Clayton Home Building Group is earning awards for energy efficient homes and reducing waste, and it’s pushing for greater savings and sustainability.

Thirty-four Clayton off-site home building facilities — including six in Tennessee — recently earned the 2021 Energy Star Residential New Construction Market Leader Award.

One of those, Clayton Savannah, also received a 2021 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award for finding ways to reuse more than 1.5 million pounds of what otherwise would have been waste.

With those accomplishments already in hand, Clayton this spring hired its first director of environment and sustainability, William Jenkins.

An Energy Star

Clayton qualified for the national awards by building more than 20,000 homes from January 2020 through April 2021 that met energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That was about a third of all the homes Clayton manufactured during the period.

Because an Energy Star certified manufactured home uses substantially less energy for heating and water than a standard manufactured home, the EPA says homeowners can save hundreds of dollars a year on utility bills.

Clayton’s homes feature products including ecobee smart thermostats, which work with Google, Apple and Amazon home systems to monitor and optimize performance; and SmartComfort furnaces by Carrier, fully insulated and sealed to be efficient and quiet.

Tons of savings

The Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award, presented this month, recognizes Clayton’s facility in Hardin County for materials management.

“In 2020, despite everything going on, they were able to reuse over one and a half million pounds of materials, lumber, OSB, drywall, things of that nature,” Jenkins said.

What would have been waste became pallets, windbreaks for home delivery, insulation barriers and braces in interior walls, for example.

“Ninety percent of the reuse material was notoriously difficult to recycle construction waste — wood and sheetrock,” according to a summary from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

In 2015 the facility created about half the waste of a site-built home, generating at that time an average of 2 tons of waste per home built. “By the end of 2020, Clayton was able to reduce that by 71 percent to 0.58 tons of waste per home built,” TDEC said.

Over the past year, reducing waste and energy use cut greenhouse gas emissions equal to removing 736 passenger vehicles, according to the summary.

Since joining the Tennessee Green Star Partnership program in 2019, Clayton Savanah increased its recycling by 300% and diversion of waste by 117%.

Focus on future

Jenkins’ new position is the first solely committed to sustainability within the company.

“It’s really taking a hard look at the energy we use across our facilities and operations,” Jenkins said, trying to reduce the company’s carbon footprint with efforts to reduce waste, energy use and water consumption. It’s an effort he said has buy-in from the top down.

Jenkins completed his master’s degree in geology in 2019.

“My whole life I’ve been fascinated by the earth and earth systems and how everything is connected from an environmental standpoint,” said Jenkins, who worked for an environmental consulting company before joining Clayton Homes in April.

He previously helped measure the effect of climate change on glaciers in Alaska and worked on environmental compliance remediation projects and assessments across North America. “All of those experiences are going to continue to drive my passion at Clayton,” he said

Jenkins said he was drawn to the new position because, “I loved the opportunity to have such a great impact with such a large company in terms of sustainability.”

All of the Clayton Home Building Group facilities and supply centers are either certified or in the process of being certified in ISO 14001, standards for environmental management, and they set environmental objectives to improve on every year.

Now they will be working on ISO 50001, focused more specifically on energy management.

“We hope to not only reduce the amount of energy that we’re using, but that’s going to have an impact on our emissions as well,” Jenkins said.

Clayton already has seen extended benefits from energy initiatives, such as a 200 kilowatt solar carport system installed in 2019 at a facility in Sulphur Springs, Texas.

“It’s had profound impact in terms of energy savings and just team member experience for keeping their cars cool in the hot Texas sun,” Jenkins noted.

Clayton is taking a broad look at the options for decreasing energy use and improving sustainability.

“We’re even looking into, on the product side, developing some net zero rated offsite built homes,” he said, referring to creating a home that generates at least as much energy as it uses. “That’s very much in development at this point, but we’re scoping it out.”

In a news release about the Energy Star awards, Clayton Homes CEO Kevin Clayton said, “While we pride ourselves in the homes we build, we are also proud of the innovative building methods and standards we continue to adopt for the future.”

Education Reporter

Amy Beth earned her degree from West Virginia. She joined The Daily Times in 2016 on the education beat covering Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County school systems.

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