Award of the Year 2014

The Commons

Breathe Architecture / Design Architect - Jeremy McLeod / Project Architect - Bonnie Herring

The Commons is about sustainable urbanisation – a triple bottom line development.

The Commons is about sustainable urbanisation – a triple bottom line development. Apartments are generous, simple, affordable, sustainable and value add to the community. The design strategy was to build a vertical community. Residents share rooftop gardens, solar hot water, electricity generation systems, roof top laundry, bike parking and bee hives.

The architecture has been a catalyst for bringing together socially responsible individuals who are now striving to give back not only to their neighbors but also to improve their broader community.
The Commons was designed to give people a home in the city not a box in the sky.

Design Excellence

Architectural Delight
The Commons is a simple, stripped back building, constructed beautifully with an honest and robust palette of materials.

The Commons has three facades. To the north, it welcomes the sun through natural, spacious decks draped in tensioned shipping chain populated by lush, green vines that provide a protective screen in summer.

Slender copper fins articulate the armored western façade protecting the building from the harsh sun and the noise of the railway below.

To the south, a durable and natural Australian iron bark screen embraces the external decks and frame the views to the city beyond.

Design Impact

At its core, The Commons is about people, not cars. The architecture promotes chance meetings and provides a sense of belonging. The deletion of cars and carparking is again the key to engaging the wider community. Instead of driveways and roller doors at street level, The Commons presents the street with a café, retail space and artist studios.

The building hands over valuable floor area to the narrow Upfield bike path along the length of the building in the form of a grass landscaped pocket park, a welcome relief for riders and walkers along the path.

Design Transformation


We are in the midst of a housing affordability crisis in Melbourne. Our growing population is being pushed to the outer edges, away from public transport and social infrastructure.

The Commons uses its reductionist strategy to tackle affordability head on.
The deletion of the basement carpark, air-conditioning and plasterboard ceilings alone provided savings in the order of 15% to the purchases.

The ground up, low tech approach to sustainability has led to reduced ongoing running costs for the residents now and into the future.

Design Innovation


Sustainability was integral to this building from the outset. The Commons is an exercise in reduction – an attempt to build more meaning with less resources.


  • No cars
  • No air-conditioning
  • No second bathrooms
  • No individual laundries
  • No plasterboard ceilings
  • No chrome & tiles
  • No toxic finishes
  • No imported timbers


  • 24 bespoke homes
  • 7.5 star thermal efficiency
  • 72 bike parks
  • Car share
  • Rooftop gardens
  • Rooftop laundry
  • Natural light
  • Natural ventilation
  • 5KW PV array
  • Solar hot water
  • Shared hydronic heating
  • High ceilings
  • Recycled timber floors
  • Durable timber cladding
  • Insitu concrete benchtops
  • Locally manufactured raw brass hardware
  • Double glazing

Other Key Features


The Common’s is a replicable, triple bottom line development built to a social, sustainable and economic mandate.

Residents have embraced the  ‘de-materialised’ design strategy, the bike parking and the implementation of ESD strategies. Just as the built form demonstrates a generosity to the wider community through setbacks and the injection of commercial and artistic programs, the apartment design encourages real behavioral changes in its occupants and aims to inspire others to do the same.

The Commons is desirable, affordable, green and successful, offering a new precedent for sustainable urbanization.