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Interview with Stew MacInnes: Tiny House Builder

Earlier this month I introduced you to Stew MacInnes and his tiny houses.

He’s the owner of a company named Maximus Extreme Living Solutions.

They build tiny homes that are rugged and well insulated to withstand extreme temperatures.

Their purpose? To better serve workers in oil and mining fields throughout the United States.

I thought this was an interesting new perspective in the little house world so I hope you enjoy the interview.

Another point I found interesting was that they use SIPs (structurally insulated panels) to build the homes.

To check out our previous posts on Maximus Extreme see the links below:

Tiny Houses by Maximus Extreme

I encourage you to listen to the interview below or read the transcript:

Caboose Style Tiny House on a Trailer

Stew's Tiny House Maximus Extreme Living Solutions

Transcription:

Alex: I’m Alex Pino with Tiny House Talk and today I’m excited to introduce everyone for those of you listening to Stew of Maximus Extreme Tiny Houses. I just found out about Stew not too long ago but I got to see one of his houses and he’s already working on a second one so he’s a new tiny house builders and we’re going to get to hang out with him here and find out what got him interested in all of this. So Stew, thank you so much for joining me.

Stew: No problem I appreciate the opportunity thanks Alex.

Alex: Just give us a little bit of your introduction to tiny homes; when did you first learn about them and can you tell us the story behind that?

Stew: Sure. I was the new homes director for a large Coldwell Banker franchise for a number of years and I had been involved in new construction during that time. I always had an affinity for architecture in different forms of it and I saw an ad on the Internet of Jay Shafer’s Tumbleweed Homes. I saw his book advertised and purchased the book and read through it and found it pretty intriguing.

So anyway I kept the book and I thought that that would be a great opportunity for a project. So what I wanted to do here in Ogden city, which is North of Salt Lake City, it’s an old railroad town and I approached the city if they were interested in Jay’s design regarding the smaller homes (not the homes on trailers).

And wanted to go in and do a small project and I had backing, capital, etc. But the city…. so I got frustrated with it. And what I decided to do was look at a different avenue. And I had a client that worked in the oil industry and he owned a number of man camps.

And I approached him one day as he was educating me on the oil industry and I said, “What do you think if we took these homes that are on the trailers and introduced those for housing alternative option in the oil field industry?”

And he said, “I think you’d sell them like crazy.” And so that’s kind of the genesis of how we got involved in doing this. So basically our homes are the tiny homes that have many of the similarities that you’d find with a number of your readers but are beefed up I guess you could say, they’re tiny homes on steroids

So they’re designed to withstand extreme temperature fluctuations and they’ve got onboard water storage that’s far more than you’d see in RVs. So we’re excited about it. It’s a fantastic opportunity and my guys, my crew and myself we’re excited about the whole process.

Tiny Houses by Maximus Extreme

Alex: That’s incredible to hear so you’ve already got clients ready to buy the homes and these are oil clients?

Stew: Particularly in North Dakota there’s a large number of oil formation there called the Bakken. And it’s estimated right now that it’s about 25 billion retrievable barrels of oil and I just got back about 4 or 5 weeks ago from Williston, North Dakota which is kind of the epicenter of everything and that place is dripping with money. And the issue that they have in Northwestern North Dakota is housing for these workers. They’ve got a negative unemployment situation going on. I mean they’re paying $1500 bonuses for people to work at McDonald’s to sign on. And not only is it in Northwestern North Dakota but it’s in Eastern Montana and the issue is that many of these cities and municipalities do not have the infrastructure to handle this because frankly it was unanticipated. Some technological advances had taken place that allowed for the extraction of the resources that we have there as a country.

So what these guys are seeing in these cities is that their sewer systems can’t handle it. So as we did some research in some of the innovations that your readers and builders that you subscribe to I mean they’ve nailed it and we’ve taken and just crossed over the application.

So where many of your readers and subscribers and people who build these tiny homes they get it and being ecologically friendly works for our clientele because we use composting or incinerating toilets so that it doesn’t tap into the infrastructure out there. And what that does is by having an incinerating toilet or having a composting toilet it doesn’t utilities their sewer systems because frankly they can’t handle anymore.

So it gives us an inherent advantage going in there and we can say, “Hey look, city commissioners or county commissioners, XYZ city, our little product will compliment what you’re trying to do here. Are units are safer because they can withstand the temperature fluctuations, they’re built to conventional construction methodology that you’d see in building a home versus just a regular RV or 5th wheel where you’ve got an inch and a quarter insulation and they don’t have the rigidity that ours [tiny homes] have and they utilize SIPs (structurally insulated panels) which have actually been around since the 1930s. They originated out of the University of Wisconsin. And we use those because it’s a dense foam core and these things start out at an R26 rating and as the temperature drops the R value increases. We use a company out of Idaho called Raycore and they’ve got some patents pending on some unique qualities or properties that they have.”

So our houses are able to withstand temperature fluctuations. They say that we can down to 50 below but as I talked to the guys in the company they say that we’re rated for better than that. So it’s a pretty cool product.

Alex: That was going to be my next question because I’m really into the SIPs and I thought that was great that you guys are using them. How do you feel about, or, how fast can you build these and is it because of these panels that you can build so fast?

Caboose Tiny House by Maximus Extreme

Stew: Our goal is to be able to build about five [tiny houses] a week. And the panels definitely speed up the process because what we can do is we can pull up the plans and say we need these specific dimensions for plan X. And they can ship those to us ready to go and then the assembly, I mean my guys are very crafty and they wear numerous hats in building this but, they’re professional assemblers and that’s a lot of what this is. So yeah the SIPs they help in putting these together.

Alex: That’s great. To switch the subject a little bit, does your company only offer these homes to these companies that want housing for their employees, or are you also open to taking orders from possibly our readers?

Stew: Sure. That’s a great question. And we’re definitely open to doing some custom applications in fact my guys are itching to do things like that. Our next prototype that we’ve got out there actually has taken the look of a caboose by design. Think of an old Pullman car on the inside where we’ve got three bunks stacked on top of each other and it’s just a real fun application. We have really traditionalized our company and where we hope to take it in the future is that the exploration and extraction of natural resources will be our bread and butter. That type of clientele: the trucking, the oil, all of that. That keeps the lights on and hopefully the profit center for our company.

But what we’re all really looking forward to is the custom applications. My brother in law is our chief guy in terms of fixed carpentry and he’s a big hardware guy and so we’ve got applications that we envision in terms of stuff for folks. We also see applications for FEMA, government agencies, force service, smoke jumpers, these are rugged and can go wherever.

The custom application – my background in College – I went to College on a football scholarship so we think that tailgating might be a great crossover. And the other thing that we’ve kind of looked at is – I don’t know if you’ve seen on cable television – is the preppers. The extreme preppers we feel that our trailer offers a great opportunity for these folks in terms of what they call bug out trailers. Because for instance our stock model we carry anywhere from 105 gallons to 150 gallons of fresh water which I know many comparable RVs don’t carry that much. So we offer some neat qualities. So any of your readers that wanted to look at we can take our plans and our ideas and designers can take theirs and incorporate them. Yeah, we welcome that; we’d love to do some custom stuff – absolutely.

Tiny Houses by Maximus Extreme

Alex: That is very, very exciting. So how long has it been since you guys have been working with these tiny homes?

Stew: Actually the concept – you’ll laugh at this – I’ve been working on this project for about a year and a half. And I conducted much of what I would do when I was in the real estate capacity in working with the client. I wanted to make sure that I had a pretty good feel for our clientele. So I ended up doing a number of field interviews with people that worked in man camps or in the oil and mining industries because that’s where we primarily started. And I was kind of going at a slow pace and I kept bugging my wife and saying, “honey, come look at this,” and, “what do you think of this design,” and finally she said, “you know what, I want you to shut up and go and start the company because I’m tired of hearing about it.” And so we’ve been building since about August 2012 actually but I owe her the.. (laughing).. her encouragement in a forceful way saying “hey look, either shut up or go do it.”

Alex: She gave you a nice kick in the butt. A good one. (laughing).

Stew: (laughing) Yeah, that’s exactly what took place.

Alex: So I understand on you’re first house you did some kind of deal with Dan Louche who a lot of our readers are familiar with of Tiny Home Builders and so you kind of used part of his Tiny Living design, is that right?

Stew: Uh huh.

Alex: Can you tell us a little bit about that? How you guys worked that out, or what you used, and all that?

Stew: Well I looked at a number of different plans and I thought I don’t want to go in and re-invent the wheel. I want to work with some people that number one seem real competent and I called him and talked with him on the phone and I was impressed with his knowledge and I told him I wanted some modifications made to it like we needed a dual loft on it and a few other minor things and he was real quick in terms of getting the plans to me and real reasonable on the pricing.

And then what we did is we took that basic shell and reformulated it back with the guys at the plant with the SIPs, the structurally insulated panels, with our roof system and all that. So we took the basic format that he had and deconstructed it and rebuilt it up based on our specs that we wanted but his design was I thought fantastic. I like the look of it from an aesthetic point of view and the reason I chose that was two fold. One was, I mean, it appealed to me but as I conducted the field interviews with the guys that were in the field in the oil and mining industries one of the things that really surprised me was that they all virtually every single one said to me was that they wanted something that felt like home. They didn’t want something that felt like a man camp. They didn’t want something that they felt like they were staying in a storage container. They wanted something with a piece of home. I thought, wow, I had anticipated well maybe they wanted 800 count Egyptian cotton sheets or they wanted you know …. But that was one of the things that really stood out to me was that they wanted something that felt like home. When they’re working in these really extreme weather conditions and a meat grinder of a job these guys are whipping their tails off and this was something that they all said. They wanted something that was warm, safe, and that felt like home.

Alex: When you did these field interviews was that before all the tiny house ideas, is that what led you to tiny houses?

Stew: Actually the tiny house concept is what I wanted to do but what I wanted to do was find out what was important so I knew what kind of plan to land on if that makes sense.

So I had the idea conceptually that we wanted to go with a mobile unit. And we would build it. But I wanted to know what they wanted instead of me taking my own idea and saying, “hey here’s a great idea you guys I’m sure you’re going to love it.”

I wanted to find out what they wanted first and then build it and say here it is. We built what you said you wanted. And it’s been well achieved.

Tiny Houses by Maximus Extreme

Alex: Yeah and that’s so much more of an effective way than guessing, I guess you would say.

Stew: Yeah I mean I’d love to think that I have all the answers but I’ve learned the hard way that I have very few. And so it makes it a lot easier if I’m trying to solve a problem that I know clearly what the problem is and that we solve it based on what the ultimate customer or consumer wants versus me trying to tell them, “this is what you need.” That usually doesn’t work real well.

Alex: Very good point there Stew. So just to wrap things up I wanted you to share any final thoughts you had but most of all let our listeners know where they can find you online and if there’s some way that they can reach you.

Stew: Sure. Our website is www.MaximusExtreme.com. And our contact information is all on the website if you need to give me a call feel free to I’m pretty available. And we’re located again in Ogden, Utah, which is north of Salt Lake City. And in parting I’d just like to thank you for the opportunity and featuring our company and we’re excited about this process and to be a part of the tiny home community and I think our product is another complimentary part of a movement that is really catching on here and I think that a lot of people across the country this is a great alternative not only our product but other folks that participate in the tiny home movement I think it’s a great, great thing for our communities and our country as a whole. So I’m just excited to be part of it, thank you.

Alex: Thank you so much Stew I’m really glad to have gotten to meet you and hang out with you here for a bit and I’m excited about what you’re doing it’s definitely very, very cool and different so honored to have you on here. Thanks again!

Stew: Alright, take care!

Caboose Style Tiny House on a Trailer (2)

Caboose Style Tiny House on a Trailer (3)

Caboose Style Tiny House on a Trailer (4)

Caboose Style Tiny House on a Trailer (5)

Caboose Style Tiny House on a Trailer (6)

Caboose Style Tiny House on a Trailer (7)

Caboose Style Tiny House on a Trailer (8)

Caboose Style Tiny House on a Trailer (9)

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Alex

Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Diane December 6, 2012, 10:08 am

    I am wondering about the wall mounted unit in the kitchen area labelled “Husky”. Is this a refrigeration unit? Thank you!!! This tiny house design is well executed, and there is a lot to learn from their well researched water system and material selections!!!! Thank you for making us aware of this new resource for tiny houses!!!!

    • Devon December 7, 2012, 11:29 am

      Diane,
      I’m thinking that since there is a company called Husky who manufactures tool-related items, this is a tool-cabinet for the workers. But it would be a good spot for a small refrig. for those who don’t need a tool cabinet in their main living space.

  • SteveR December 6, 2012, 8:12 pm

    The wonderful new technology allowing the extraction of that oil is called fracking!

    The tiny house is perhaps apropos since one they are done extracting the oil, nobody will be able to live there anyway and they can all just move.

    Heaven help us to encourage this type of development. Congratulations. You are part of the problem.

    • Alex December 7, 2012, 2:25 am

      Thanks for your honest thoughts Steve I knew that this would concern folks, as it does me. Still thought I’d share and get everyone’s opinions.

    • Jim December 7, 2012, 12:47 pm

      @SteveR – It is wonderful technology and much safer on the environment. You’d prefer windmills and solar, me too. Unfortunately, those technologies currently won’t make a dent in our energy requirements (and they have their own environmental issues). The other option is nuclear and/or coal and I’m pretty sure you dislike those as well. Perhaps a return to a pre-industrial age will make you happy. Why not just enjoy the eco-friendly tiny houses for what they are? They’re a step in the right direction that we can all appreciate.

      • SteveR December 8, 2012, 1:35 am

        Tiny houses are a step in the right direction. Fracking is not.

        You parrot the arguments paid for by the oil industry but they present false choices. Take a look at the work that Amory Lovins is doing. There are paths forward using far less energy while retaining modern conveniences and running an economy. In fact, it is more economic to do so and can be the basis of a new economy.

        Btw, I lived off grid for a year and did not have to return to the pre-industrial age.

        Even tiny houses can be improved. If designed properly, they would not need any additional energy whatsoever for heating year round other than the sun. The technology exists. I’d rather not need to buy any energy than depend on increasing fuel costs, And fossil fuel costs will never decrease – ever.

  • .Ireneo c. Siwa jr. December 6, 2012, 9:18 pm

    Can you /we sell that in Butuan city Philippines.. Raw gold r plenty here and I have plenty strategic located land….waiting to be in business with you…

  • .Ireneo c. Siwa jr. December 6, 2012, 9:20 pm

    FYI…forex ….+/-pesos45 = $1

  • Vern December 6, 2012, 10:33 pm

    It’s unfortunate the tiny home movement can also help to perpetuate the raping of our natural resources. I thought this was about simplicity and leaving a smaller foot print. Sorry Alex but I think you have muddled the picture with this story

    • Alex December 7, 2012, 2:26 am

      It’s certainly a bit confusing. Thanks for your thoughts and sorry if it’s upsetting.

  • Nicholas December 7, 2012, 1:27 am

    Thank you for the heads up about fracking! That sounds pretty terrible.

    I like that you’re excited about it, Alex. I hope this guy makes a ton of money selling these things. I hope they get tons of national attention. I hope the drilling is delayed–at least until they can do it with significantly more environmental responsibility. I hope that if they end up having to lay people off due to the delays that the people will have the option of keeping these homes and living a simpler/affordable life (and that it catches on).

    This guy seizing the opportunity isn’t the problem–fracking is. He’s distilling the “home” experience and hopefully gaining a lot of attention for his “home” experience. Who’s watching “how” the drilling is done? The people are just happy that its happening? Or people like yourselves that care how much it costs the Earth? I want loving people like yourselves to see it. I hope they don’t buy McMansions in defiance ;).

  • Nicholas December 7, 2012, 1:45 am

    I just checked out his website. You can sign up for a list called “Follow the Frackhouse” which is not likely to win him many environmentalist friends. He doesn’t seem opposed to helping or hurting the environment (as he’s supporting both). He does reference other companies that promote this lifestyle without promoting fracking.

    Hmmm…

    • Alex December 7, 2012, 2:30 am

      Yeah, I knew when I posted it that it was controversial/confusing. It’s like a clash of sorts. It’s a challenging topic..

      Do you guys think I shouldn’t have even brought attention to this builder? Just curious..

  • SteveR December 7, 2012, 11:21 am

    Alex,

    You are absolutely right to cover this. This is about tiny houses and it certainly creates talk. I don’t believe in censuring stories to sugar coat them.

    This is the ugly side of a nation beaten down by debt, jobs moving overseas, decreasing wages, union busting, wealth inequality and propaganda and pandering by big oil. It’s a dilemma.

    Perhaps you didn’t even realize that you posted this story at the height of COP 18, the Doha Climate Change Conference where the USA is taking a hiding for being blockers to any real progress, not delivering on any previous promises and doing their very best to make sure no binding agreements are made for anyone in any period of time that scientists say are necessary to avert total annihilation of civilization on this planet ( We now seem to be heading for 6C increase in temps where 4C is considered to be the end of human existence). Who and what is behind this position taken by the USA? Is this the will of the people?

    What’s happening in ND is playing out in many parts of the country.

    It’s a dangerous combination of desperate people and misinformation for short term gain.
    We should all make up our minds about what should take place there but not without having access to the facts and the implications. Everyone washes their hands saying they are just taking advantage of the opportunity, but this is what collective myopia looks like and the ugly side of the ‘invisible hand’.

    Inform yourself about fracking and how it came to be(hint: Halliburton loophole 2005), the US’s position on climate change and how that came to be and the whole oil industry, US foreign policy. Even prohibition is mixed up in this story!

  • Devon December 7, 2012, 11:27 am

    Hi Alex,
    Hey, I’ll be the one who says a big Thank You for bringing this guy to our attention! We have a small, local SIPS manufacturer right here in VT, and it never occured to me to consider them for building a tiny house. I think they did a great job, and kudos to them for making them not only tiny, but also able to withstand temperature extremes. Thanks also for your diplomacy and tact 🙂

  • sesameB December 7, 2012, 2:44 pm

    This is an excellent interview. Thanks.

  • sesameB December 7, 2012, 2:46 pm

    I agree with this comment from above:

    “This is the ugly side of a nation beaten down by debt, jobs moving overseas, decreasing wages, union busting, wealth inequality and propaganda and pandering by big oil. It’s a dilemma.” from SteveR

  • Linda Webber December 7, 2012, 6:08 pm

    I am a big fan of SIPs and think it’s a great idea for the Tiny Houses. It’s great that someone has the idea for not only workers in the oil industry but also pipelines, gas and any mobile workers. I don’t agree with the environmentalists’ comments and don’t really see their point. I say more power to MacInnes and I wish him lots of success.

    Thank you for the interview. I only wish homeless people could somehow have use of these houses.

  • Glema December 8, 2012, 5:01 pm

    Ty Alex for this story! I appreciate that in the upgrading possibilities of better weatherizing for future tiny house owners (which I pray one day to be.) you have informed us of other possible avenues for employment. Such as all the workers it’s going to take to build these homes and the opportunity to learn things about fracking that perhaps many in our circles were not informed about. I don’t believe in killing the messenger for the msg. You brought a lot to consider from this small story and I thank you.

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