February 18, 2024

Empowering Communities in Las Cruces: 'The Plugged in for Good' Project

Reversing “urban renewal” for the health of a community

The city of Las Cruces, New Mexico has suffered the burdens and lasting effects of urban renewal since the 1960s. It has been decades since the destruction of the historic downtown homes and commercial areas, and the city continues to grapple with social inequities and housing challenges. Funded by the grant “Buildings Up”, sponsored by the US Department of Energy, a new initiative promises a transformative possibility: the Plugged in for Good (PIFG) project.

At the heart of this project is a commitment to community collaboration for sustainable and affordable, resilient housing. This five-year endeavor aims to address critical issues surrounding energy efficiency, housing quality, and workforce opportunities in Las Cruces.


Building Upgrade Zone in Las Cruces, NM for the Building UP Project

HML is proud to be a partner in the PIFG Las Cruces project, contributing our expertise to several aspects:

  • Building Materials Ecosystem: collaborating with partners to develop a regional ecosystem for the development and production of healthier building materials

  • Education and Training: providing educational programs for community businesses and contractors on healthier building materials and practices

  • Data Collection and Research: collaborating on collecting building-level energy efficiency (EE) and electrification data, and cross reference research

  • Designing Comfortable, Healthy Interiors: working with community stakeholders to design interiors that prioritize occupant health and well-being

The challenges and opportunities

The homes and buildings in a five-sq.mile infill area form this project’s building upgrade zone. Aging cinder block and framed construction homes/buildings use fossil fuels with minimal insulation and end-of-life HVAC systems. Residents struggle with home maintenance, utility bills, heating/cooling issues, harmful emissions, and continued marginalization. A local gap analysis of existing retrofit programs revealed restrictive criteria, unambitious goals, and/or limited resources reflecting overarching systemic problems.

The project’s focus on Las Cruces’ historically marginalized communities underscores the commitment from all partners to equity and inclusion. Through partnerships with Doña Ana Communities United and the Las Cruces Sustainability Office, the project leverages local expertise and community insights.


Current Energy Burden in building upgrade zone

Central to the project’s success is the Empowerment Data Works tool, commissioned by the Las Cruces Sustainability Office. This digital mapping tool provides insights into housing, energy use, and retrofit data, empowering stakeholders to make informed decisions.

By centering capacity building, community leadership, workforce development, financial flexibility, and green economy initiatives, the project aims to create affordable, resilient housing solutions that benefit all residents of Las Cruces. This partnership and collaboration has the potential to make a great lasting impact on the livelihoods of many in Las Cruces and we are honored to take part in it.

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