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According to the U.S. Census, some 20 million Americans live in manufactured homes. In December,  manufactured homes industry group Next Step hosted a webinar discussing how this segment of the housing market can help with reduced carbon emissions while creating more affordable and healthier homes.

Next Step is an organization dedicated to factory-built home as a practical, sustainable solution for home ownership.  In framing the roundtable, president and CEO Stacy Epperson states “[Next Step] is dedicated to homes built in factories because it is the most efficient and a greener way to build.”

To begin the panel, Ellie White, senior associate, carbon-free buildings program at Rocky Mountain Institute, said that a common misconception is that manufactured homes cost more to build, which is often not the case. In fact, 10 percent of homes in the U.S. are manufactured. In addition to the low cost, manufactured homes allow low-income families to acquire homes. The median income of people living in these homes is $35,000. This is roughly half of the income of people living in a site-built home.

“It is important to look at the broader building stock and the impact that has on climate change both nationally and all around the world,” White says, “ 40 percent of all total energy consumption and 40 percent of carbon emissions are from the U.S. … [Better] building will help meet those goals.” White says the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) can help meet this goal. RMI has several resources such as a document on the IRA and its broader industry impact, White adds.

On the manufacturing side, Clayton Homes is represented by William Jenkins, director of environmental sustainability.

“As a home builder, we recognise our responsibility to recognise our environmental impact… it supports affordability for homeowners but also our greenhouse emissions goals.” Clayton built 20,000 Energy Star efficient buildings. In addition, Clayton shared innovations in the manufactured housing at the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders meeting in April where they tested energy consumption and installed solar shingles. Jenkins underscores Clayton’s dedication to continue testing other technologies that will help with reducing energy consumption technologies, such as better insulations for windows, and heat pump water heaters.

“The benefit is that manufactured housing provides flexibility and customization especially the eco parts of the building,” said Clemente Mojica, president & CEO of NPHS, a mission-based organization providing homeownership and small business solutions in California’s Inland Empire. “Our first goal was how to green these homes to lower utility costs. We serve families of color. That is who we served….We evolved by looking at our climate adaptiveness and climate resilience. We started with landscaping and energy star appliances, then started going into solar and eco…. our homes are now anti-ignition.” In terms of results, Mojica outlines three homes built in Chino, California. Two of the homes have not incurred electric bills in three years and the largest of the homes have had their electric bills offset by 90 percent.

Another angle discussed in the panel is the reduction of fossil fuel use in homes via electrification. To discuss this component, Jamal Lewis, director of policy partnerships and equitable electrification at Rewiring America, explained the significance of “electrification.”

“Over the course of history, we have had innovation that helps us build more effective and efficient homes… Within that context, electrification is the next iteration of progression. Electrification is the process of shifting from a fossil machine to an electric machine. That concept exists both in the building sector and other sectors. In thinking of the electrification of vehicles.” According to Lewis, 87 percent of America’s emissions come from the energy sector. Within this sector, there are emission-curbing choices that consumers themselves can make. For instance, heat induction stoves are 5-6 times more efficient than gas stoves. On the health side, electric appliances make it easier for people with preexisting conditions and respiratory issues to live a better life.

“Rewiring America is often from the consumer perspective and the choices they have to make. [The] IRA is making it more effective and affordable for [the] consumer bases…What those consumer tax credits do is showing and demonstrating the increased demands for more efficient technologies. Second, because of the IRA, we think of houses across the United States to having an electric bank account… This bank account comprises of other incentives that can help consumers… The average IRA beneficiary can get up to $10,600 to make energy-saving decisions.” Lewis also adds that the IRA has increased the standard for energy-efficient housing.

The panel concludes with each panelist believing in the future of manufactured housing as a big driver of energy efficiency. With more electrification possibilities and tax benefits, the future of housing and the quality of life including health and finance will be greatly improved.