Midwestern cities are in decline, with shrinking populations and corresponding disinvestment. Many organizations and city governments are working on addressing the problem of vacancy while bringing these urban areas into the global economy. The EcoBlock Organization (EBO), a St. Louis-based non-profit, proposes block-level redevelopment as a method of fostering community and economic development while minimizing the impact on the environment. The EcoCode is a block-level form-based code describing the vision of the EBO and its implementation. This vision is centered around eight key design principles: energy, public health, social, urban design, water, transportation, resilience, and landscape. It manifests as an EcoBlock: a block of buildings surrounding a shared green space, connected by an energy grid and a shared geothermal loop with the goal of net-zero energy. The residences are a mix of building types for a variety of incomes and some building space will be designated for shared use, all physically reflecting the historic design of houses in the city in which the EcoBlock is implemented. Specifications like design, building placement, and mechanisms by which to strive towards net-zero energy and water will be determined in each location in which the EcoBlock is developed. The EcoCode describes the process and the desired outcome, providing a framework for this implementation.
The EcoCode resembles a typical form-based code in structure, but at a smaller geographic scale. General Provisions describes the context of the surrounding area that must be assessed before choosing to create an EcoBlock. Development and Adoption strategy explains the evolving role of the EBO and how the realization of this design is currently envisioned. Regulating Block, Block Development Standards, Building Envelope Standards, and Building Development Standards describe the detail that will need to be developed for the physical aspects of each block. Streetscape Standards describe the vision of the EBO as applicable to the streets surrounding an EcoBlock. Finally, the Sustainability Standards contain the contribution of each board member of the EBO with their unique expertise on implementing the design principles.
As a supplement to The EcoCode itself, this document contains three topics for case studies looking into the feasibility of the EcoBlock as a whole: shared space, net-zero energy, and mixed-income housing. Shared space development and management uses Montgomery Park in Boston to show the potential of community-based organization while warning against gentrification. The West Village campus of the University of California in Davis shows the technical possibility and the financial challenges of a net-zero community. Brogården, an affordable housing community in Sweden, demonstrates the possibility for decreasing energy consumption in public housing. Finally, Via Verde in New York City is an example of combining health, green space, and affordability in a mixed-income housing development. Though there is not yet an example of a fully implemented EcoBlock, these case studies speak to the challenges and the facilitators that the EBO will likely face.