OGDEN — After 22 years in the real estate business, Stew MacInnes was growing tired of the daily grind, so he decided to strike out on his own.
About two years ago, MacInnes came up with an idea for his own business. He had come across a book about something called the “tiny home” movement, a push toward building smaller, more efficient homes, and a dream was born.
Last summer, he reached a milestone toward making that dream a reality when he and his business partners built their first custom-made trailer designed to function as a permanent residence.
Using high-end materials typically found in houses built on concrete foundations, MacInnes and his team built a trailer that looks, feels and functions more like home than a typical recreational vehicle or camper trailer.
With features like a larger shower, composting or incinerating toilet, wide-open living room space, hardwood paneling that gives it a cabin-like feel and even a small, propane-burning fireplace, MacInnes said his new venture offers something unlike anything else available on the market today.
“The way it’s designed, we really feel like we’ve got something here,” he said. “We use the same technology as residential or commercial construction. A mobile steel platform instead of a concrete foundation is the only difference.”
MacInnes has enlisted the help of former teammates from his football-playing days at Weber State, former business associates and family members to help design, build and market the trailers through a fledgling company called Maximus Extreme Living Solutions. So far, they have built two models that they have been showing to prospective customers. The models are 8-by-20 feet with 160 square feet of living space inside, plus lofts that serve as sleeping areas.
The trailers compily with Department of Transportation rules for highway use and can be pulled by any full-size pickup truck, MacInnes said. They can legally be built up to 40 feet long and 13 feet, 6 inches high.
MacInnes envisions a wide range of uses for the trailers, including outdoor recreation and tailgating at sporting events. But the biggest potential customer he sees is in the industrial sector — specifically, energy exploration and production companies, which often face the challenge of finding temporary housing for employees in remote areas where they work.
“We think this could be a really big hit with the oil, gas and mining industries,” he said. “We’ve asked them what they want, and they said something that feels like home.”
Workers in those industries are regularly sent to places where extreme heat or cold is the norm, and Maximus trailers are built to withstand those conditions, said Craig Slama, a former WSU teammate of MacInnes and a partner in the business. Specially designed structural integrated panels in the walls keep the heat and cold out.
“The material used fits extreme living conditions, down to 55 below zero,” Slama said. “The stuff they use in RVs or regular campers — it’s not even close to a comparison.”
Because of the quality of materials used and attention to detail, Maximus trailers aren’t cheap. MacInnes said a typical model will sell for between $40,000 and $60,000, and prices could be above or below that range depending on the level of customization.
“If someone wanted their own design, as long as it’s legal, we can do that,” he said. “Imagination, the laws of physics and the customer’s pocketbook are the only limitations.”
There are numerous practical reasons for living in a smaller home, especially a mobile one, said Bob Haney, a longtime boat mechanic who helps design and choose materials for the trailers.
“Instead of paying property taxes, you only have to pay gas tax,” Haney said. “Everyone has a different application they could use it for. If there’s a forest fire in the area, you can get it out of there.”
The company is currently located in an Ogden building large enough to produce a few trailers at a time. MacInnes said he hopes business will take off to the point that a much larger facility is needed.
“Our goal is to take it to a high level,” he said. “We wanting to be making 100 of these per month.”
The company has secured financing from several stable sources, so the main focus now is on getting the word out to the public and the business community. MacInnes said he took one of the models to an outdoor recreation expo at Hill Air Force Base last year, and the reaction was very favorable from the 1,000 or so people who took a tour.
Whether the business takes off remains to be seen, but MacInnes is optimistic that there’s a strong market and demand out there for his product.
“We believe the sky’s the limit.”