In Melbourne, the Architecture Firm Rigorously Pursuing Sustainable Design

In this T Australia Faces series, curated by the multi-disciplinary artist Rone, we profile up-and-comers from across the artistic spectrum. Meet Breathe’s Jeremy McLeod.

Article by Victoria Pearson

T faces_BreatheLocated in Brunswick, Melbourne, Nightingale 1 by Breathe is an affordable, sustainable and easily replicated housing solution. Photograph by Tom Ross.

Jeremy McLeod channels his connection with the natural world into his work at Breathe, a Melbourne-based architecture firm that uses “design as a weapon for good”, creating residential, commercial and work spaces that merge aesthetic excellence with decarbonisation.  

“We exist and operate in a time of climate crisis; in a time of carbon as the ever-present enemy,” says McLeod, Breathe’s design director and co-founder, who splits his time between the city and the Dandenong Ranges. “We have to follow global leaders like California and New York. We have to exit gas, and we have to do it now. Everything, every time, has to be 100 per cent electric if we are going to have any chance of combating climate change.” 

The energy grid, he adds, must transform from fossil fuels to renewables and to speed up the process, individuals should choose an electricity retailer that offers 100 per cent GreenPower, a way to ensure their electricity comes from renewable sources. 

T Faces_Jeremy McLeod
Breathe’s design director and co-founder Jeremy McLeod. Photograph courtesy of Breathe.

McLeod’s team is behind the conversion of the Sydney warehouse that is now the Paramount House Hotel in Surry Hills, a build that utilises chevron screens made of copper and ironbark columns to not only provide structural support, but also to nod to the history of the building and the surrounding area. The project has garnered a slew of honours, including a 2019 National Architecture Award.

The studio took a similar approach in its collaboration with Four Pillars Gin. Tasked with conjuring a distillery that would accommodate increased production, be carbon neutral in operation and respond to the brand’s Healesville legacy, Breathe created a renewable-energy-powered distillery equipped for hospitality and retail that blends natural materials with raw copper tubing and large sliding windows.

McLeod says Breathe chooses its clients carefully, seeking businesses and individuals that share its goals. “Our ethics are one of our key design ingredients,” says McLeod.