  Dr. McCoy’s main area of research involves diffusion and commercialization of innovative projects in the construction industry. He is the main author of numerous books and peer-reviewed journal articles and conference papers on the subjects of innovation adoption, diffusion and commercialization in residential construction and construction safety. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the ASC’s International Journal of Construction Education and Research and Associate Editor of the inaugural edition of ASCE’s Journal of Architectural Engineering Special Edition on Residential Building Construction. Dr. McCoy’s research won  awards within the Mid- Atlantic, State of Virginia, and American Real Estate Society conference’s.

Marion Cake, Vice President, project:HOMES

As the Vice President of Affordable Housing Development at project:HOMES, Marion has helped advance the organization’s efforts to preserve and produce affordable housing through the implementation of several neighborhood revitalization programs and the construction of high quality single and multi-family homes.

Pete Gombert, Executive Chairman, IndieDwell

Pete is a lifelong entrepreneur and has founded or co-founded businesses in several industries primarily focusing on innovative technology driven solutions. His approach to building businesses centers on building high performing, humane cultures focused on disrupting stagnant markets. As Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of indieDwell, Pete is responsible for the overall business strategy, sales and marketing of the company. indieDwell is focused on building sustainable, energy efficient, healthy and durable, affordable housing by using shipping containers as the frame of the home.

Moderator: Chris Nicely, CEO, Next Step

Chris Nicely, CEO of Next Step Homes, brings 25 years of factory-built housing and management experience to his role of training nonprofits and industry leaders on how to effectively use factory-built housing for developments and communities. Prior to joining Next Step, Chris served as the Vice President of Marketing at Clayton Homes, the nation’s largest homebuilder. At Clayton, Chris established a new brand identity package, coordinated branding and positioning, led the re-positioning of the company’s Web presence, led public relations efforts and designed and coordinated a CRM system. Prior to becoming VP of Marketing and Sales, Chris served in the positions of Zone Vice President, Regional Manager/VP and General Manager at Clayton Communities. Altogether, his history with the company spans nearly two decades. Chris holds a BA in Economics from the College of Wooster and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University. Chris recently graduated from Harvard’s Achieving Excellence in Community Development Program.


To Marion Cake: If the zoning allowed for a modular structure to be used to replace the existing mobile home instead of a manufactured one, would project:HOMES go that direction?

Yes. We have some other factors specific to this site which may make rezoning a challenge.

To Marion Cake: I am so impressed with the innovation and thoroughness project:HOMES is putting behind this project. My question is in regard to the “mobility” of these homes, should residents wish to move/move the units — would they be able to take customized elements (such as porches, which you noted may be added onto the units) with them? Ultimately, I assume the goal is to get folks to stay, but just figured I’d ask, as that can sometimes pose issues for residents who opt to relocate their homes during a move away from a park.

Yes, the homes will be transportable. We are hoping to design the porches so that they could be straightforward to attach and detach.

To John Weldy: By what percentage do you think the use of robots and machine learning will decrease production costs and purchase price? 

Great question and ultimately time will tell but we are very optimistic that it will significantly reduce cost which will drive affordable housing. I don’t have a percentage for you at this time.

To Marion Cake: can you clarify the differences between a HUD stamped home and a modular?

Modular homes are built to meet the building code just as a stick built home is. A HUD stamped home is built to meet the HUD standard for a manufactured home. The HUD inspection process is similar to the building code inspection process, but the standards are unique to a home that is transportable.

To John Weldy: are the engineering advances mostly increasing quality, or are they reducing costs? By how much?

We focus on both increasing quality and reducing cost everyday. This means we are able to provide high efficiency Carrier furnaces and ecobee programmable thermostats without increasing home cost. I’m seeing a lot of using innovation to provide better quality without increasing cost. As robotics continue to drive efficiency it will allow us to keep cost low as material cost continues to rise.

Materials prices have been rising — has this been affecting manufactured housing to the same extent as stick built? 

Due to our incredible buying power and in house material distribution centers, we may be able to buffer the material increase a bit better but it is a huge issue for us as well. Material shortages and larger demands and limited supply due to COVID is a real challenge for us as well.

To John Weldy: Clayton Homes seems to be heading into a sustainable, high-efficiency model for producing homes, with a definite decrease in labor required to physically construct the homes. What is the corporation’s plan to ensure that there is still job development/career opportunities with Clayton?

We employ over 15,000 people and we have been driven into robotics not because of the desire to innovate but rather as a way to solve our labor shortage issues. It’s hard to find the labor we need and we pay very well. Some of the things that we are doing is working with High Schools, local tech, and colleges to educate and train folks with skills that are needed in the industry.

To Pete Gombert: Where are you currently manufacturing these homes? What’s the maximum, manageable distance from plant to home site?

We have 40 building facilities throughout the US and ship from Indiana to Texas, although we try to build from our closest facility whenever possible.

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) seems to be making inroads in larger multifamily construction efforts. Is there a future for CLT in manufactured/modular housing?

We have been using CLT in MH for more than a decade and are today more than ever with supply issues of LVL materials.

To Pete Gombert: For multifamily type projects, how does your construction time compare to stick built? 

Typically we are 20-50% less expensive than stick built. However, I will say that design is everything in this market. A poorly designed modular build will be as expensive or even more expensive than stick built, so planning and design is essential.

To John Weldy: Do you foresee the disappearance of the HUD house in the future due to many inherent obstacles, such as zoning, lack of appreciation, misconceptions, financing reluctance from banks, etc.? 

No, MH industry can overcome those obstacles. Lots of exciting financing work is being done right now. The Federal preemption piece is what drives MH and if States developed a Federal program it may be able to reveal the Federal manufactured housing program.

To John Weldy: What productivity gains have you seen over the last 20 years and what do you forecast over the next 20?

We saw the greatest productivity in the 90’s and continue to struggle to reach 90’s production numbers. Based on demand projections we feel the industry could double within the next 5 years.

To Andrew McCoy: Where do you anticipate building the pilot home? Blacksburg? Will that home be sold or will it remain a teaching tool & be available to tour in person?

The home will be built in Richmond. I think in the future homes can be sold at market rate. In this case we are selling it at a workforce dwelling unit level. We are hoping to sell it 100-120% area median income (AMI) for the market.

To Andrew McCoy: Does the printed home have a finished interior wall, or is that done with traditional drywall or other surface?

The big constraint is the size of the printer. We are trying to stay within a 40×40 footprint. Smaller homes still have the same amount of finishes, in many cases. So, a “sweet spot” seems to be between 1500-1900 sf. This is still early for us, though, so the numbers are still coming in. Also, you don’t want to move the printer once it starts, if possible.