"We seek to create a world in which housing in contemporary urban environments is built to support well-being, community and liveability"

So the Nightingale Model is going gangbusters. Through the roof.

People are clamouring to be on the buyers list, to help or carry out the next iteration. Close to 1500 on the buyers register including in Auckland where there is no plan to bring Nightingale, but where the residents reason there soon must be, given the price of houses there challenges those of Sydney and Melbourne.

So were the words of Jeremy McLeod of Breathe Architecture, who led the birthing of this radical new way to do apartments that is socially, environmentally, ethically and financially more sustainable and is now giving the developers, probably for the first time in history, at least in this country, a wake up call to rival what’s happening to the taxi drivers.

Are we getting the picture here that the mood is very strong?


“People are contacting us – landowners and individuals – asking how they can help. People offering finance, asking who do we need and how can they help deliver what we need – bridging finance, mezzanine finance and construction finance,” McLeod says.

None of it is any surprise.

We have in this country, in the major cities, but spreading elsewhere, the worst case of Tulip fever since … well the Dutch tulip bubble of 1637 or near enough.

And we certainly don’t wish on anyone that it’s about as fragile…

Except of course that all those young and poor folk who are watching from the sidelines are probably hoping it is exactly like the Dutch disease of 1637… “Bring it on” you can hear them say.

See Sandra’s article here, which tells you where and how they are popping up including the lovely generosity of the people involved sharing mistakes and refining wins.

Jeremy McLeod
Jeremy McLeod

McLeod says the method is highly collaborative. It caps profit to 15 per cent, with all financials transparent to the stakeholders and buyers prevented from making windfall profits. Interesting this is stimulating even greater collaboration and interest than imagined.

Project organisers are bringing the interior designer along to a display suite to meet the purchasers which “gives the purchasers a better understanding of where the architects are coming from”.

The purchasers night itself becomes an opportunity to start building community, right before even the first sod is turned.

Other smaller, like-minded developers are getting in on the swing and engaging some of the ideas, with community building and sensitive sustainable development.

“The boutique developers here are taking it in their strike and running with it,” he says.

He names Assemble, Milieu and Neometro as examples.

Essentially the projects are “delivering a quality product in a place where there haven’t been quality products”. And that’s radical on its own.

It’s been assumed that in places such as Sydney the land prices are so extreme they are a barrier to Nightingale, but McLeod says that means the savings with the capped development profit can be huge.

“Savings of five per cent of $5 million is a lot of money so it will have more impact,” he says.

We ask about the developer who said, yes, this idea was nice, but you couldn’t deliver it at scale.

“I agree with that,” he says. “You can’t do it at scale, it aims to be a community. I’m not interested in doing 400 apartments.”

Mind, three or four buildings of 40 apartments is another story, he says, especially if they have their own branding and own community “where everyone knows each other”.

McLeod was fulsome in praise for Small Giants’ Danny Almagor and Berry Liberman who were instrumental in getting The Commons off the ground (the first iteration of Nightingale).

The thinking of Small Giants, he says, is not the size of your company but the impact you can have.

Small Giants by the way recently advertised for a chief financial officer through recruiter Richard Evans of Talent Nation. Evans said he’d been overrun with applications, as you’d imagine. What fun for an ethically minded CFO to play with – at least 40 enterprises or so working away creating good and better in the world.

Almagor has a history in this patch. He founded Engineers Without Borders while he was still at university.

In Singapore they’re not waiting for generational change, they’re nudging it right along

There’s something about the pragmatism they have in Singapore that is pretty enviable when you look at how we struggle and bump our way to greener standards, taking all the time in the world it seems. During the past week or two we’ve been getting some of the media and social feeds coming from the International Green Building Conference and one line that resonated was focus on the next generation.

Generational change is often mentioned as a kind of last resort here, because it’s expected to be a natural evolution based on the young wanting to enjoy life for a bit longer than the grey-haired expect. In Singapore though the government is backing the young as an active strategy.

It has a “Back to School” internship program that will see polytechnic students in Singapore become key to green up “at least 80 percent of its buildings by 2030”, with guidance of the Building and Construction Authority.

According to Eco-Business students will be deployed to secondary and primary schools “to help their alma maters to achieve the BCA’s Green Mark accreditation for environmentally-friendly buildings”.

Singapore’s senior minister of state for home affairs and national development Desmond Lee said the contingent would use the Power of Nudge to mentor their juniors in adopting green habits such as recycling.

“It’s one thing when an authoritative figure or a government campaign tells you to save energy and switch off the lights. It’s quite different when your peer or mentor tells you, ‘This is the way to go, and this is the right thing to do.’”

Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development, Singapore said the power of nudge came into play.

Dr John Keung, the BCA’s chief executive said: “If you look at what BCA does, we can mandate the hardware, such as minimum standards for green buildings and so forth. But once it comes to behaviour, you can’t mandate that in many ways.

“We must educate our younger generations. We need to get our proactive youngsters to share their experiences,” he said. “The more of them that we can get on board, the better off we will be in the future.”

Good to see Australian firms in the final running for the Asia Pacific Leadership in Green Building Awards too. Included are Cundall,nominated in the Business Leadership in Sustainability Award, Floth Australia with its headquarters at 69 Robertson Street in Brisbane a finalist in the Sustainable Design and Performance – Commercial category and the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute, as finalist in the Leadership in Sustainable Design and Performance – Institutional category.

Here is some of the twitter feed from Green Building Council chief Romilly Madew on the Aussie contingent in Singapore

Politics is a tough gig if you’ve got the wrong whisperers

In politics the lessons can take along time to sink in, even though the mood of the people can be lightning fast to change.

The NSW government, for instance, tried to rig the council elections for City of Sydney by mandating that business votes, then giving them two votes each. But the trick was conceived too long ago to be effective. By the time last Saturday’s election had come along, the state government had collected a long list of grievances and the notion that incumbent Clover Moore who had been there for 12 years should be swept from power because she’d been there for 12 years, instead swept in with a bigger majority than ever.

So much for not reading the mood of the people correctly. Whisperers, time to get back to training cattle dogs because you are failing dismally in politics.

Now Mr Premier, what about that dreaded WestConnex?  Lucy Turnbull may not have realised the scale of horror at Haberfield. Have YOU been to Haberfield to have a look? Wait till the drone footage of the destruction hits the social media pages.

On local elections it’s interesting to watch the rise of the Greens, despite what the wizened observers say. There is no way that the Greens can go backwards over the longer term because the reason they primarily exist will become more obvious as the climate and environment worsens. Providing they stay sensible and strong in their commitment.

(Pauline Hanson on the other hand has the kind of fire and brimstone that fades and fizzles as the ridicule sets in.)

As the ABC picked up, Byron Shire in northern New South Wales elected the highest number of Greens councillors ever in last Saturday’s local council election. You’d expect a big Greens vote there but returning mayor Simon Richardson said it was “beyond our wildest dreams”.

According to Greens MP and local government spokesman David Shoebridge there will now be two to three Greens in Kiama and more Greens in Shoalhaven Albury, Campbelltown, the Clarence Valley, Glen Innes, Goulburn, and Kyogle. Leichhardt and Marrickville each had four Greens before amalgamations.

Energy benchmarking

Ben Thomas who has our “go to” contact at the City of Sydney in his role coordinating the Better Buildings Partnership, during the intense and marathon effort of producing the Tenants and Landlords Guide to Happiness, on how to green our leasing practices for offices, (See the CoS/BBP new green lease standard released this week here,) is on his way to GPT to work with Bruce Precious and Steve Ford in the team’s susty unit.

But before he does that he’ll be heading to a C40 meeting in New York to present research from the City on how to benchmark energy intensity at a globally harmonised level. This is a problem with a long tail of issues to resolve, and it’s been on the go for several years. Hopefully they can fast track the job as buildings become increasingly centre stage in tackling greenhouse gas emissions and global property portfolios become more attuned to benchmarking tools such as GRESB and compete for green and climate bonds.

Thomas says another project that will help is the work of Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors on developing an international standard of property measurement, which will assist in benchmarking energy intensity across international portfolios. The standards are so out of whack that the disparity for a building in different jurisdictions can be up to 24 per cent.

NABERS is also working on the energy benchmarking issue,.

At GPT Thomas will be working on sustainability performance analysis of operational efficiency and “rolling out the next generation of automation and fault detection work across the national office portfolio”.

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  1. Singapore is also leading the way in universal design in housing. The campaigner and leader for this is Ms Goh Siam Imm. She gave a great keynote presentation at the recent Australian Universal Design Conference held in Sydney. Yes, they know how to be green and fullly accessible.