The Future Of Sustainable Housing, With Architect Jeremy McLeod

In a time where it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by Australia’s housing crisis and the looming impacts of climate change, Jeremy McLeod is one of our country’s leading architects that’s dedicated to coming up with solutions.

As the director and founder of Breathe Architecture, he’s been designing sustainable homes since 2001, and he’s also one of the driving forces behind the revolutionary Nightingale Housing. In the first episode of our new TDF Talks mini-series on sustainability, Jeremy joins us to talk about the challenges of the housing market and how sustainability and affordability can coexist!

Listen now on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, and find some of the best bits from the interview below.

Christina Karras
Supported by Momentum Energy

The lush green balcony of the Evergreen building, designed by Clare Cousins Architects under the Nightingale Housing model. Photo – Amelia Stanwix

Nightingale 1’s rooftop garden. Photo – Eve Wilson

Breathe founder and design director Jeremy McLeod.

Two of Nightingale’s buildings, ParkLife and Evergreen, were completed in Brunswick a year ago.

Christina Karras
11th of August 2023

For architect Jeremy McLeod, good housing should be built with both the people and the planet in mind — and not for profit.

This is the same mantra that pushed him to start Breathe Architecture, and Nightingale, teaming up with a number of Australia’s best architects to create new apartment buildings that are affordable, sustainable, and ethical. And their success has raised the bar for new developments everywhere.

He’s full of expert insights into the housing market and ideas for how our city can increase its liveability, so he was the perfect first guest to kick off our sustainability mini-series of TDF Talks! Find out the simple ways you can make an impactful difference in your own home and so much in the full episode, and our wrap-up below!

How Nightingale balances good design and affordability

Jeremy says Nightingale manages to create apartments that are architecturally designed, with an achievable price tag because they simplify the building’s offerings, rather than sacrificing important features altogether.

‘We take out the basement carpark and we save everyone $40,000. We take out the second bathroom or the ensuite, and we save everyone $30,000. We take out the individual laundries, build a killer rooftop laundry — that takes out another $6,000 and all their living rooms get bigger,’ he says. This leaves them with better prices for their buyers, without changing ‘one bit of architecture’.

The ethical intentions behind these buildings reap rewards

He reveals that the brief architects are given under the Nightingale model tells them not to worry about maximising profit. Instead, the brief focuses on building something that’s that’s ‘minimum seven and a half stars’ and 100-percent electric. ‘Let’s make sure we’ve got an embedded energy network that buys a hundred percent GreenPower, and shares the bulk-buy savings of that power with all the residents so their bills are cheaper.’

Smaller homes help save energy

One of the most cost-effective ways to make a new home more energy efficient, is just to make it smaller. So for anyone resultant to spend the extra money on ensuring a home’s sustainability, ‘just don’t make it as big as four houses,’ Jeremy notes. ‘Just make it the size of one or two houses.’

Sustainable qualities homebuyers should keep an eye out for

Jeremy’s advice for sustainably minded first-home buyers is to look at existing 1970s, 1980s and 1990s walk-up apartments. ‘Flats that have been there for a long time normally don’t have a lot of mechanical heating and cooling. They don’t have lifts, so often their maintenance costs are low.’

And if they’re a bit ‘ugly’, it also helps your chances of getting it for a good price! Just make sure to assess their structural integrity, look for cracks, or ask the owner’s corp for records of any issues. Alternatively, if you’re buying off-the-plan, look for projects that are all-electric, with good natural light and good orientation, built by a trusted developer.

Why sustainability and affordability go ‘hand in hand’

 Jeremy’s stance on sustainable homes is that by building ‘only what you what you absolutely need,’ building it once, and building it to last, it will always save you money in the long run.

For anyone looking to renovate or retrofit their existing home to make it more sustainable, he encourages people to resist the urge to demolish it and start again — which will save on both money and materials. His team at Breathe Architecture do a survey of what’s worth saving, before retrofitting and reimagining a home to give it  a new lease on life!

GreenPower is the ‘single most important’ way to make change

‘Even if you are renting and you can’t afford to change your gas to electricity, or it’s not your decision, don’t worry about it. Just do what you can. So, call your power supplier today. Ask them to change to a hundred percent GreenPower. ‘If they pretend not to know what GreenPower is, or make it difficult, hang up and call someone else’ Jeremy advises!

Switching to GreenPower helps buy new renewable energy for the grid, while also investing in Australia’s renewable infrastructure. Find a GreenPower provider here.

Listen to the full episode with Jeremy below, or find TDF Talks on Spotify and Apple Podcasts!

Momentum Energy are owned by Australia’s largest renewable energy generator and offer accredited GreenPower. Sign up to one of Australia’s greenest power companies.

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