On September 20, 2023, Siegel & Strain Architects presented the Oakland EcoBlock project as one of three case studies on adaptive reuse as part of AIA California’s Climate Action webinar series. The team discussed the process, opportunities, and benefits—as well as the challenges and lessons learned—of reusing and upgrading existing buildings to benefit the climate and community.
According to the Carbon Avoided Retrofit Estimator (CARE) Tool developed by principal Larry Strain, FAIA, LEED AP, the embodied carbon of a reused building is less than half of that spent on a new, equivalent building. When compared over a 25-year period, the cumulative emissions for a reused home are close to a third of its newly constructed counterpart, underscoring the value of scalable retrofit efforts like the Oakland EcoBlock.
Principal Susi Marzuola, AIA, LEED BD+C shared several lessons learned from the project thus far. She emphasized the role of leadership in achieving collective decarbonization and noted that the Oakland EcoBlock is helping identify gaps in the tools and procedures used by utilities and government authorities to accommodate and support existing multi-property electrification efforts.
In addition, Susi recognized the complexity of block-scale decarbonization and stressed the importance of working with available resources to keep projects simple and under budget. She also highlighted the importance of architects as key players in reducing carbon emissions as they are equipped with the right skills and information to push policies, industries, and communities forward.
“[B]eing in the conversation and being part of the effort that decarbonizes our neighborhoods is an empowering experience,” said Susi, “and that empowerment needs to be spread far and wide.”