The General is a unique multi-residential project by emerging Melbourne architecture practice C.Kairouz Architects. The building, which has a 7.5 star NatHERS energy rating, is also the first residential building in Australia to use Onyx Solar photovoltaic glass on a façade, according to the architect.  

Located on the prominent corner of High Street and Bent Street, the development is affectionately labelled The General, the nickname of Kairouz’s late father. Built at the former site of the family’s butcher business, the project honours his journey as a migrant to successful Australian business owner.

“On the building’s east-facing exterior, a curved glass façade provides a reference to my father, with a subtle image of a General on a horse across all panels. This patterned glass is also able to be illuminated into a beacon-like effect,” says Kairouz.

Strong continuity sees this curved exterior carry through to the foyer with the main entrance featuring rounded glass doors mirrored by a curved grey tiled sculpture-like divider which houses the building’s mailboxes.

Pioneering sustainability

Photovoltaic glass covers an area of 130sqm on the building’s façade and displays a solar factor of 10 percent, making it an ideal candidate to achieve control over the interior temperature. According to Kairouz, the product has been proven to yield low-emissivity properties, provide a UV and IR filter, promote natural light, and generate power.

“Statistically generated, this allows The General to generate 2,075 kWh per year and prevents the release of 1.95 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. This energy may be used for light, power and mechanical equipment in common areas,” says Kairouz.

Working closely with engineers, the firm looked to ensure the energy produced by the glass offset the cost of light, power and mechanical equipment in common areas.

“The initiative’s biggest challenge was financial; we had to acquire the technology directly (the builder would not guarantee), meaning we had to pay for the product,” says Kairouz.

“Logistically, the level of coordination between supplier and multiple disciplines involved was incredibly demanding. It also took a leap of faith required by the developer (Cedar Group director, George Kairouz) who supported the venture.

“[However] the cost of the PV glass implementation was justified by substitution; if the building did not have PV glass on the façade, it would still need regular glass. And as it is power generating, it assists in reducing utility costs for the body corporate,” says Kairouz.

“Pioneering the product on a façade in Australia for the first time came with inherent challenges and naturally, there was a big degree of experimentation involved. However, it encourages future development and refinement to make it more efficient, and more commercial to increase public awareness and philosophy for it to be adopted in the future.”