Nightingale 1

Breathe Architecture

This is old Brunswick. It’s industrial and run down, yet there exists a strangely endearing quality – the people and the sense of community. Emerging from the success of neighbouring apartment building The Commons, Nightingale 1 is the inaugural project of the Nightingale Model – a replicable, triple-bottom-line housing model with an overarching priority toward social, economic and environmental sustainability.

Nightingale is all about people. Its architecture serves as a catalyst to unite a group with similar values and build a community. It is filled with great neighbours and good people – it is home to individuals, couples and families from all walks of life. The apartments are affordable, sustainable, generous, easy to live in, and light filled. You know your neighbours and most have pets. Accommodating all ages without limit, you can grow old here. Purchaser engagement from the early stages has allowed the building to be designed completely with the end user in mind.

A series of communal spaces – a productive roof garden and deck, shared laundry and clothesline, bicycle parking and rooftop shed – offer meaningful social and utility spaces, promoting interaction and engagement amongst neighbours and ensuring company is always at hand. The design strategy was building more with less, adopting an honest material palette and placing emphasis on reduction – of embodied carbon emissions, operational carbon emissions and running costs. Nightingale 1 is made up of a series of small but meaningful architectural moments. The planning was kept simple, and materiality took precedence over form. The whole together is so much more than the sum of its parts.

Nightingale’s form is a simple response to Brunswick’s industrial heritage. The ground floor is about engagement between residents and the street, while reaching out to the wider Brunswick community. Breathe Architecture worked hard to activate the ground floor to create nooks, seats and a semi-public laneway to the heart of the building. Importantly, the architects looked beyond the drawing board to find values-aligned organisations to occupy units. Branch Studio Architects and not-for-profit Home.One have taken tenancies. Importantly, Nightingale Housing, the organisation, is the anchor tenant, able to deliver tours of the building and take people to the roof so that future architects, city makers and residents can see and feel what its like to live in a Nightingale.

This is the first building in Australia to be connected under an embedded network that is 100-per-cent fossil fuel free. Nightingale is carbon neutral in its operation. There is no gas in Nightingale 1. This is not by accident but by design. Breathe Architecture designed not only the building or the electrical reticulation but also the owners corporation rules, the embedded network and metering systems, the metering and sharing of the solar and solar feedings so that every Nightingale resident receives 100-per-cent green power at more than 30-per-cent less than any other Brunswick resident pays for carbon-laden black power.

The building was designed using simple passive principles achieving an average of 8.2 stars, and operates without air conditioning. The architects partnered with The University of Melbourne to test internal temperatures against The Commons and other multi-residential buildings with air-conditioning. The intent was to prove that air-conditioning is not required in Melbourne’s temperate climate zone.

Nightingale 1 incorporates solar-powered water heating, parking for 42 bicycles, car sharing, rooftop gardens and laundry, natural light and ventilation, re-use of rainwater, recycled timber floors, exposed concrete (with recycled content) and many more features. It excludes car parking, air conditioning, second bathrooms, plasterboard ceilings, chrome and toxic finishes. Nightingale 1 encourages a real behavioural and lifestyle change in its occupants with hope to inspire others to do the same.

Photography: Peter Clarke, Kate Longley