Oakland EcoBlock A replicable eco-district

Published in the dossier of November 2017

How can you create the district of the future from a city block from a bygone age?

This is the challenge facing the Oakland EcoBlock program. In other words, how to transform 28 dilapidated Californian homes into an energy-efficient district through the smart distribution of resources among its residents.

According to Anthony Nahas, a researcher at the University of Berkeley and coordinator of this ambitious renovation project, “the traditional American urban development model, based on the consumption of infinite resources, has to change in the light of climate change challenges.”

These considerations, born of a dialogue with NASA in 2013, are working the little gray cells of a group of academics, engineers, urban designers, social science experts, legal practitioners, private operators and NGOs. Supported by the city of Oakland and the State of California, they are testing an unprecedented renovation model on a residential development scale. Sustainable and socially responsible down to its funding1, Ecoblock is also noteworthy because of its reproducibility. By incorporating the decentralized production and local storage of solar energy, wastewater recycling, rainwater collection, along with shared electric vehicles and urban agriculture, Ecoblock is an autonomous model that can be adapted anywhere – in California, other American states and, why not, elsewhere in the world. In Oakland alone, 3,500 blocks could be rehabilitated using this process. The pilot project is set to kick off in 2018.

1- In the form of green bond investments

A constructive vision

The Veolia foundation is supporting EcoBlock’s development with Veolia’s consulting firm 2EI, called upon for its expertise in sustainable cities.

“Renovating a district rather than an individual housing unit makes it possible to pool solutions with cost and efficiency savings,” approves Julien Grimaud, 2EI Project Manager. “Our perspective as an operator on the urban services envisaged – especially in terms of wastewater recovery – is combined with considerations regarding the viability of these solutions on the appropriate scale.”