Camperdown Sydney (Common Ground)


A building project that demonstrates how well designed buildings can make a positive difference to well being at the most fundamental level, and when combined with effective support – can change lives.

Project Summary

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Common Ground Sydney is based on a model of care for the chronically homeless which was successfully started in New York and is now considered best practice around the world. It adopts a ‘street to home’ approach providing stable, high quality permanent housing for the chronically homeless, as well as wrap around services including healthcare, education and a range of other social and support services.
The building is not recognisable as social housing or as an institutional building, but rather as a contemporary and comfortable living environment. The 104 units establish a social mix, integrating previously homeless people along with others on low incomes. A 24-hour concierge provides security and casual surveillance for residents and visitors to the building, and support services are an integral part of the model, ensuring residents’ are receiving appropriate support to be able to maintain their tenancies. An extremely high standard of design was always considered fundamental to the success of the building – especially in the communal areas.

The design is the result of a detailed urban design analysis, extensive consultation with stakeholders, and workshops with a range of community service providers. The building was designed in a manner sensitive to neighbouring residential areas and required the support of the City of Sydney to amend the Local Environmental Plan and Development Control Plan. 

The building completes the development of a larger site owned by Housing New South Wales .

The new building forms an important transition in scale, height and materiality between the existing heritage listed Alexandra Dwellings and the 11-storey Johanna O’Dea tower. It presents a strong frontage to the Pyrmont Bridge Road façade with upper level setbacks that are appropriate to its context. 

Common Ground Sydney is one of the largest residential developments in Australia that has 100% of its units with barrier free access to aid accessibility. The development has a 5 star Green Star rating for design and has carefully considered passive ESD principals with a central north south atrium to capture natural daylight and fresh air allowing passive natural ventilation to all apartments. This organising axis provides a communal focus with break out spaces on each floor, interconnected by stairs to encourage social interaction between residents.

The development was designed by Hassell who worked with the developer and builder Grocon, Both parties, and many of the subcontractors, provided a range of services at a pro-bono and/or cost only basis. Grocon built the project at cost and returned savings of $1.4m to Housing NSW​.