Finalist 2022

Nightingale Ballarat

Breathe / Nightingale Housing

Designed by Breathe and 100% fossil fuel-free, Nightingale Ballarat includes 27 apartments and community spaces that celebrate Ballarat’s rich history.

Nightingale Ballarat marks a watershed moment for a regional city facing the challenges of urban sprawl and climate change. A celebration of Ballarat’s rich history in form and 100% fossil fuel-free, Nightingale Ballarat includes 27 apartments and community spaces designed with an overarching priority towards social, economic and environmental sustainability.

Design Brief

It’s 1854, the city of Ballarat is alive with activity. People live upstairs in the centre of town while making a living below. The tram rattles up and down Sturt Street to meet the growing city's transport needs. Fast forward 165 years, post-motor vehicle ownership, through planning and zoning changes. Residents have fled to the city’s edges, to single houses following the great Australian Dream. After dark, Ballarat is now eerily quiet, a beautiful but dormant city. Continued urban sprawl, climate change, and an ageing population have become of great concern for the city. Nightingale Ballarat is the granular delivery of The City of Ballarat’s strategic plan to bring residents back to the city. A prototype for the city and it’s people to see if this bold plan could possibly work in a regional context, a test case for the viability of medium density in Ballarat’s future.


This project was developed by:

Design Process

Nightingale Ballarat includes one, two, and three-bedroom apartments, rooftop garden, community room, cafe and office at ground floor, all 100% sold prior to completion. Its form is an elegant response to Ballarat’s 1800’s boom-era architecture designed with an overarching priority towards social, economic and environmental sustainability. We made simple urban design gestures to activate the street. We took the powerlines underground, carved out a generous, semi-public courtyard, planted a significant tree to throw shade over the footpath and built-in seats to improve the pedestrian experience. By pulling back from the north-east, we created a view of the ‘ghost sign’ on the neighbouring wall.

We worked with Council’s heritage team to restore the “McK’s Jelly Crystal” sign to give a glimpse back in time. The building and basement was held back from the western edge to allow deep root planting of canopy trees. It steps down two storeys to the south to respond to the existing residential condition and allow for a not too distant future where built form will be denser and taller. The stunning arched facade is constructed from red bricks recycled from a Ballarat demolition site and talks to the historic Sturt St typologies while complementing the heritage building next door in materiality and line. We worked closely with project consultants to ensure the project meets all regulatory safety standards. In an effort to address the housing crisis, apartments were sold at cost. Each home was sold for what it cost to procure, design, manage and construct. There is no added profit. Nightingale Ballarat is designed to look like it’s been there forever and is already a community favourite.

Design Excellence

Nightingale Ballarat addresses both the climate crisis and a broken housing system by delivering 27 homes at cost that are socially, financially and environmentally sustainable. This triple bottom line approach is replicable and scalable and designed to lead by example inspiring more projects to be delivered across Australia that put people before profit. Of the 27 homes, 20% have been allocated to a registered Community Housing Provider to house those most in need of safe and secure, quality housing. A further 20% of homes were allocated to a priority group including single women aged 55+ (the fastest-growing cohort at risk of homelessness in Australia), people living with disability, carers and key service workers.

Design Innovation

Nightingale Ballarat is the first of its kind for regional Australia and sets a new benchmark for the city of Ballarat. It tackles the duel threats of climate change and the housing crisis head on. The building is connected under an embedded network that is 100% fossil fuel free powered by solar and 100% GreenPower. Each home achieves an 8+ star NAtHERS rating and every apartment is cross-ventilated with access to open-air walkways and operable windows. The broader community was consulted before any pen was put to paper to ensure the project was supported. Future residents attended more than a dozen meetings through the construction phase to ensure neighbours knew each other from day 1.

Communal spaces such as the rooftop garden, dining room and laundry keep community strong. The cafe downstairs used leftover construction material for its fitout, complimenting the communal spaces as a place to connect. Importantly, 20% of apartments are allocated to Housing Choices Australia, a community housing provider with a mission to provide safe and secure housing to those most in need. Some of that housing is specialist disability housing and required close coordination with Housing Choices to ensure that the physical needs of the future residents were met. The entire building is stepless and accessible with flush floor transitions throughout from the front entry through to apartment entries, stepless showers, to flush transitions out onto private balconies and rooftop gardens. It is inclusive and creates a building that allows for effortless aging in place.

Design Impact

Nightingale Ballarat has been of critical importance to the city. It’s medium density done well. 100% fossil fuel free, each home achieves 8+ star NAtHERS keeping cost of living low and residents comfortable all year round. Community is fostered in the design with communal spaces throughout. Generous gestures have been made for the broader community including taking the powerlines underground, deep root planting for street shade, and a semi public courtyard. The project's success sees council including medium-density, apartment living as part of the city's future. Importantly, 20% of the project is allocated to Community Housing Provider, Housing Choices Australia on a mission to provide safe, secure housing to those most in need. Victorian standards do not require this, but it's something we care deeply about and felt was important to include.

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

Nightingale Ballarat is exceptional in its sustainability outcomes. No gas and 100% electric, the building is connected under an embedded network that is 100% fossil fuel-free bulk buying of 100% GreenPower allowing sharing of wholesale electricity savings with the residents to reduce their ongoing cost of living. Residents live in comfortable, high-quality, healthy homes that are less expensive to run, filled with fresh air and greenery, designed for wellbeing.

The project uses recycled materials wherever possible with many locally sourced in Ballarat. The principle of reductionism is at the heart of every design decision. If a material doesn’t serve a purpose, it’s not included. We took out things like second bathrooms, and individual laundries to reduce the cost of construction and ongoing maintenance. Instead, we included things important for the creation of healthy, comfortable, sustainable homes like double glazing, excellent insulation and 100% certified Green Power. We built less to give more.

Nightingale Ballarat includes:

  • Highly efficient building envelope Building exceeding 8 star NAtHERS
  • High-efficiency CO2 heat pumps power shared hydronic heating / hot water systems.
  • Parking for 50 bicycles Car Share Shared rooftop laundry, gardens
  • Natural light and cross ventilation to each home
  • 27.65kW PV array Induction cooktops
  • Re-use of rainwater for irrigation and shared amenities
  • Recycled materials used wherever possible including timber floors and red brick facade
  • Courtyard paved in brick offcuts diverted from landfill
  • Vegetation throughout inc deep root planting
  • Open air walkways
  • Double glazed, thermally broken windows
  • Downstairs cafe fit out with left over construction materials, run by resident above

Nightingale Ballarat excludes:

  • Air-conditioning Second bathrooms Individual laundries
  • Plasterboard ceilings Chrome Toxic finishes

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