The Nightingale Model - Designing a Sustainable Future for Australian Housing

Words by Ashley Gladwish
Ng Village Austin Maynard Architects Plan
Nightingale Village.

The environmental issues facing the world today are of such a scale that they cannot be solved be the actions of any one person alone. Those who are concerned about these pressing issues worry that not enough people will engage with the problem as a whole and adjust the way they live.

Encouragingly, the success of The Commons and Nightingale 1.0 show that, now more than ever, people are paying attention to the direct correlation between their choices and the consequences for the environment. The shift toward such long-term thinking indicates that people are making decisions to lessen their carbon footprint, conscious that their choices have the power to impact the environment now and in the future.

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Nightingale 2 by Six Degrees Architects.

Melbourne’s Nightingale Housing currently has two projects in planning, two in construction and one balloted for this month. Actively aware of the financial, social and environmental neglect inherent within traditional development models, Nightingale Housing instigates endless possibility for positive community transformation. The biggest project to date is Nightingale Village, the seven multi-residential precinct that will go even further to test the effects of the Nightingale triple bottom line housing model, which prioritises affordability, sustainability and community.

Living at the first time in history when more social interaction occurs through digital platforms than in-person means that isolation is a rising concern for most demographics. Well being and mental health research tell us that living in an engaged community helps prevent illness, a fact that is paramount to the Nightingale Housing Model. Nightingale is conscious of the positive impact that the built environment can achieve through a model that is ecological, community led, affordable and that gives back to the community. By considering housing from this perspective, Nightingale disrupts how we have been historically taught to think about the built environment, allowing us to analyse the purchase of and intent for where we decide to live and invest.

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Nightingale Brunswick East by ClarkeHopkinsClarke and Breathe Architecture.

Instead of considering plots of land, single homes or a lone apartment within a building as individual commodities, each of the Nightingale projects are designed around shared community resources, force us to think about what people need within proximity to fuel well being. By thinking holistically, we see the benefit of having a community work together to achieve something far greater than what they can do on their own. Jeremy says ‘the model pulls apart our understanding of how we live and what it means to truly live in a space. There is increasing demand to understand the factors that cause people to feel supported, utilised and happy to be living within a community. Ultimately, we need to understand how people can live better together.’  With Australia’s population expected to grow from 22 to 36 million by 2050, this is becoming an ever-greater priority.

Mark Stranan of Austin Maynard Architects, the team designing Nightingale 3.0 and one of the seven architectural firms involved in Nightingale Village, says ‘the later project is very much the artery for what the Nightingale Model hopes to achieve.’ There is increasing pressure on cities to develop and sustain themselves using practices that will put them in good stead for the future. Nightingale Village will occupy all of Duckett Street in Brunswick, its layout and intricate sustainability features ensure that Nightingale Village will sustain its residents through integrating vegetation and water harvesting.

Nightingale 2 by Six Degrees Architects.

Discouraging car use, Duckett Street will be a private road for pedestrians and include a pedestrian park, aligning with Jeremy’s vision for ‘an urban public realm that gives back to the community by promoting a space where everyone can benefit, not just Nightingale residents.’ Adding sustenance to the tone of community empowerment, the proximity of each project will ‘yield incredible community benefits,’ Jeremy adds. With buildings pushed back to utilise interaction and maximise green space, the team of collaborators working on the Village precinct, Clare Cousins, Kennedy Nolan, Architecture Architecture, WOWOWA, Hayball, and Austin Maynard, along with Jeremy’s Breathe Architecture, are committing to an infrastructure that will aid transport access to all necessary amenities and services. Jeremy says that ‘allowing a team of architects to collaborate can really drive positive change in our cities.’

Austin Maynard Architects ‘plans to reuse the existing brick of Brunwick’s post-war, semi-industrial warehouses that currently remain on the site’ says Mark. ‘The warehouses are not heritage listed but we want to utilise the history of the existing structures to the best we can,’ he adds. ‘The industrial landscape surrounding Duckett Street influenced our plans for the street wall. We have chosen to use webforge and mesh as the materials are robust, functional, transparent and aid social interaction, aligned with the Nightingale’s economic considerations. Broken into four vertical volumes, the street wall will mirror the structural detail of the existing warehouse with the composition of the mesh and webforge counteracting the visibility of weight of the four volumes,’ Mark says.

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Nightingale Fremantle by EHDO Architecture.

All Nightingale projects run entirely fossil fuel free, have a minimum of a 7.5 star NatHERS energy rating and a water harvesting system. Nightingale Village will go one step further. ‘With Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV) in each bathroom ceiling, the system works by drawing in fresh air from the adjacent light well, crossing it with the stale air that the unit then pushes out,’ Mark says. ‘In recovering the heat energy in the process, the network of ducts in the buildings ensure that the fresh air that enters in the winter is pre-warmed using the air that is exhausted before it enters the space. In summer, the air is pre-cooled,’ he adds.

Balloting begins this month for Nightingale Fremantle, the first project outside of Melbourne, which will be located in Fairfield Western Australia. The architectural firm EHDO is collaborating with Fini Sustainability, a company that specialises in thermal performance and designing for cost and environmental impact. Nightingale Fremantle will use a photovoltaic array to power the building, abide by passive solar design principles and be built with sustainable materials all of which will enable the building to become an income-generating entity.

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Nightingale Village by Austin Maynard Architects.

Because Nightingale involves future residents in the design process from beginning to end, the demographic varies for each project. While Nightingale 1.0 residents saved roughly $37,500 each because most did not own a car and opted out of an underground excavation for a carpark, Nightingale Fremantle will be equipped with charge points in all of the car bays. Responding to each individual project’s residents’ needs reiterates the value of Jeremy’s vision: ‘to understand what residents need in a place so that they can truly live well within it.’

With Nightingale Brunswick East, Nightingale 2.0 and Nightingale 3.0 underway, Nightingale continues to consult Women’s Property Initiative, Housing Choices Australia and Ethical Property Australia to understand how different demographics live, who is most in need and how people in general are living differently. An example of a major change lies in the movement towards shared access over individual ownership when it comes to purchasing appliances and tools. Cities are now embracing ‘thing libraries’, a behaviour that contributes to the mitigation of waste, excessive production of plastic and release of harmful pollution into the air.

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Nightingale 3 by Austin Maynard Architects.

As society becomes far more aware of the small steps that will allow us to live better, to live happier, we see a fundamental shift in understanding the benefits of green space, manageable home owner debt, a sharing economy and locally grown produce. With academic research, policy, and public opinion attentive to what is happening to the environment and what people need to feel their best, there is no better time for collaborative projects like Nightingale. Utilising the skill of Australian architects and sustainability experts, Nightingale is transitioning how we live, creating a pattern and way of living that will continue to strengthen Australian society.