Highly Commended 2023

Nightingale Village

Architecture architecture / Austin Maynard Architects / Breathe / Clare Cousins Architects / Hayball / Kennedy Nolan

This major collaborative project sets a new standard for sustainable, community-centred design at precinct scale.

Six leading Australian architecture firms came together to create Nightingale Village, a zero-gas residential precinct located 5km from the Melbourne CBD, completed in June 2022. Comprising 203 homes across six buildings, with eight commercial tenancies at street level, Nightingale Village sets a new standard for sustainable, community-centred design in a medium-density context.

Each building was designed according to the social, environmental and financial sustainability principles of Nightingale Housing. This Melbourne-based organisation aims to reorient the broken Australian housing market away from real estate as an investor commodity, and towards providing quality homes that support sustainable living and community connection.

Design Brief:

Six award-winning architecture firms came together through Nightingale Housing to purchase the Nightingale Village site in Brunswick in 2017. At that time, the neighbourhood offered few high-quality options for prospective homeowners, between the increasingly unaffordable detached houses and poorly-designed apartments. Nightingale Village would offer sustainable, liveable spaces where people would settle and create community.

Following the success of its prototype Brunswick project The Commons (2013) and the launch of its first official development Nightingale 1 (2017), Nightingale Housing had amassed a list of thousands of interested purchasers who resonated with the organisation's mission to create environmentally, socially and financially sustainable housing. The Nightingale Village project responded to an overwhelming desire for well-designed smaller footprint homes in a central, well-serviced location.

The architects also recognised that introducing six new multi-residential buildings would impact on local residents, and aimed to design spaces that would welcome and create benefits for the existing community.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

Each architecture team brought a distinct aesthetic to their own building, while collaborating closely across the six firms to ensure maximum benefit to residents and neighbouring communities.

Together the architects devised a unified design response for homes across the precinct, affording passive surveillance and street engagement from living area balconies, and peace and privacy in bedrooms. They followed Nightingale Housing’s sustainability principles including passive design and material reductionism. They activated the street through commercial ground level spaces and landscaped pedestrian-only zones with in-built seating.

As an architect-led project, Nightingale Village involved close oversight of the construction process and regular interaction with home purchasers on the part of both the architects and Nightingale Housing. Nightingale’s community engagement strategy includes regular group catch-ups with residents from the time they purchase their home to the handover of their keys, ensuring that they have already formed connections with their neighbours by the time they move into their new homes.

The project caters for a diverse community of people by offering a mix of apartment typologies, as well as affordable homes for people in need. The architects incorporated 17 ‘Teilhaus’ homes across the precinct: Nightingale Housing’s studio-style apartments, which are cross-subsidised by larger homes in order to be made available at a more accessible price point for first homeowners.

27 of the 203 homes in the precinct were allocated to community housing providers Women’s Property Initiatives and Housing Choices Australia ahead of public sales. These homes are ‘salt and peppered’ throughout the precinct, and share the standard design features and fit-out of other homes in the building. The design intention is for community housing tenants to feel fully welcomed and integrated into their resident community.

Design Excellence

Nightingale Village aims to provide high-quality, long-term homes for owner-occupiers, not create profits for investors at the expense of residents, or the environment. In order to encourage people to stay and build community over the long term, the building designs foster a sense of homeliness, spaciousness and care for the community.

A sustainability of material reductionism sees the architects doing away with unnecessary items and details, and including only the materials and systems which are essential to creating quality, healthy homes. Private carparks, individual laundries and second bathrooms are omitted, which increases living space, and lowers the costs of construction and ongoing maintenance. Generous private living spaces are complemented by welcoming common areas. Living areas are oriented outwards, towards the park and streets. All homes have private balconies or courtyards, allowing passive surveillance and creating a sense of community safety. Bedrooms with operable windows face into light courts, allowing cross ventilation, and providing acoustic havens on a site impacted by train and road traffic noise. The majority of apartments cater for residents ageing in place, with flush transitions throughout.

Building designs encourage community connections by creating spaces for incidental encounters with neighbours. Airy open and glazed stairs and walkways offer appealing alternatives to taking the elevator. Each building has a communal rooftop area, where residents cross paths in the shared laundries, tend to productive gardens, use the electric barbecue facilities, or relax in landscaped seating areas. One building features a shared rooftop bathhouse.

With a strong emphasis on the pedestrian experience, Nightingale Village includes tactile facades with built-in seating at street level. Recessed upper storeys with visible balconies provide visual engagement with the upper levels. Viewed from beyond the site boundaries, each building mass is broken up by light wells, stairs, contrasting textures, vibrant colour, and window details.

Design Innovation

Nightingale Village is an example of what can be achieved through collaboration. The architects worked together to integrate the designs of the six buildings, which maximises usable space for residents, reduces construction costs, and achieves environmentally sustainable outcomes through material reduction.

In addition to a unified vision and design response, the architects designed the six buildings to share:

  • An embedded internet network, requiring just one server cupboard for the precinct, rather than one in each building
  • A single substation linking the embedded electricity network for the precinct
  • Two rainwater tanks collecting 40,000L water, used for landscape irrigation and commercial tenancy toilets
  • An additional pipe providing recycled water to residential toilets (this innovation would not have been affordable in a single-building development)
  • Buildings ParkLife and Evergreen also feature reciprocating light wells, offering extra light and landscaping

Nightingale Village is designed to reduce the need for individual car ownership. There are just 20 car spaces in a reduced basement area beneath the southern buildings, including 14 reserved for share cars accessible to the public. This amounts to approximately one car space for every ten households.

The architects obtained a permit to build without supplying extensive private car parking, by demonstrating that the site enabled convenient, car-free living. Nightingale Village is 5km from the CBD, rich in local amenity accessible by walking/wheeling, and serviced by trains, trams, multiple bus routes, and the Upfield bike path. The site includes 470 bicycle parking spaces.

Reducing the need for car parking facilities enabled more of the ground-level frontages to be activated. On Duckett Street, the cul-de-sac at the centre of Nightingale Village, car access has been partially replaced by landscaping and public seating. The site includes welcoming commercial tenancies on the ground level, and a pedestrian mews between the southern buildings.

Design Impact

Duckett Street has been transformed from a drab cluster of brick warehouses, to a vibrant precinct where locals linger to talk, grab coffee and groceries, or stop by the florist or bike workshop. Where vehicles once lined the curb, car access has been partially replaced by landscaping and public seating.

At the time the site was purchased, the only greenery in the area was a trio of tall gum trees to the north. The Nightingale Village architects successfully lobbied the local council to develop a new green space there, resulting in the addition of the popular community facility Bulleke-bek Park. The building Nightingale ParkLife was pulled back from the northern site boundary in order to preserve the three existing trees within the new park space.

As a result of the project’s strong focus on sustainability, the Nightingale Village commercial tenancies have attracted businesses committed to reducing their environmental impact. Olive&Eve in ParkLife is a sustainable florist. The acclaimed Japanese cafe Ima Project has relocated to Nightingale Village with two new offerings: an izakaya restaurant operating a 100% electric, gas-free commercial kitchen, and a combined corner store and takeaway cafe.

One of many positive outcomes of Nightingale Housing’s community engagement activities was a group of residents collaborating to jointly purchase a commercial space in Nightingale Village, aiming to offer a reduced lease to a social enterprise. The space is now occupied by the not-for-profit bicycle store and workshop Good Cycles, which trains and employs people facing barriers to work.

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

Winner of both the The Dimity Reed Melbourne Prize and The Allan and Beth Coldicutt Award for Sustainability at the 2023 Victorian Architecture Awards, Nightingale Village is a leading example of sustainable design. The project team made every effort to reduce environmental impact for the lifetime of the precinct.

Sustainability features include:

  • Precinct is 100% electric; there is no gas supply
  • High energy efficiency; each building has a certified average NatHERS rating between 7.8 and 9.0 stars
  • Thermally broken windows
  • Apartment ceilings are exposed concrete with engaged thermal mass
  • Generously landscaped rooftops and light courts, combating heat island effect
  • Facade and balustrade materials encourage vegetation growth
  • Two shared, centralised heat pumps provide domestic hot water and heating, are 100% electric, and utilise a CO2 refrigerant with a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 1. This technology is best in class and significantly reduces carbon emissions
  • Repurposed and locally-supplied materials used wherever possible * Energy efficient fixtures and fittings for power and water * Carbon-neutral tapware and bricks
  • Off-form concrete finishes and pre-finished lightweight claddings selected in order to minimise application of paint finishes and ongoing maintenance/reapplication
  • Landscape design prioritising hardy and drought-tolerant plants, including species that attract native insects and birds
  • Communal and private planters throughout the building supporting edible landscapes
  • 90% of materials from the existing site were able to be recycled at demolition
  • Communal facilities support bulk-buying of sustainable cleaning products
  • Waste rooms support garbage, recycling, composting and hard waste streams with scope to further diversify in the future

Through Nightingale’s engagement activities, residents are encouraged to form waste committees. As a result, communities are creating their own systems for reducing their environmental impact, with ideas cross-pollinating between different buildings (such as group donations of used goods, or community noticeboard guiding people on how to recycle effectively)

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