“There will be no gas, everything will run on electricity. All the power will come from certified renewable energy sources – not coal-fired generators.”
That’s Jeremy McLeod, founder and design director of Breathe, speaking about his firm’s latest creation: Neighbourhood. The new apartment development operates on a carbon-neutral basis, without using any fossil fuels. Located in Brunswick East, overlooking Balfe Park, the development serves as an example that a sustainably built, community-focused development is not only achievable, but that it can also become the new norm.
Neighbourhood brings together four distinct, mid-rise buildings that frame a lush garden courtyard by landscape architect Openwork. The buildings – named Garden View, Brick Lane, Fabric House and the Quarters – each have a unique design flair but come together to create a homey, village-style community.
“We were very conscious of the modern isolation that can so easily manifest in large residential complexes, where long lift journeys and corridor runs enable you to come and go without ever meeting those around you,” McLeod says. “Smaller communities are stronger, more connected communities; they’re communities that thrive. Breaking down the Neighbourhood site into four buildings with four identities encourages the formation of four communities that can then come together in the precinct’s central courtyard, its rooftop garden or the adjacent park.”
There’s no on-site fossil fuel combustion and the communal areas (and select apartments) are powered by the 30-kilowatt rooftop solar array. All off-site energy is sourced from certified renewable sources through Neighbourhood’s embedded electricity network.
The elegantly designed apartments hide eco-conscious elements, too. Beneath the architecture are passive design principles that work with the climate to maintain a comfortable ambient temperature inside. Deep eaves, external blinds, double glazing and cross-flow ventilation all contribute to the homes’ thermal efficiency, helping to reduce residents’ reliance on heaters and air conditioning.
The precinct was also built partially from recycled and reclaimed materials. Where the development called for new timber, it has been sourced through suppliers certified by either the Forest Stewardship Council or the Australian Forestry Standard. Recycled bricks have been used where possible and all concrete contains recycled content.
The construction process is also guided by Neighbourhood’s eco-conscious principles with a commitment to reducing the project’s consumption of natural resources and 80 per cent of construction waste being diverted from landfill.
These initiatives have not only put Neighbourhood on track for achieving an impressive 7.5 Star average NatHERS rating, it also means the development reflects Best Practice Environmentally Sustainable Design as assessed by the Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard (BESS). When residents move in, they will also receive tips and advice on how to make sustainable choices in their day-to-day lifestyle, to leaves a small environmental footprint.