photovoltaic glass The General northcote
“The General” is a 7.5 star NatHERS energy rating residential building. Photo: Peter Clarke

One of Australia’s first residential buildings with Onyx Solar photovoltaic glass integrated into the facade has been built in Melbourne’s inner suburb of Northcote.

The energy produced by the glass, which converts sunlight into electricity, offsets the cost of lighting, lifts and other common functions creating savings in body corporate charges for tenants.

Dubbed “The General”, the ultra-sustainable residential building has been designed by Melbourne architecture practice C Kairouz Architects and has a 7.5 star NatHERS energy rating.

C Kairouz managing director Chahid Kairouz told The Fifth Estate that the sustainability “hero” of the Melbourne development is the north facing, power-generating balustrade. He said the dual purpose use of photovoltaic glass, which was supplied and connected by Environmental Technology Solutions, as both a balustrade and a power source is a “game-changer” for sustainable design.

“There’s a double payback on the material because if the glass wasn’t used, it would be substituted with another material. Had it just been a cladding material, it would have been slightly more expensive choice,” MrKairouzsaid.

“Plus there is the benefit you get by enabling it to cut your costs in power consumption off the main grid.”

He added that design features that help keep body corporate fees down, such as the photovoltaic glass balustrade, means that residents and developers are more likely to consider additional amenities that are not otherwise affordable. At The General, for instance, there is a shared outdoor terrace on the rooftop – an amenity that is typically associated with high maintenance costs – but has been included because the costs of running the building are already so low.

As well as an outdoor terrace, green spaces include a green wall in the entrance and planter boxes on each apartment balcony.

Other sustainability features include a 25,000 litre rainwater tank in the basement, which collects water from the rooftops to flush 50 toilets.

Green-centric transport is encouraged with 137 bicycle parks located next to a major tram stop.

According to Mr Kairouz, the building also makes full use of natural light.

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  1. I have my fingers crossed that any air conditioning outdoor units dont blow at the glass balustrades – making the fans work harder and use more energy, or cause re circulation of warm air back into the ac unit – making them less effective and using more energy. (hopefully they have come up with a building that doesn’t need AC)