• Ecoblock
    Photo from ecoblock.berkeley.edu

A Block-by-Block Approach to Community Resiliency

Can an entire neighborhood switch to renewable (non-fossil fuel) energy, becoming healthier and more resilient? Residents of a block in East Oakland, California, have been working on a way to do just that: EcoBlock. And MIG is creating a guidebook and toolkit so other communities can transform their own neighborhoods.

Buildings consume about half the energy used in the US. Getting all buildings to net zero emissions is a critical task for climate change mitigation. New building construction creates significant new emissions—typically two to four times more than renovations. But house by house retrofits are just too slow.

EcoBlock is a deep retrofit of all existing residential homes in a small area, with in-home energy and water-efficiency upgrades, electrification, solar and storage. It’s based on the concept that coupling home/vehicle energy efficiency improvements and electrification at the block scale unlocks social and environmental benefits: higher efficiency appliances, reduced tailpipe emissions, improved indoor air quality and equitable access to clean technologies through less-expensive bulk purchases. 

By boldly combining technical measures and helping neighbors self-organize, the EcoBlock approach brings the daunting challenge of a complete energy makeover within reach for low- and middle-income people. Neighbors that come together to share ownership of solar generation and battery storage can build a safer, more secure, and more resilient community that each individual could likely not afford on his/her own.

The EcoBlock program includes:

  • Affordable energy retrofits (insulation, air sealing, efficient appliances)
  • Water efficiency upgrades (efficient fixtures and appliances, water reuse/greywater, reducing/cleaning rainwater runoff)
  • Mobility improvements (shared electric vehicle charging, access to local e-mobility)
  • A microgrid that includes rooftop solar PV, communal energy storage (batteries), and smart controls that optimize technical and economic performance (if funding is available)

The Oakland EcoBlock project is creating a technical blueprint for implementing EcoBlock, along with a legal, financial and social roadmap to help other communities adopt this holistic approach to decarbonizing cities at the block scale. MIG is developing the user-friendly a guidebook.

EcoBlock partners include the California State Energy Commission, the California Institute for Energy and the Environment, and the University of California, Berkeley, with the City of Oakland for permitting and regulatory considerations.

You can read more about the EcoBlock project and get to know how the EcoBlock-hopeful residents in East Oakland are tackling this effort in a story by journalists at KQED radio.