Barcelona. Energy and urban form

Our modern cities, developed over the last 400 years, are the manifestation of 'fossil expressionism' as referred to by Peter Sloterdijk.  At no other time have cities grown to be as tall or large - at no other time have cities been developed with a seemingly endless supply of energy and likewise to be so dependent on it.  What will happen if one day there is significantly less energy?  What if this occurs quickly?  Which urban areas will be best prepared and which will be most vulnerable?  How can we deal with the consequences?    

This thesis has attempted to find a connection between urban form, density and energy demands.  Barcelona has been used as a case study as it contains examples of both some of the most compact and dispersed urban form.  Density was measured in terms of physical density (gross floor area and footprint) and the density performance (population, dwelling size, cars and carparks, shops, amount of open space) and estimates of energy consumption.  28 sites, were assessed and compared with the aim of finding relevant trends.    Finally six 'families' of urban form were identified and opportunities were proposed for each.  

In short, there are some issues that urbanism and urbanists should be involved with.  For example mobility, currently accounts for over 30% of Europe's energy demands, is a particular issue for energy dependance particularly in terms of long-term planning.  Mobility demands in Barcelona were found to be very dependent on urban form rather than population density.  Other significant issues such as heating and hot water, which also account for a large amount of energy demand, are far more technical and require other policy strategies.  

Energy is a very technical issue however energy consumption is implicit in the way we design urban areas and in times were energy is becoming a central issue on the political and environmental agenda, urbanists must not ignore the consequences of their work. 

Booklet [Barcelona. energy and urban form]


1) Compact typologies that will fare low energy conditions best.

2) An example of one of the 22 sites assessed.

3) The Spacematrix graph showing densities and block typology. 

4) The block typology according to location. 

5) A few small changes - that would have a big difference in energy demand.  

Adrian Hill
Meta Berghauser Pont
Dominic Stead
Daniel Catalyud