Australia Office Building to Feature Solar Cladding
In what will be a landmark moment for Australia when constructed, architecture firm Kennon has recently designed a first-of-its-kind eight-story office tower on behalf of Dr. Bella Freeman. Unlike traditional office structures, the building will feature a unique cladding: 1,182 solar panels noted to have the equivalent thickness of a conventional glass façade.
Project manager Neoscape said that the building will “set a new benchmark in ESD (environmentally sustainable design) for commercial office buildings, allowing integrated solar facades on buildings across Victoria.”
The $40 million office tower is scheduled to be constructed in West Melbourne sometime next year.
About the ‘Solar Skin’ Office Building
Manufactured by German solar energy technology company Avancis, the solar cladding system—called “Skala”—relies on a “thin-film PV module” placed over a network that channels generated electricity from the Sun into a building’s main power supply.
According to The Guardian, Skala can produce 50 times the energy of average rooftop photovoltaic solar arrays typically found in residential housing. While the technology is a first for Australia, it has previously been applied to various public, commercial and residential buildings across Europe.
When applied to the West Melbourne-based office building, it is estimated that the system will eliminate 70 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. In addition, the system will reportedly provide nearly all the structure’s energy needs. With additional panels placed on the office roof, the building is expected to have almost no ongoing power costs and will be carbon-neutral after a few years of service.
“We want this building to be a symbol of innovation and sustainability of how the built environment can be part of the climate solution,” architect Pete Kennon told PV magazine. “The fact a building can harness the sunlight from its own skin – it sounds like something you dreamed of, or you saw in a cartoon.
“We did not invent the product, but we’ve invented the way it can come to our country, and our country is such an enormous market because of the access to sunlight.”
After learning about Avancis’ technology in 2019, Kennon began researching how the solar skin could be utilized on a project in Australia.
“Australia has one of the most, if not the most, strict building codes in the world,” he said. “And given all the recent history with flammable facades, it’s a – pardon the pun – very hot topic, so there’s a huge amount of due diligence that needs to go into proposing a product like this.”
In April, the building appeals board greenlighted the construction of the solar-clad office tower, finding that “the use of PV panels on the building […] complies with performance requirements.” According to reports, however, the solar skin is still undergoing a final round of testing before it can be approved for use on other buildings.
Solar Projects Elsewhere
In July 2021, Tesla Energy, along with Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and Dacra, announced a new initiative reported to be the first Tesla Solar neighborhood and what was being billed as “the nation’s most sustainable residential community.”
The Austin, Texas-based initiative, called SunHouse at Easton Park, seeks to combine real estate from Brookfield and Daca with products and knowledge from Tesla.
“This initiative brings together multiple parts of our organization with innovative and forward-thinking partners that share a commitment to advance the development of sustainable communities,” said Brian Kingston, CEO of Brookfield’s Real Estate business. “As consumers increasingly seek out energy security alongside sustainable places to live, combining Tesla’s solar technology together with Brookfield’s real estate and renewables development capabilities will help us meet demand for environmentally responsible communities of the future.”
Tesla V3 solar roof tiles and Powerwall 2 battery storage will reportedly be installed in phases at homes in the SunHouse community, which will be developed on land in Brookfield Residential’s Easton Park master-planned residential community but will be designed and marketed separately.
The first phase of the installations began in June with a sampling of homes that were under construction.
The initial installations will provide insight and information on product integration, which will guide the installation at the next phase of more homes. The master planned community of homes will be the final phase of the process, with the goal of establishing an energy-neutral, sustainable community and a model for the design and construction of sustainable large-scale housing projects around the world, according to the companies.
Tesla Solar will provide ongoing oversight of the homes’ energy systems, and Brookfield’s renewable power business will integrate a community-wide solar program to serve broader public use needs and surrounding neighborhoods. Brookfield will also incorporate a suite of technology features, including electric vehicle charging stations in each home and throughout the community.