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:

Current Landscape

  • 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.

Conceptual Drawings

  • EcoBlock Integrated Design
  • EcoBlock Electrical Infrastructure


EcoBlock aims to create an Advanced Energy Community Model that equitably and radically reduces carbon emissions, and undertakes collaborative action that builds community and improves community resilience.

  1. Conduct energy and water efficiency retrofits in existing homes and small businesses
  2. Leverage economies of scale of block-level retrofits
  3. Switch appliances and equipment to electric
  4. Couple energy efficiency wth a renewable energy microgrid

EcoBlock aims to provide resilience through:

  • Affordable energy retrofits (e.g., insulation, air sealing, efficient electric appliances)
  • Water efficiency upgrades (e.g., efficient fixtures & appliances, reuse water/greywater)
  • Shared electrical assets (e.g., photovoltaic array & battery storage)
  • Mobility improvements (e.g., shared electric vehicle with curbside charging)

The EcoBlock team is partnering with the City of Oakland to address permitting and regulatory considerations.

California Energy Commission Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) Program Grant Recipients
A map of the EPIC grant award recipients. Image credit: Page Southerland Page

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.