Get a house that is zero-carbon over its lifetime…for $32 million in Malibu

It will take a little money to acquire the first zero-carbon home in California:

Photo by Vinicius Maciel on

The roughly 14,400-square-foot modern ranch-style house has all electric appliances and mechanical systems, and comes with an organic vegetable garden, orchard and apiary, according to marketing materials. In addition, the develop said it reduced carbon emissions during construction by using alternative building materials.

“This home will have zero [carbon] emissions throughout its lifetime,” said Scott Morris of Crown Pointe Estates, developer of the home. The average U.S. home emits 8.3 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data…

Until recently, developers have focused on reducing energy use in homes, but attention is expanding to include cutting embodied carbon, the greenhouse gases that are emitted during the manufacturing, transportation and disposal of building materials, said Cliff Majersik, a senior adviser at the Institute for Market Transformation, a Washington, D.C., think tank with public and private funding that promotes investment in low-energy building. If the developers rigorously reduced and measured embodied carbon, and offset the remaining carbon, it would be a “very impressive achievement,” he said.

According to Mr. Morris, Crown Pointe reduced the embodied carbon in this home’s construction by replacing 80,000 pounds of steel in the original home design for sustainable timber. It says it slashed its concrete usage by 14% by replacing a concrete-slab foundation with a crawl-space foundation. And rather than place a concrete subfloor beneath the wood and stone floors, it used a rubber underlay made from recycled tires. Around 25% of the concrete used is recycled, the developer said.

This is a cool feat and yet it is not exactly anything close to an average home. The irony here is that this zero-carbon home both costs so much – it is a luxury in a premium location to be zero-carbon – and it is such a big house – a reduced environmental footprint yet still taking up a lot of land and having a quintessentially American square footage. Does this make being zero-carbon a status symbol?

How long until this kind of home is within reach of more homeowners? Some of this technology would be possible in much smaller homes but it could still be costly to eliminate carbon from all the other materials.

Can you replace a $4.1 million dollar Malibu home with a McMansion?

The typical image of a teardown McMansion is something like this: in an older neighborhood, a 1950s ranch home is purchased, torn down, and replaced with a 3,500 square foot new home that dwarfs its neighbors. While this is a concern for many communities across the United States, can you possibly have a teardown McMansion in Malibu that would replace a $4.1 million dollar home?

Shangri-La was recently listed on the Malibu real estate market for $4.1 million — the first time it’s been for sale in over 30 years. Known best as Bob Dylan’s recording studio, Shangri-La was also a studio and hangout for other rockers like Clapton, Robbie Robertson, Joe Cocker and Pete Townsend. More recently, the house hosted Adele and Kings of Leon while they each spent time in the recording studio…

Listing agent Shen Schulz of Sotheby’s International explained that the current owners are looking for a buyer who will carry on the property’s legacy.

“This is a very special property,” Schulz said. “They don’t want it to be torn down and turned into a McMansion. We want a musician that will carry on the energy and pass the baton.”

Although perched on the bluffs above picturesque Zuma Beach, this home doesn’t look like a typical million-dollar beach retreat in ritzy southern California where median Malibu home values are over $1.5 million. While the home doesn’t have a pool, it does have two recording studios — an extensive one in the lower level of the home as well as a smaller one in the vintage Airstream trailer parked on the lawn.

The price of the home would suggest that it is not just any old ranch home. It is difficult to find specifics about the home itself rather than its recording legacy – even the listing or the house’s own website doesn’t say much about the actual home. The real estate listing does say that the home was built in 1958, it has 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, and has a total of 4,449 square feet. This is a rather large ranch home.

But all of this makes clear that this particular home should not be bought because of a remodeled kitchen or even the views of the ocean. A buyer of this late 1950s ranch will be buying into rock history. The idea that the home would be replaced by a McMansion seems to suggest that the term McMansion here refers to a home without true character. Shangri-La certainly has character and a new home simply can’t compete with a background as a bordello and analog recording studio. While a typical argument against teardown McMansions is that they change the character of a neighborhood, the argument here is that a teardown would deprive musicians (and others?) of hallowed ground. You could build a beautiful and bigger new home with even more recording space (and egads, digital equipment?) and it just wouldn’t be the same.

By the way, this is one of the most expensive positive teardown properties I’ve ever seen. Is the price high because of the ocean views, the house’s history, or is it an effort to discourage someone from tearing down the home?