Nightingale Bowden

27 May 2024

"We chose Green Star for all development at Bowden because it addresses a wide range of categories and potential impacts, not just building design."


Development Director, Medium Density and Built Form, Renewal SA

Nightingale Bowden, a collision of social and environmental sustainability, is the result of a landmark collaboration between Housing Choices South Australia, the South Australian Housing Authority (SAHA), Renewal SA and not-for-profit, Nightingale Housing.

Designed with sustainability and community connection at its core, Nightingale Bowden has achieved a 5 Star Green Star rating indicating Australian excellence.

Fast facts

  • Fossil fuel free building
  • Green cement reduces co2 emissions by at least 30% compared to ordinary concrete
  • Low embodied energy materials, including recycled bricks
  • Rainwater collection for common area use 
  • Energy efficient heat pump hot water system
  • Average 8.2 stars NatHERS rating
  • Solar array on roof
  • Extensive bicycle storage.

A South Australian first

Situated in Bowden, in Adelaide’s inner west on the traditional lands of the Kaurna people, and delivered in partnership by Housing Choices South Australia, SAHA, Nightingale Housing and Renewal SA, the unique green and grey building with its sawtooth profile and copper motifs across the façade is a subtle nod to the area’s industrial past. 

Comprised of 36, one- and two-bedroom apartments, half of which are community housing managed by Housing Choices South Australia, Nightingale Bowden is designed as a place for tenants and owners to lay down long term roots —not for investors. The collaboration set out to tackle two critical issues - the climate crisis and the housing crisis - by delivering affordable, fossil fuel free homes to the project’s residents.

"For Nightingale, it's one of three key pillars: environmental sustainability, affordability and social sustainability. The climate crisis and housing crisis are colliding, and we need to think about the future and how medium density, well designed buildings can last so that people can live in them for a long time,” said Dan McKenna from Nightingale Housing. 

With the Bowden precinct boasting a coveted 6 Star Green Star Communities certification, Nightingale Bowden was always going to have to achieve an exemplary environmental rating. Luckily, the project teams within the partnership shared that vision. For Chantal Milton, Development Director, Medium Density and Built Form at Renewal SA, which is the team behind the Bowden Community, the decision to go with Green Star was a straightforward one.

“We chose Green Star for all development at Bowden because it addresses a wide range of categories and potential impacts, not just building design. It addresses community interactions and promotes positive relationships, not only between people but also how it engages with the environment around it. It was this holistic view that made it the right tool to use for Bowden,” Chantal said.

Practising reductionism, in Nightingale’s experience, is an important tactic in creating sustainability in the built environment. Nightingale is proud to deliver housing ‘at cost’, meaning each apartment is sold for what it costs to procure, design, manage and construct. Dan explains that sustainable features, like energy efficiency, don’t necessarily have to cost extra. 

“In our experience, it [sustainable builds] can be more expensive in some areas, but it can also be cheaper. So, we practice sustainability through reductionism, removing things that people think that they might need, but actually don't - like superfluous ceilings. So, where we save on those types of things, we can then put that money into quality double glazing that will help the building perform well," said Dan.

The future is electric

Nightingale Bowden is fossil fuel free with a 22kW solar array on its roof and embedded green powered electricity. As Dan McKenna from Nightingale says, this was a ‘non-negotiable’.

“All our buildings are fossil fuel free; we wouldn’t build one with gas - never have, never will," she said. 

All 36 apartments — and the barbecue on the roof — are all-electric, and feature either induction cook tops or electric hotplates in their kitchens, and an energy efficient heat pump, hot water system. The embedded, green-powered electricity is connected at no extra cost to residents.

Cars, and the subsequent garages built to accommodate them, were purposely omitted from the project design, with the team choosing to lean into the development’s close proximity to public transport and the walkable layout of Bowden. This design awarded the team yet another Green Star tick of approval and allowed for the space, which would have traditionally been allocated for cars to be utilised for more thoughtful resident-focused design features including a guest apartment and secure bicycle storage.

Community focus

Not only does Nightingale Bowden exceed energy efficiency and embodied carbon standards, but it also has a unique focus on community and social connection. The bright, airy staircase and passageways provide fresh air to residents moving through the six-storey building — a design decision made to encourage neighbour connections, wellness and safety within the building. The project also challenges residents’ ideas of how much space they really need, a factor that will come into play as more people move into apartment buildings to make the most of available space in livable cities. Being one-or two-bedroom apartments, there is limited space for guests to come and stay with residents — but an innovative move by Nightingale managed to solve this problem. The inclusion of a guest house — a one-bedroom apartment available for residents to rent if they have guests come to stay — mitigates the need for residents to have a spare room that will often sit unused.

Equity, affordability and lessons learnt

Nightingale Bowden challenges the status quo when it comes to development that meets Green Star standards, while also providing affordable, equitable housing.

"Our objective was to introduce a pioneering project to Bowden, and from the outset, there was a shared ethos among the partners involved. We all embraced the same vision of revolutionising the sector with innovative solutions," Chantal said.

"Nightingale Bowden epitomises the ideal approach to urban housing delivery – exceptional design, sustainability, fit-for-place, diverse tenures, and, most importantly, affordability. Through collaborative partnerships, our aim was to showcase how we could meet people's needs by ultimately providing safe and secure housing that lays the foundation for a high quality of life.

"This project has actually expanded how we do things as the government agency. Now we've got another project going ahead next door, which, whilst not exactly the same, is inspired by partnership thinking that came from the Nightingale Bowden project, which is fantastic.”