In 2014 Garrett Finney, a former senior architect at the Habitability Design Center at NASA, brought his expertise in what he describes as "advocating for human presence living in a machine" to the outdoors market.
After being less-than enchanted by the current RV and camper offerings, the Houstonian developed a new series of adventure vehicles that could safely and effectively get users off-grid — even if still Earth-bound — under the company he dubbed TAXA Outdoors.
The vehicles would follow much of the same standards that Finney worked under at NASA, in which every scenario and square inch would be closely considered in the smartly designed spaces. And rather than designing the habitats for style alone, function and storage space for essential gear took precedence. According to Finney, the habitat was to be considered a form of useful adventure equipment in its own right.
"Ceilings should be useful. They're not just for putting lights on," he says. "Even when there's gravity that's true."
Today TAXA offers four models of what they call "mobile human habitats" that can be towed behind a vehicle and sleep three to four adults, ranging from about $11,000 to $50,000 in price.
And amid the pandemic — as people were looking for a safe way to escape their homes and get outside — the TAXA habitats were flying off the shelves, attracting buyers in Texas, but also those in Colorado, California, and other nature-filled areas.
"January  was looking really good — like the break-out year. And then the pandemic was a huge red flag all around the world," Finney says. "[But] we and all our potential customers realized that going camping was the bet. They were with their family, they were getting outside, they were achieving sanity having fun and creating memories."
According to TAXA president Divya Brown, the company produced a record 430 habitats in 2020. But it still wasn't enough to match the number of orders coming in.
"We had we had almost a year and a half worth of backlog at the old facility, which we've never experienced before," Brown says.
To keep up with demand, the company moved into a new 70,000-square-foot Houston space that allows multiple operations lines, as well as a showroom for their vehicles and enough room for their staff, which tripled in size from 25 to 75 employees since the onset of the pandemic.
After making up for the backlog in 2020, TAXA hopes to produce more than 1,000 habitats by the end of 2021 and 3,000 in coming years.
"It's a pretty significant jump for us," Brown says. "We really believe there's a huge market for this."
A version of this story originally appeared on our sister site, InnovationMap.com.