Both the housing and climate crises have essentially become synonymous with modern life. For myself and other young people, the conundrum often presents like this: Should I bother saving for a criminally expensive house? Or should I be enjoying spending my money because climate change is coming for us anyway?
One Aussie not-for-profit organisation believes there’s another option. In 2014, architect Jeremy McLeod had a big plan: to build the greenest apartment building in Australia. Jeremy and his team at Breathe subsequently began mapping out how they could build well-designed and community-focused housing, all while helping owner-occupiers rather than investors.
The result is Nightingale Housing, and their first project Nightingale 1, a five-storey building containing 20 apartments, ground floor retail and office spaces and rooftop communal gardens, complete with veggie patches.
How sustainable is it?
First introduced in 1993, the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) measures a home’s energy efficiency. The higher the star rating, the less energy that's needed to keep the house both cool and warm.
Nightingale buildings have a minimum rating of 7.5 stars, above the building average of six. They also use high thermal insulation, solar shading and thermal modelling so the buildings don’t require air conditioning.
Nightingale Housing also chose to partner with a green power company, Momentum Energy, which is owned by Australia's largest renewable generator, Hydro Tasmania. Considering that around 76% of Australia’s electricity still comes from the burning of fossil fuels, by opting for a power company that's among the greenest (as determined by Greenpeace), residents can rest assured their power company is as pro-renewable as they are.
At Nightingale, there are embedded energy networks that allow residents to bulk-buy 100% Green Power electricity at reduced rates and save on metering fees. None of their projects contain a natural gas supply.
How much does an apartment cost?
Nightingale Housing provides housing at cost. This means that each home is sold for what it cost to build. This includes the architect and consultant fees, the cost of materials, authority approvals such as building permissions, as well as construction. In addition, the 'teilhaus' (space-efficient homes with a small footprint) apartments are only sold to first home buyers or people with limited financial means, in order to give more people the opportunity to own their home.
A 'teilhaus' apartment can set you back around $275,000, while a two-bedroom apartment starts at $570,000. The current median for a one-bedroom unit in Melbourne is around $350,000.
Living costs are also cheaper thanks to rooftop solar, embedded energy networks and a shared super-fast commercial internet connection.
Projects like Nightingale are giving Australians a glimpse at what the future of housing could look like: homes that are built for people, not profit; the regeneration of communities in busy cities; and a building that puts the planet first.
Brb, going to scour the website for apartment inspo.