Plant Life A 1,200-square-foot basement in the Phototronic Living Home can be set up as a greenhouse, with living quarters above.
Courtesy Phototron Holdings Plant Life A 1,200-square-foot basement in the Phototronic Living Home can be set up as a greenhouse, with living quarters above.

In February, Georgia lawmakers proposed a bill to ease zoning that hampers residents from raising crops and livestock. Detroit officials have discussed converting former house lots into agricultural fields for growing fresh produce.

The decades-old “grow your own food” movement has gained traction lately. Now, Phototron Holdings, a Gardena, Calif.–based supplier to the hydroponic growing industry, is moving the needle with a branding and equipment licensing agreement with two Las Vegas–area companies that have developed an affordable, quick-assembly house whose first floor is an indoor greenhouse.

Last year, GigaCrete, which makes a nontoxic mineral-based coating for insulated concrete forms, and Reliable Steel, which makes steel framing, devised a 24-foot-by-24-foot house made from expanded polystyrene foam, 18-gauge steel, and GigaCrete’s coating. That house, with a pyramid roof, one bedroom, and one bathroom, could be assembled in a day, and the coating applied within three days. The cost: around $15,000.

GigaCrete CEO Michael Johnson and founder Andrew Dennis developed this house for countries struggling with severe housing shortages. Phototron asked GigaCrete and Reliable to expand the concept to incorporate “grow rooms,” so people living in cold climates could cultivate food year-round in a controlled indoor environment.

What emerged is the Phototronic Living Home. Its 550-square-foot upstairs includes a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living room. The 1,200-square-foot basement includes an LED-lighted greenhouse with space for the laundry and food preparation.

GigaCrete’s coating prevents algae, mold, and mildew. Walls are insulated to R-30 and the ceiling to R-45. Solar panels collect energy for a battery system that keeps the house operational during power outages. (One customer group the Living Home targets is people who want to “live off of the grid,” says Phototron’s vice chairman Craig Ellins.) The HVAC system flows CO2 produced by residents to the greenhouse and oxygen produced by the plants to the living quarters.

Through the spring, 32 countries had inquired about this concept; Colombia wants to build 7,000 of them. Prototypes have already been built in Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Northern Arizona, and potential markets include Native American tribes and U.S.-Canada border towns. Tim Puetz, Reliable’s CEO, says the Phototronic Living Home is being sold primarily online, but “major builders” are being wooed.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Las Vegas, NV.