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:
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Out Interview with Stew McInnes, Maximus Extreme Tiny Home Builder, in 2012
I encourage you to listen to the interview below or read the transcript:
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.
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?
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 really 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, smokejumpers, 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.
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.
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!
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