Walter White Goes Green

Thu, 2014-10-09 09:12

Fans know Walter White as the unassuming-high-school-chemistry-teacher-turned-ruthless-drug-lord on the AMC television show Breaking Bad. Actor Bryan Cranston won a Golden Globe and an Emmy in 2014 for his portrayal of Walter White.

Bryan CranstonIt seems color might have been a little bit of a motif in Breaking Bad -- Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, "the blue stuff," Marie's obsession with purple...which leads us to our title here...and if you're missing Breaking Bad as much as I am, then you'll be interested to know that Walter White has gone green! Of course when I say Walter White, I mean Bryan Cranston.

Cranston has become a household name for his incredible acting skills. What Breaking Bad fans may not know is that Bryan Cranston is also an environmental advocate.

While Cranston was filming the first season of Breaking Bad in 2008, he was also breaking ground on an impressive net-zero energy residential building project. He and his wife Robin decided to retrofit a 1940s military housing unit in Ventura, CA and turn it into one of the most energy-efficient homes in the state. The 2,450-square-foot beachfront bungalow has earned LEED Platinum Certification and is now 56% more energy efficient than California Energy Code Standards.

Sustainability professionals help build Bryan Cranston's LEED certified home

Cranston assembled a team of sustainability professionals representing the architecture, design, engineering, and construction industries.

  • Bryan Henson, LEED AP, is the president of Allen Associates Construction, which specializes in residential and commercial construction for both new and remodel projects. Allen Associates is one of the largest builders in Ventura Country, with more than 50 residential projects per year. More than a third of its projects are built to green standards. Henson was responsible for ensuring that the project achieved its goal of earning a LEED Platinum Certification through the LEED for Homes process.
  • John Turturro of the Turturro Design Studio was Cranston’s Project Designer. Turturro has been studying, implementing, and teaching sustainable design principles since 1985. He has worked as a staff designer for Hilton Hotels International and as Research and Development Supervisor of Design at Kinkos International.
  • Larry Graves, a principal architect for the Alliance Design Group, has practiced architecture for more than 25 years. He designed a 5,000 square-foot house that was constructed with bales of hay. The home was featured on PBS and recognized in a number of magazines.

Cranston employed numerous other vendors and associates for consulting and marketing. He indicated on the project’s website that building on the Pacific Ocean presented its own set of challenges and that he was excited to discuss the concerns, ideas, and limitations that went into the decisions that were made.

Although admitting to be a novice in the world of green building, Cranston poignantly noted that:

"Style and material selection are key to sustainable building. Part of the ecofriendly philosophy is to reduce the amount of upkeep a home requires to maintain it at a functional level. But function without form is no fun at all."

It was important to the Cranstons that their home not only achieve a high level of green credibility but that there was also a high level of style and comfort as well.

Sustainable features went into Bryan Cranston's LEED Platinum home

The highest mark of green credibility under the LEED Rating System is to earn a LEED Platinum Certification. Projects achieving LEED Platinum have earned greater than 80 points on the LEED Rating System. In addition to LEED Platinum, the Cranston home was also targeting recognition from the Passive House Alliance.

3 Palms is a Passive HouseA passive house is designed and built using a stringent set of green building principles. The passive house approach focuses on strategic design and planning, specific siting and sizing based on climate, super-insulated envelope, thermal bridge-free detailing, air-tight envelope, advanced windows and doors, energy recovery ventilation, heating, efficient systems, and alternative energy.

To achieve these targets, the team developed a series of goals to lay the foundation for the project. On the list of green features to implement were the following:

  • Photovoltaic solar panels to generate 100% of electricity
  • Solar thermal units to heat hot water
  • 100% of lumber originating from sustainably harvested forests (FSC certified)
  • Radiant heated floors
  • No VOC paints and stains
  • Rainwater collection
  • LED lighting
  • ENERGY STAR appliances
  • 100% fossil free
  • and more

The home was carefully deconstructed to ensure that a majority of the building materials were salvaged. Cranston invited his neighbors and Habitat for Humanity to come by and take any materials they could reuse.

Bryan Cranston's home earned Platinum LEED Certification

After five years of work, the 3 Palms Project was completed. The home was featured on the nationally syndicated weekly half-hour series Real Green and at the 2013 Dwell on Design national conference. The project’s website showcases a number of photos related to the project, from conception and design to the construction and build-out of the home. The pictures are great, and the home is incredibly stunning. The team did an amazing job bringing this project to life. Walter White is indeed the one who knocks, and he’ll be knocking on high performing, energy-efficient doors in his new home! No? Come on, that was good.

Bryan Cranston plays an architect on How I Met Your MotherThis is not Bryan Cranston’s first time showing an interest in the building industry. In 2006, he played an architect on one of my other favorite TV shows, How I Met Your Mother. He had a somewhat-recurring role as Hammond Druthers, who was Ted Mosby’s pushy boss at the architecture firm. We’ll have to discuss Ted Mosby: Architect in another post!

Although Cranston had never actually built a house, he said he found similarities between acting and architecture:

"My business is all about storytelling, and there is storytelling in architecture. The upstairs relates to the downstairs and some elements complement each other and some are newly introduced."

Walter White Goes GreenAs the digital magazine VivMag notes, Bryan Cranston may play a morally conflicted character on Breaking Bad but in real life, he knows he’s making the right decision for his family and the environment. He also acknowledges that there are simple steps that anyone can take to save energy, including getting water-saving showerheads, dual-flush toilets, and ENERGY STAR appliances.

The demand for LEED Certification has been growing steadily for the last few years. It's exciting to see celebrities not only taking an interest in sustainability but also becoming involved on projects. Bryan Cranston speaks very intelligently and passionately about the sustainable features on his home. Can you imagine being Bryan Henson, the LEED AP on the project, working alongside Walter White? What an incredible experience I'm sure that was!

By Lesley Cowie

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