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Bryan Cranston Talks Living Green at Latest Dwell on Design Conference

Dwell Design Garage - H 2013
Jake Cryan Photography

The "Breaking Bad" star took the stage on June 23 at the annual design conference to speak about the philosophy of a green lifestyle.

Building a house on a beach is a luxury and Breaking Bad’s star Bryan Cranston is the first to acknowledge that, but for him the design of his family’s beach house is also an opportunity to share with others the upside of green living and the philosophy of a green lifestyle. We are not talking seaweed shakes, more like using high-performance windows and doors to help regulate interior temperatures, heating water using solar thermal units and choosing no VOC paints and stains.

On June 23, Cranston took to the stage with his builder Bryan Henson of Allen Associates and his project designer John Turturro of Turturro Design Associates at Dwell on Design — a three-day conference celebrating modern design held at the Los Angeles Convention Center by Dwell Media — to speak with Dwell magazine’s editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron, about their project, his recently completed residence, “3Palms," www.threepalmsproject.com, named after three mature Mexican Fan Palms that stood on the property. Other Dwell on Design participants included renowned architect and product designer Michael Graves, Bravo's Flipping Out star Jeff Lewis, Airbnb CPO and co-founder Joe Gebbia and LifeEdited founder Graham Hill.

The modest 2,450 square foot, 3-bedroom, 3.5-bath house located on a 40x45 foot coastline property in a beach community near Los Angeles is one of only approximately 50 LEED Platinum and Passive House Alliance certified residences in the country. It is virtually impact free. “We have a social responsibility to live this way,” says Cranston, who with his wife, actress Robin Dearden, opted for radiant heating, photovoltaic solar panels and titanium cladding for parts of the exterior — all systems and products chosen for their sustainability and low impact. Sure, he admits, there is the initial sticker shock to some of these items, but the long-standing positive human, environmental and financial effects far outweigh them.

From a very early age Cranston, who picks up trash that he sees on the ground and does not welcome plastic bottles in his house, was taught to share and reuse by his mother who grew up in the Depression and his German grandfather, a baker who lived on a farm. Separating what others might throw out into reusable or recyclable items, or using steam from boiling water for a secondary purpose were the norm. So when it came time to tear down what the Cranstons referred to as "the love shack" — the 1940s house that originally stood on the property that they purchased years ago and used as a retreat — they not only called in Habitat for Humanity, but posted signs around their community urging neighbors to take anything and everything that they wanted in order to minimize waste and landfill impact. “Apathy is the biggest enemy to green living,” says Cranston. “Yes, it might take a little more time or effort,” he concedes, "but we are not asking people to sacrifice or suffer. We are asking people to live in harmony with these concepts.”

The project team for his 3Palms Project partnered with companies that incorporate these concepts into their designs. American Clay, for example, which produces clay wall finishes that are environmentally friendly, require little maintenance and offer superior longevity and Poggenpohl, which creates long-lasting, high-quality kitchens while avoiding harming the environment as much as possible. Also involved were Lutron Electronics, which designs and manufactures energy-saving lighting controls and automated window treatments, and Kohler, which produces kitchen and bath fixtures while concentrating heavily on environmental footprint, sustainability education and responsible product innovation.

In the end, this house is a labor of love — for the actor and his family, as well as the environment and the education of others. “I’m really proud of what we were able to accomplish,” says Cranston. “Despite its contemporary design the house is very warm and inviting. You want to kick your shoes off, you want to put your feet up, you want to go for a walk, you want to eat a piece of fruit.” And that, according to Cranston, is truly living green.