OGDEN -- Stew MacInnes recently went from selling full-size houses as a real estate agent to a completely different scale, building and selling tiny homes, also known as self-contained living units.
"I saw an excerpt about tiny homes, and I thought, 'This is really a clever deal,' " said MacInnes, owner of Maximus Extreme Living Solutions in Ogden. He became so hooked that his wife finally told him to stop showing her tiny-home ideas and go start his own company.
"I said, 'Are you serious?' I had such a voracious appetite for them, and real estate had lost its luster for me," MacInnes said. "I was approaching 50 years of age and wanted to do something fun and different."
So he said goodbye to the real estate business after 22 years and hello to the tiny-home industry by setting up his own business a year ago.
The tiny-home movement isn't new, where homes fit into an area of a couple hundred square feet. It is becoming more popular as an alternative housing option for a myriad of different people -- recreational users, laborers working on-site away from home, mobile office users or even tailgaters.
What is new is how his company has incorporated technological advances to bring tiny homes to a new level.
"We're the first I know of in the U.S. to combine specific technologies together," said MacInnes, referring to their structurally insulated panels with solid foam core and integrated wood studs, creating a 10 1/2-inch insulation barrier.
"Our tiny homes are on steroids, built to withstand negative-50-degree weather and temperatures in excess of 150 degrees," he said, which comes in handy for workforce housing used in the exploration and extraction of natural resources in locations with extreme weather.
Creating their self-contained living units takes several months, but the only limitation is imagination, the laws of physics and how big one's pocketbook is for creating a tiny house, said MacInnes. The homes are attached to a steel platform hooked to wheels, making the design a semi-permanent structure that can be moved with short notice.
Greg Dewey, who works with MacInnes designing and building the homes, has spent many vacations in a recreational vehicle, but was sold on tiny homes the moment he and his family tried out a self-contained living unit.
"After you stay in it, you see how efficient it is keeping you cool, and how nice it is not having to worry about mice chewing through the steel, a problem with the aluminum found in most RVs," said Dewey. "My wife also feels more secure with the dead-bolted steel door, versus an RV's flimsy door people can just push open."
One of their first homes was designed in the shape of a caboose, meant to simulate the look of the Dakotas and their heritage, where there are also numerous natural resource extraction sites where workers often stay in mobile home units.
MacInnes said in visiting with many of them, workers got tired of feeling like they were sleeping in a box, being cold constantly, and wishing they had something that felt like home where they could relax. Tiny homes have become a way for them to do just that -- feel at home, stay warm with insulated walls, and be able to move their home from site to site.
One of the biggest challenges is making sure everything in the unit has multiple functions, such as the all-in-one kitchen that comes equipped with a couple of burners, stove, sink, pantry and fridge, all compacted into 30 x 25 inches.
Toilets are available with composting or incineration options, and a warm shower is provided by an on-demand propane water heater, the company's website says.
"Everything has to have multiple uses with our shared-space concept, so it's almost like putting together an adult puzzle. There's not really a school you go to to learn how to do this, so I've had to teach myself from scratch how to do it," a challenge MacInnes said is worth the career switch.