Project Conception and Goals
Buildings consume about half the energy used in the US; globally, buildings account for 39% of greenhouse gas emissions. Getting all buildings to net zero emissions is a critical task for climate change mitigation, but new building construction creates significant new emissions—typically two to four times more than renovations—and house by house retrofits are too slow. The Oakland EcoBlock project aims to demonstrate technical, social, legal, and financial methods for radically reducing the environmental footprint of buildings through cost-effective retrofits at the block scale. The project is led by UC Berkeley and primarily funded by the California Energy Commission to support California legal mandates:
- AB 32 (2006): California Global Warming Solutions Act
- SB 375 (2008): Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act
- SB 100 (2018): The 100 Percent Clean Energy Act – 50% renewable energy by 2026, 100% renewable energy by 2045
- SB 606 (2018): Water efficiency measures
- AB 1668 (2018): Drought preparedness
- SB 1339 (2018): Boost/streamlining microgrids
- SB 99 (TBD): Community Renergy Resilience Act (introduced December 2020)
- 80.7% of the U.S. population lives in urban areas
- 40% of U.S. GHG emissions emanate from buildings
- Residential share of GHG emissions ≈ 53% of all total buildings
The EcoBlock concept recognizes the block as a common unit of organization in urban and suburban America – in fact, most cities in the world. Blocks come in different sizes and shapes, but the basic block structure appears in all places with moderate to high population density. The EcoBlock aims to harness that structure to make clean technology more affordable.
EcoBlock is one of four grant recipients of the California Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program, which invests in scientific and technological research to accelerate the transformation of the electricity sector to meet the state’s energy and climate goals.