The BA has an environmental sustainability group, which has over the years engaged with various stakeholders, including the estate office about ways of improving the environmental sustainability of the estate. It has also produced a set of top tips for saving energy that Barbican residents can do themselves. The terms of reference of the Sustainability Working Group are to:

  • investigate and to make recommendations on improving the environmental sustainability of the estate
  • provide ideas, encouragement and responses to the Barbican Estate Office, which is working on some interesting aspects of sustainability, as well as undertaking independent research
  • take account, in doing this, of the Grade II listing of the Estate.

Any recommendations are to be submitted to the BA General Council for approval.

The importance of sustainability was highlighted by the findings of a survey carried out in 2011 to assess the satisfaction of residents with their homes and to investigate potential strategies to improve energy efficiency and sustainability.

The Barbican scored highly for comfort and satisfaction. Residents are very forgiving of specific areas of discomfort, preferring to focus on their overall enjoyment of the buildings. 69% answered that living at the Barbican had changed your lifestyle: the accompanying comments suggest these changes are largely positive. Location, layout and meeting of needs scored exceptionally highly, and space and appearance were also rated well above satisfactory. The main areas of dissatisfaction were the lack of heating and noise control, perceived dry air, and variable internal temperatures during winter.

Perception of external air quality is also poor, with over half of responses falling on the ‘unsatisfactory’ side of the scale. 8% of the sample, implying 300–400 people on the estate, believe they suffer from a medical condition that is exacerbated by poor air quality.

Almost half disagreed with the statement ‘I know how to change the hot water thermostat and to reduce heating through trimmers or removal of fuses’. This implies plenty of scope to improve awareness about how trimmers can increase or decrease the heating, and how fuses can be removed to turn off parts of the circuit, for example if a bedroom is too hot compared with the living room.

Somewhat alarmingly, 89% of residents who completed the questionnaire are using the windows to control the heating. As well as increasing the Barbican’s energy consumption, carbon footprint and service charges paid by residents, winter window opening is likely to frustrate residents who feel too cold yet are forced to pay for other people’s wasted heat.