Bryan Cranston

Although I wasn't able to be there in person this year, the Sustainability Stage at this year's Dwell on Design appears to have boasted quite the impressive line-up: LivingHomes founder Steve Glenn, architect Chad Oppenheim, Architecture For Humanity co-founder Cameron Sinclair, and the omnipresent Ed Begley Jr., just to name a few.


And then there was a somewhat intriguing featured speaker at the West Coast's big modern design event which concluded yesterday in Los Angeles: Emmy Award-winning actor and director Bryan Cranston. Best known for his roles — Jerry's Seinfeld's insane dentist, the patriarch of a dysfunctional middle-class clan on "Malcolm in the Middle" and, of course, as cancer-stricken, meth-cooking former high school chemistry teacher Walter White on AMC's wildly acclaimed, relentlessly intense drama "Breaking Bad" — Cranston is also behind an ambitious, zero-energy residential building project north of L.A. that's sure to garner him so accolades from the green building community.


Dubbed 3Palms, Cranston’s under-construction family beach house in Ventura (it's right on the Pacific) is targeting both LEED Platinum certification and recognition from the Passive House Alliance U.S., making it the first home in Ventura County to do so. And this is refreshing: unlike many other “green” celebrity-owned abodes, 3Palms will be relatively modest in size at 2,450 square feet (the net-zero energy home is being constructed on the footprint of a leaky, 1940s-era beachfront bungalow that was carefully deconstructed). Although I doubt the project will transform Cranston, 56, into a figurehead for the stateside passive house movement, his appearance at Dwell on Design — and not to mention the featuring of the project in a syndicated TV series called “Real Green” — will more or less help elevate the actor from a TV methamphetamine manufacturer to a highly visible (and highly likable) green homeowner and proponent of energy-smart living.


Says Cranston, a self-confessed green building novice who has also appeared on "Matlock," "Murder She Wrote," and "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," on the 3Palms website:


My wife, Robin, and I want to combine both form and function, and show the world that sustainable living doesn’t mean that there’s no indoor plumbing or that it will impinge on a modern lifestyle. We have qualified for the highest level of “green” building in the country, and will strive to achieve the highest level of style and comfort too. We know we will have succeeded if our guests ask incredulously, ‘This is a green home’?

In addition to Cranston, the 3Palms team consists of architectural designer John Turturro, builder Bryan Hansen of Santa Barbara-based Allen Associates, and architect of record Larry Graves of Alliance Design Group. (Both Turturro and Hansen joined Cranston on stage at Dwell on Design to chat about 3Palms with Dwell EIC Amanda Dameron). KNB Associates veered Cranston in the direction of the numerous sustainable products and materials, being used in the project. And on that note, more than 20 partners including Resource Furniture, Kohler, Poggenpohl, Lutron and American Clay are involved in the creation of the home.



The three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom home will feature the usual LEED point-earning features including radiant heating, rainwater recycling, rooftop photovoltaics, solar water heating, low-VOC paints and finishes, Energy Star appliances, LED lighting, and the use of recycled/renewable materials and FSC-certified lumber throughout. Given its passive house ambitions, the tightly sealed, super-insulated home will take full advantage of passive solar design and include SIP construction, high-performance doors and windows, and a heat/energy recovery ventilator. 


And the origins of the name 3Palms? Cranston explains the back story:


Even the naming of the home 3Palms illustrates our eco-friendly attitude. We wanted to preserve the three mature Mexican fan palms that were on the property for a long time. Unfortunately, one palm had to be sacrificed to allow necessary support caissons, but we will find a location for another palm to prevent us from renaming it to 2Palms. That palm will be a transplant from another location.

Lots of more info on the project at the 3Palms website, including drawings, videos, construction photos, and thoughts from Cranston and the rest of the team. There will also be a live webcam installed at the build site as well. You can also hear Branson chat about the project on public radio's "The Dinner Party."


Anyone have a chance to hear Cranston speak at Dwell on Design about the project? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 


Video screenshot: 3PalmsProject/YouTube; MNN tease photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images


Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Building good: Bryan Cranston unveils passive house project in Ventura
Bryan Cranston — the actor behind "Breaking Bad," television's favorite chemistry teacher-turned-meth manufacturer — appears at Dwell on Design to discuss