Today’s Solutions: April 21, 2024

A high-rise office building in Melbourne, Australia, boasts a solar facade made up of 1,182 solar panels which, together with additional rooftop solar, sustain the building with renewable power.

Helping others by helping itself

“The building is designed to be self-sustainable,” says Pete Kennon, the chief architect behind the design. “We can harness electricity on-site and use it immediately. This is very different to buildings that are offsetting their on-site power with remote solar or wind farms.” One of the advantages of harnessing solar power locally is that the energy doesn’t have to travel long distances, reducing the pressure on the grid.

The building design is the brainchild of the German company Avancis. While it may look like a regular facade panel, each glass panel from Avancis has a thin film of solar cells built into it. It is about the same thickness as a typical facade and it comes in a variety of colors, from dark gray to deep blue.

Kennon opted for a thicker and darker version of the facade to shade the building from the heat. This is expected to save the building serious cooling costs — something that’s particularly important in a city where air-conditioning is often the biggest consumer of energy. With that said, the building’s heating and cooling systems will be entirely powered by its solar panels.

Because the building generates more renewable electricity than it uses — eliminating about 70 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year — the development is expected to become carbon neutral in a few years, says Kennon.

“It feels urgent to innovate our building technologies to more sustainable methods,” he argues. “Collecting solar is a natural trajectory on our large-scale projects, particularly in locations that have great access to sunlight.”

The office building is the first one in Australia to use such solar technology.

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