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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Kathleen Nelson

Beauty in Density: A Sustainability Review of London’s Barbican Estate

Climate change isn't going away. It's t ime to ask questions that shift our focus toward
where we can make the greatest impact. The wealthy make up a small percentage of our global
population yet are responsible for producing a tremendous amount of carbon emissions
(Oxfam, 2015). One significant source of these emissions 1s housing. In order to attempt to
change the carbon intensive lifestyle of high income households, we need an idea of how a
sustainable, upscale home would look. This paper proposes that the Barbican Estate, home to
over 4,000 in the centre of London, can be appraised as a possible model for communityoriented
living with a low environmental impact. The estimated property value and va lue
trends are promising for the Barbican's financial sustainability and its unique management
body provides resilience. From a social perspective, Barbican residents are satisfied with t he
estate's management, and interviews with a number of households revea l the t raits that are
highly va lued by tenants such as the high ly detailed design and abundant green spaces. Vehicle
use and heating energy consumpt ion calculations demonstrate the lessened impact of a typical
resident especia lly compared to that of similar income levels, but t he relatively high percentage
of second home ownerships somewhat complicates t he picture of environmental sustainability
as a whole. The lessons we can learn from this study include the importance of designing for
how people want to live and that creating cohesive communities can naturally enab le
environmental benefits.