Emmy-award winning actor Bryan Cranston is well-known for his starring role as a perfect meth maker on Breaking Bad (now in its final season), though few realize his passion for green building and design. We recently spoke at the Dwell on Design conference about the completion of his new sustainable beach house in Southern California. Cranston’s LEED Platinum/Passive House, with architecture and interiors by Turturro Design Studio, is dubbed the “3Palms project” and is a cutting-edge representation of sustainable design, resulting in an elegant and comfortable home with net zero energy.
Don’t Be Apathetic
I think apathy is probably the biggest enemy of people being introduced to responsible construction and lifestyle. For example, people might look at only the cost of changing out incandescent bulbs to fluorescent or LED bulbs and they see the $30 price on the LED, but it will last you 10 years and use a fraction of what you’re using now. So, you’re actually doubling your money, but it’s that initial sticker shock.
When materials and supplies get more ubiquitous and they’re on the shelf of every home repair store, it’s going to be easier. Just like recycling is now. It took a little while, but the new generation just does it. They don’t know any different. That’s what you have to do — excite the younger generation into realizing it is truly a social responsibility for us to live this way.
The Seeds Of Recycling Start Young
I grew up with a mother who knew not only how to save money and stretch a dollar, but recycling was huge. Things were reused, reconstituted to become something else. Also, my grandfather would heat up our own water through other systems. If we were cooking something on the stove, the exhaust from the water would heat up something else and circulate back down and then be used for our bath. That’s the way I was raised and it became natural to expand on that, not just live within that.
Don’t Use Plastic Water Bottles
I won’t allow this (points to water bottle) in my house. People can’t bring in water bottles. Maybe 40 percent of them get recycled (probably less) and they are filling up landfills and won’t break down for 100 years. They’re going into the ocean and bobbing around… and it’s just terrible. Trucks have to deliver these bottles and trains before that and tractors have to unload those trucks and they take gasoline and manpower and energy and they have to have a warehouse to store these. So much waste… it has got to change.
We have a great water system in my new house, called LifeSource, a whole house water system. So, I get really good drinkable water from the faucets, which I had to retrain myself to drink, and I also don’t get that filmy, salt residue in the showers anymore.
Don’t Waste Water
Replace your showerheads with low flow ones. The old showerheads were an unbelievable waste of money because the amount of water going out was unnecessary. To save even more water when you’re taking a shower – get wet, turn the water off and soap up, then turn it back on to rinse off. I do it because that’s the way I’ve always done it. Same thing drives me crazy with dishes, don’t leave the water running when rinsing or loading the dishwasher.
Replace Your Light Bulbs
Replacing your light bulbs is a simple thing to do – get away from the incandescent bulbs and switch to fluorescent or LED. There’s not one LED light bulb that operates at our home at 100 percent. We are able to dim it down, so at it’s brightest it’s at about 80 percent and others we do even less.
My radiant heat is fantastic and very efficient. In fact, it’s so efficient that I put it out on my patio at the beach. It never gets too hot and is so much better than one of those gas heaters outside, where about 90 percent of that heat goes up. People thought I was crazy at first, but I said, “No, this green lifestyle, we’re not asking people to sacrifice, we’re asking them to live in harmony with these new ideas.” This extends our living space and our enjoyment of the outside by at least another two hours. No matter where you stand on my deck, your feet are warm.
Slash Your Energy Consumption With Solar Tubes
Every bit of energy that we create goes into the grid and there are times during peak hours that our meter is spinning backwards, which is nice. Our energy bill is zero because of the efficiency of the build itself and because of the lighting mechanisms. In our house we have solar tubes, all different kinds of free light sources and the best is the sun, of course.
The biggest thing people can do is to think about walking. The default mode for people in California is to drive. “Ready to go? Let’s drive.” If its only three blocks… “Do you wanna walk?” “WALK?! What??” Yeah, I’m sorry if I mentioned it (laughter). Walking, I love to walk – it’s amazing. If you can’t walk, see if you can take public transportation, carpool or something.
While filming in New Mexico, I discovered a company called American Clay. We used it throughout the house and it’s amazing stuff, really terrific, a non-toxic alternative to paint. You apply it like stucco and it not only regulates humidity, it’s textural with natural tints found in the earth. It’s a perfect product and very practical because if you have a hole in the wall you want to fill in, you take a little bit of the American Clay powder, mix it in with a little water with your fingers, rub it into the hole and that’s it. The clay on the wall reformulates with the new clay again and becomes whole – it’s great.
If His House Was Designed By His Character On “Breaking Bad”
The house would have a big basement with secret passageways, with iris identification for door openings. All my chemical and meth making would be in the basement and the exhaust would go through the walls so you wouldn’t see anything inside or out. And there would be a fragrance on top of it. So, it would smell like a fire. You’d come out and think, “Ahh, someone’s got a fire going. Wait a minute, it’s July, why do they have a fire going?” I’m just very cold (laughter)…that explains the radiant heating.
To learn more about the building of the Cranston residence and green building, visit www.3palmsproject.com. Don’t miss Cranston’s chilling portrayal of Walter White on “Breaking Bad,” one of TV’s best dramas (Sundays on AMC).
Liz Laing is a writer, web designer and photographer who lives in Los Angeles. Her latest projects may be followed on Liz Laing.