Melbourne to have Australia's first-ever solar panel-clad office tower

Melbourne to have Australia's first-ever solar panel-clad office tower

A rendering of the development on 550 Spencer Street (Provided)

Melbourne is on track to becoming home to Australia’s first-ever solar panel-clad office tower next year, with a $40 million eight-storey tower capable of producing more energy than it uses.

Situated on 550 Spencer Street in the suburb of West Melbourne, the 5,000sqm building will be the first to harvest on-site electricity via 1,182 panels on the facade, and is expected to save 70 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per annum.

The project, designed by Melbourne-based architect Pete Kennon and currently being built by Crema Constructions, is slated to launch in mid-2023.

Kennon said the solar facade system had never been built before in Australia and would help set a benchmark for quality in the area. 

“I like being able to find a difference or a progression in each project. This usually results in a small innovation somewhere in the project that teaches us something,” added Kennon, who founded the firm that goes by his surname.

“The development includes wellness initiatives to optimise the user experience of its occupants including controlled thermal comfort through natural lighting levels, providing views to the natural environment and natural ventilation in each level.

“Instead of mimicking an industrial warehouse of the past to belong to a pre-existing language of superseded uses, we have designed a building where it's function, purpose and technological benefit is in the future. A building designed for a better future for all of us.”

Founded in 2019, Kennon flew out executives from German-based solar module manufacturer Avancis to discuss how the photovoltaic skin solar system would be implemented with local glass distributor George Fethers & Co.

“We mapped the solar performance from different facade alterations optimising the electricity production,” Kennon explained.

“We shipped over 40 panels into the country and with the help from red fire engineers we built a replica of the facade and set it alight to test the performance of the product under a real fire.”

According to the 2021 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction, global CO2 emissions from building operations fell 10 per cent due to COVID-19. However, the findings were determined to be “temporary as emissions pick up again with increasing economic activity.”

The report also found that buildings accounted for 36 per cent of global energy demand and 37 per cent of energy-related CO2 emissions in 2020.

“For business owners the critical factor to workplace success is more severely left in the hands of the workers,” Kennon said.

“The workers are choosing where they want to work based on the performance, health aspects and the environment of the workspaces. They also choose to work for companies with a social conscious and an environmental responsibility that align with theirs. New spaces of work have a larger responsibility.”

The news comes three months after ICD Property announced its plans to build one of Adelaide’s greenest office buildings as part of the $400 million redevelopment of the city’s iconic Central Market Arcade.

Construction for the precinct is slated to commence this month after facing significant delays due to COVID-19.

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