Celebrities Build Their Eco-Friendly Homes to New Green Heights

Green living is sometimes thought of as a lifestyle fraught with compromise — comfort and efficiency sacrificed in the name of sustainability. But that’s no longer the case. Bryan Cranston, Lisa Ling, Ed Begley Jr., Leo DiCaprio and other famously eco-friendly celebrities show us that in this modern age, you really can have it all. And sustainably, too.


Bryan Cranston Goes Green on the Beach in Ventura

He may be best known for “Breaking Bad,” but Bryan Cranston is even more devoted to going green. His custom-built beach house, co-designed with John Turturro of Turturro Design Studio, is Platinum LEED-certified and was the first passive-house-certified residence ever built in Ventura County.

Completed in 2012, the distinctly contemporary structure boasts three bedrooms and 3.5 baths in 2,396 square feet of living space. Naturally, a slew of state-of-the-art eco-amenities exist inside and out of the home: photovoltaic and water heating solar panels, a tank for rainwater collection, radiant heated floors and recycled materials.

Indoors, the Cranstons selected décor that is both decidedly neutral and chic, providing a calming contrast to the pounding surf just beyond the towering walls of glass. The main floor contains a media room, office and formal living and dining spaces; upstairs includes the three bedroom suites, two of which sport endless ocean views.

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The swoopy house looks like any other custom-built contemporary beach house, which is just fine with Cranston, who aimed for the highest level of sustainable style and comfort with zero compromises in his new pad. “We know we have succeeded if our guests ask incredulously, ‘This is a green home?’” he told Dwell magazine.

With all its eco-friendly features, the residence qualifies as a net-zero home — meaning it produces as much energy as it uses. But it’s the perfect marriage of form and function that really set the property apart, proving that environmental consciousness and attractive design are not mutually exclusive.


Lisa Ling’s Santa Monica Home Is Energy Neutral

One pretty, magnolia-lined street in Santa Monica has long been popular with people seeking a balmy evening stroll. Most of them walk right by a particular modern house without giving it a second glance; partially hidden behind trees and painted a subdued shade of charcoal gray, the place doesn’t beg for attention.

Passersby might be surprised to learn the house belongs to journalist Lisa Ling, former co-host of “The View” and host of CNN’s “This Is Life With Lisa Ling” since 2014. And this isn’t just another contemporary Santa Monica home — it happens to be the city’s first-ever energy neutral residence, having also earned a platinum LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

For Ling and radiation oncologist husband Paul Song, sustainability was paramount on their list of features when seeking to build their dream home a decade ago. Though they tore down an existing structure on the 0.2-acre lot, they achieved a 100% diversion rate — the home’s materials were used on the new residence; nothing wound up in a landfill. Lumber from the old roof was resurfaced and used as hardwood flooring; items not reused were donated to Habitat for Humanity.

Designed by sustainability expert Marco DiMaccio, the new house was completed in 2010, per records, and sports four bedrooms and six baths in 4,352 square feet of living space. Outdoors, a giant sunken conversation pit in the front yard is lined with artificial turf. Other areas are sustainably yet lushly landscaped with indigenous plants and a rock garden.

Though the house is large, Ling and Song’s monthly energy costs for the place are practically nil, thanks to 60 roof-mounted solar panels that supply electricity for hot water and radiant floor heating. A 5,000-gallon water tank lies in front of the home and collects rainwater from the roof. And at Song’s request, a waterless urinal was installed in the master bath; according to the maker, Kohler, the fixture can save up to 40,000 gallons of water per year.


Ed Begley Jr.’s Studio City Pad Builds Sustainability

Perhaps no celebrity is more synonymous with green living than Ed Begley Jr., the veteran actor best-known for his starring role on “St. Elsewhere” and guest starring gigs on shows like “Portlandia” and “Arrested Development.” Together with wife Rachelle Carson and his now-adult daughter, the hardcore environmentalist long shared a one-bathroom 1930s Studio City bungalow that was sold off about five years ago.

For their next eco-minded project, the Begleys selected a south-facing lot in one of Studio City’s best neighborhoods. They built a new residence, completed in 2016, which combined the characteristics they sought in a dream home: French country-style architecture for her, environmentally conscious features for him. Acclaimed architect William Hefner handled the design; contractor Scott Harris at Building Construction Group oversaw the five-year project.

Amenities include Lutron automated lighting and shades, which dim and rise on timers for maximum energy efficiency. A gray water system recycles for irrigation, as does a 10,000-gallon rainwater collection tank. The structure itself includes 12-inch thick walls for optimum insulation and a recycled-steel frame. But from the outside, the property appears to be an elegant French-style house, not unlike many others in the surrounding area. The Platinum LEED-certified residence spans 3,896 square feet with four bedrooms and an equivalent number of bathrooms, according to records.

Elegant and clean-lined both inside and out, the house includes a master bath with tile crafted entirely from recycled bottles, and hardwood flooring recycled from barns. An outdoor, chlorine-free pool is purified by an ozone system, and there are fruit trees planted in the front yard — instead of the typical water-gorging grassy lawn — plus native plants scattered around the California Oak-studded lot.

Equipped with all the latest solar arrays, the energy-neutral property features a two-car garage with electric car chargers and off-street parking for at least six additional vehicles.


Riverhouse: Manhattan’s Greenest Condo Building

It’s no secret that eco-oriented building amenities at luxury condo and apartment complexes have proven effective lures for wealthy homebuyers, as marketing strategies for residences across the country display.

New York City and its hotly contested condo wars arguably kick-started the eco trend; with no shortage of luxury apartments available, green features can often be the deciding factor for buyers. And perhaps the building that’s most successfully lured celebrities and other high-profile folks with its sustainability pitch is Battery Park City’s Riverhouse.

Constructed in 2006, the 32-story condo building was built to gold LEED-certified standards, every facet of the complex designed to reduce a buyer’s carbon fooprint. Condo owners enjoy twice-filtered air, a gray water recycling system, sustainable teak cabinetry in the kitchens, bamboo floors, arrays of solar panels and lower energy costs than comparable apartments in not-so-green buildings. The initial outlay is clearly not for the squeamish: The 4 bedroom, 3.5 bathroom 3,026-square-foot unit pictured above is listed at $5.75 million.

Riverhouse buyers have included Leo DiCaprioTyra BanksOliver Stone and Sacha Baron Cohen. DiCaprio liked the place so much that in 2014, six years after purchasing his apartment there, he dropped another $8 million to buy a neighboring unit.

Of course, just because the building is green doesn’t mean it comes without a laundry list of less virtuous luxury perks. Residents share a 50-foot lap pool, a fitness center with yoga studio, concierge services, on-site valet parking, pet grooming suite and a landscaped rooftop garden.

Banks, who has long owned one of the Riverhouse’s most lavish units, had her mansion-sized duplex on the market back in 2017 with a $17.5 million asking price. Though the spread didn’t sell, archived photographs reveal just how much fun it can be to go green: Her condo sports panoramic views of the Hudson River and Statue of Liberty, a private fitness room, hair salon and spacious library.


Century City Building Sets Eco-Luxe Bar High

Located on bustling Santa Monica Boulevard just steps from Beverly Hills, Century City’s new Ten Thousand building is likely the glitziest condo living L.A. has to offer. With an extensive amenities list that includes an 80-person staff, in-house dog walkers, indoor and outdoor pools, on-site botox injections and a robot butler named Charley, one might be forgiven for wondering if the complex is less about quotidian existence and more of an extended resort-style vacation for the very well-heeled.

Perhaps regrettably, those amenities slightly overshadow the building’s impressive eco-friendly nature; in fact, it’s perhaps the most environmentally sensitive luxury condo building in the city. Ten Thousand was Century City’s first multifamily high-rise to achieve gold-level LEED certification, and was constructed with materials formed from more than 20% recycled content. Residents also enjoy a high-tech irrigation system, native flora and rain-harvesting tanks.

Marketing materials provided by Crescent Heights, the building’s New York-based developer, also tout the compound’s private outdoor park that includes 100 trees, an amenity that benefits air quality and provides a wee oasis in the sea of concrete that is urban Los Angeles.

The building’s strikingly angular, glass-sheathed façade was inspired by the work of modernists Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler, designed by Handel Architects in collaboration with Shamir Shah Design. Built to exacting standards at a reported cost of $300 million, the 40-floor tower packs in 283 rental residences, with monthly rates ranging from $9,000 to about $25,000 (the penthouse goes for a cool $65,000).

Inside, each apartment unit features contemporary interiors with high-end finishes, while walls of glass drink in the panoramic views that capture the Hollywood Hills, the Pacific Ocean and everything in between.

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