In about the 1980s, Melbourne’s inner-city was a collection of “useless and lifeless” buildings, giving it the nickname of the “donut city” because it was empty in the center. In 1984 an urban renewal hoped to rejuvenate the city life, with startling results of the rise of human interaction with the help of urban rejuvenation projects. This enabled an increased urban life for civilians, but the impending affordable housing crisis is still prevalent today.

McLeod setting up the current housing situation in Australia

By 2050, 80 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities. This puts pressure on the already existing housing crisis of cities. “The architecture of housing is neither livable, affordable, nor sustainable” says McLeod. Our car-centric designs and fast-faced lives have been further concentrated due to bad design. Our housing design has prompted humans to get farther away from each other in addition to our fast-paced lives that keep us locked up in our cubicles. 

Jeremey McLeod selling the Australian dream

Jeremy McLeod, an Australian architect, founder, and design director of Studio Breathe starts the TED talk addressing the ongoing housing crisis occurring in Melbourne. The population growth of Melbourne is in 2014, with a census of 4.25 million to an expected 7.7 million in 2050. Housing is a basic necessity for all people, also housing that is livable and affordable. “Where will the city make space for these people?” he asks. 

Tedtalks for Architects: Sustainable Apartments – A New Model for the Future by Jeremy McLeod, TEDxStKilda - Sheet1
Melbournes population growth_©

Is urban compression the correct way to deal with the rising housing crisis? A scheme that allows high-rise buildings and skyscrapers to pollute the sky and we live in a building with no sense of community or neighborhood. Or the latter scheme, an urban sprawl, in which we live far away from the community, forcing us to use a car that not only takes up space but also increases carbon emissions into the environment. With no or little access to public transport, using a car is inevitable. This is the current living standard in the CBD (Central Business District) of Melbourne, the 9th most livable city in 2021. 

Jeremy proposes, a mid-rise structure, what he calls a mid-rise with vertical communities that will have social facilities like schools, gyms. He proposes a structure that is financially, ecologically, and socially sustainable. This gave birth to The Commons, the first project of the Nightingale project scheme. 


The Commons offered a triple bottom line development. Jeremy realized good design is only part of the solution, it is not only the architect’s role but also the realtor and developers. Financial sustainability came about by thinking critically as practicing architects about what is essential in housing; eliminating or keeping only what is needed. Hence came about a reduction method where the need for second bathrooms, air conditioning was eliminated from the apartment design. Furthermore, removing unappealing plasterboards to reveal higher ceilings, and riding of chrome, an energy toxic material removed the cost by 1.3 million dollars. The project saves on cost by not only saving in the construction phase of the project but also in marketing. By having the Common as a replicable model the cost of hiring a real estate agent, display suite, and marketing reduced the overall cost by $ 400 000.

Ecological sustainability came through roof gardens to grow food, and eliminate parking which takes up space, instead of introducing bike parking for 74 cycles. The apartment building has to lift, making the stairs an inviting and exhilarating space to be in with natural lighting, wind, and plants to make the user want to climb. 

Social sustainability was brought about by introducing roof gardens where neighbors could grow food together, have monthly barbeques, take yoga classes together with more options for people to meet in. Increased social interactions. 

This type of architecture acted “as a catalyst to attract specific types of people,” all those who care about the environment and each other. This creates a triple bottom line development between, livability, financial gain, and sustainability. 

However the truth is that architects alone cannot be change makers, good design only party does its job, the rest relies on the decision-makers in property development where sustainability and livability are given priority along with financial gains. 

The Australian dream, why the model works

Jeremy McLeod talks about selling the Australian dream; having ownership of houses. He makes this possible after buying the land for the Nightingale scheme built on Florence Street where 53 people were interviewed and pulled out as potential investors for the scheme. Apartments were allocated in an egalitarian method. 


The Commons won a couple of awards for its design- the Frederick Romberd Award for Residential Architecture- Multiple Housing and the David Oppenheim Award for Sustainable Architecture. 

Commons as a replicable model; Birth of the Nightingale Model

The Commons gave birth to the Nightingale model. Jeremey McLeod confessed that the Commons was a financial failure. After the awards of various awards and people writing to inquire about a next project, giving birth to the Nightingale model. A replicable model that could be improved on. 

McLeod said “Nightingale won that award because people seemed genuinely happy to be living there.”


  1. 2021. Sustainable Apartments – A New Model for the Future | Jeremy McLeod | TEDxStKilda. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 November 2021].
  2. Nightingale Housing. 2021. Nightingale Housing. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 November 2021].
  3. ArchitectureAU. 2021. Jeremy McLeod’s “triple bottom-line” solution for Australia’s broken housing model. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 November 2021].

Zainab Marvi is a struggling architecture student with a love for architectural writing. She is passionate about architectural theory and urban planning. She hopes her failures in architecture school will pay off some day.