skip to content

MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Traditional Versus Modern Homes for Barbados

The provision of adequate housing is important in developing nations like Barbados, where the rate of household formation exceeds the rate at which new homes are supplied. Of critical importance is the provision of low income housing to those most vulnerable and disadvantaged by the lack of access to a means of home ownership.
In Barbados, the onus of providing low income housing falls on the shoulders of the government and in most cases, their main concerns are cost, quantity and politics, leaving areas such as quality, comfort and sustainability to suffer. Moreover, the concept of sustainable, affordable housing is often times perceived as paradoxical. Due to their efficient use of material and energy, along with the careful consideration of climate, vernacular structures are classified as functional yet comfortable and are often viewed as innately sustainable. This study sought to provide solutions to some of the challenges faced by the present housing industry in Barbados by adopting ideas from vernacular architecture.
A multipronged approach was used during the research process. As an initial step, a semi-structured post occupancy survey was carried out for occupiers of both vernacular and modern homes. From a more theoretical standpoint, Mahoney reference tables were used to investigate appropriate design principles for the hot, humid climate. Finally, the computer software program Integrated Environmental Solutions -Virtual Environment Pro 2012 was used to perform comprehensive building analyses and simulations.
Survey and analytical results indicate that vernacular homes are more comfortable and have characteristics better suited to the climate than modern homes. Building simulations support these findings and prove that cost and energy savings as well as improvements in comfort can be made in the modern dwellings, by employing strategies taken from the primitive forms. In short, by adopting measures gained from studying our vernacular architecture, we can capitalise on the advances made in traditional building techniques, to create more sustainable dwellings in our present age.

Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.