Memorandum by Peabody Trust (TAB 53)
The Peabody Trust currently owns and manages
19,500 homes across London. Of these, 200 are one/two bedroom
blocks in 9-13 storey buildings. They are all located in Islington,
and were constructed in the 50s/60s and so are strongly representative
of many of London's high rise homes.
The Trust's experience has identified three
issues pertinent to the tall buildings debate:
That high homes are not inherently
That tall buildings have the potential
to be sustainable.
That high homes can exploit location
in a fair and equitable manner, affording the opportunity to intensify
We are just completing a research study of the
views of our residents in these blocks which consisted of face
to face interviews. This detailed study collected broad qualitative
information, defining and measuring satisfaction/dissatisfaction
with the issues that are of particular concern to residents in
As the Trust has a relatively small population
of people living in high homes. we were interested in finding
comparable populations living high. So the initial 50 Peabody
interviews were supplemented by 15 with tenants and leaseholders
in similar local authority towers, and in a refurbished tower
providing flats for keyworkers. The Trust is planning to build
several medium to high rise residential buildings, and we have
also taken over several local authority estates with tall towers.
So we feel it is essential that we are confident in our understanding
about what works and what does not, when we construct new, and
refurbish existing, high buildings.
It is hoped to extend the study to a larger
population, asking a more limited series of questions focusing
on the issues that have been highlighted as significant.
Our study's findings reinforce much of the familiar
anecdotal evidence, that living high has advantages and disadvantages.
It bears out our experience that high rise social housing is not
Many of our residents are very happy
with their flats themselves. Their concerns are with what happens
between their front door and the street.
We found no indication that residents
in higher flats were more unhappy but a small sample in the middle
floors suffer the disbenefits without the compensation advantages
of views or distance from traffic noise. But overall the population
is satisfied both with their flat, and its location in the block.
Residents tend to feel more secure
on higher floors, and satisfaction with security increases dramatically
at 10+ levels (100 per cent) over lower floors (63 per cent to
55 per cent). There was greater dissatisfaction with security
in balcony access blocks rather than point blocks.
With space at a premium the division
of space is important. Peabody residents ranked the size of the
living room as the best aspect of the flat, and the worst, the
amount of storage. Balconies represent a storage opportunity rather
than additional amenity space.
A majority were satisfied with the
lifts (especially since several have recently been replaced) but
the few who are unhappy (mostly elderly residents) are particularly
anxious about potential separation and isolation.
Environment and comfortthe
separation from noise and the bustle of the city was appreciated
and the natural lighting and view, outlook ranked highly.
Locationthe study reported
high levels of satisfaction with location of the blocks both closeness
for shopping and local transport
Several complaints were recognisable
to all forms of housing management. Refuse disposal and cleanliness
caused some concerns but a large proportion were satisfied with
the rubbish storage in their flats, and there was no particular
link to living high.
Social cohesion is particularly high
in the Peabody blocks due to the long established and relatively
stable communities who live in them. Value is placed on the distinct
community and identity of high buildings. Isolated incidents with
neighbours do occur, but satisfaction is greatest amongst both
the oldest, and newest tenants.
The study emphasised the interconnection of
management and the building itself in providing satisfactory homes.
The Trust is leading in the application of sustainability
to housing, as a result of cutting edge projects such as BedZED,
our zero energy, zero carbon emission housing scheme in Sutton.
We are actively seeking to tranfer these ideas and approaches
to high rise buildings. To demonstrate that towers can be environmentally
efficient, we have high, sustainable, building projects for Kensington
& Chelsea, Hackney and Southwark on the drawing boards.
Sustainable residential towers require high
accessibility to public transport, an ability to conserve and
generate energy and flexibility to combine living with working
to reduce commuting congestion.
Sustainable design might mean high-rise buildings
where facades are differentiated dependent on orientation. Cladding
and windows should accommodate views, and also facilitate the
potential use of Photovoltaic cladding to generate energy. With
careful design a permeable tall building can minimise downdraughts,
and also use the wind as a cost effective way of generating green
Sensitive sustainable design can overcome overall
negative perceptions and environmental impacts such as overshading
associated with conventional residential tower blocks.
Earlier mistakes have been well documented,
particularly failures of technology (panel systems rapidly and
carelessly constructed), failures to allocate high homes to appropriate
occupants, failure of location, and urban context. But many attitudes
and approaches to living high have changed, particularly in high
value inner city locations. New high rise projects are likely
to be mixed tenure, but with many flats bought by investors, there
will be market rent tenants as well as owner-occupiers and social
renters. Success will be dependent on the delivery of high quality
and cost effective management services to such communities and
ensuring that the physical fabric of the building is maintained
well enough to retain its popularity as a place to live.
Deeper understanding is needed to identify where
the disillusionment with high rise living really lies. For the
next generation of towers to be successful, five key factors need
to be addressed; prejudice, the many issues around management
and maintenance, sustainability, the potential of towers to contribute
to urban regeneration, and cost.
Towers provide the opportunity of meeting housing
demand in high demand areas. It is likely that the Trust will
have little option but to build high to maximise density given
the limited availability and high cost of new sites for affordable
homes in Greater London. High rise also creates an opportunity
to provide the critical mass necessary for popular facilities
such as a concierge, or other community amenities. Many Peabody
homes remain popular because they enable people to live in otherwise
unattainable areas and tall buildings are one way we can continue
to offer the opportunity to live in central and popular locations.
The sensitivity of levels within the building
and what is considered high is worthy of further investigation.
However it is critical to separate the issue of height from high
density. Improving quality of life at high density requires reduced
impact of adjacency, acoustic separation, overlooking, and privacy.
Tall buildings can address all these constraints. Very high (30
+ stories) landmark buildings will be built periodically, particularly
for the luxury end of the office and residential market. But the
biggest challenge will be to provide high quality, affordable,
medium to high rise homes at 8 to 20 floors.