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20 Nov 2021

'Solar Skin' Planned for $1 Billion Melbourne Office Tower

'Solar Skin' Planned for $1 Billion Melbourne Office Tower

With a "solar skin" that will generate 20% of the building's electricity demands, an office tower proposed for Melbourne's CBD hopes to set a new standard for sustainability.

Although other types of buildings in Melbourne already do this, the $1 billion structure at 435 Bourke Street designed by Bates Smart will be one of the first office towers in the world to have energy-producing panels integrated into its exterior. For example, the Alan Gilbert Building at the University of Melbourne, designed by Metier 3, has photovoltaic panels integrated into its facade, and the project won a sustainable architecture award at the 2002 Victorian Architecture Awards; and in 2017, RMIT University began a project to retrofit the Design Hub, designed by Sean Godsell Architects, with solar technology in line with the original proposition of a "smart skin" facade.

The solar façade of 435 Bourke, according to Bates Smart director Cian Davis, will be "made up of translucent, vertical glass photovoltaic panels."

“People working in the building will be able to look out the window and see where their energy comes from. This collected energy coupled with all-electric operations will help the tower save 430 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year. The building will also reduce its embodied carbon by 30 percent through the use of finely tuned materials.”

The "solar skin" is intended to generate about 20% of the base building's electrical consumption, with the rest coming from off-site renewable sources. The structure is intended to be carbon neutral in operation, with a 6-star Green Star New Buildings certification and a Platinum WELL certified rating.

The project's previous development proposal was accepted in January 2020, but it has subsequently been altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the onset of the pandemic, we were not content to rest on the laurels of our first DA and strove to future-proof the design of 435 Bourke to bring workers back to the city and respond to an ever-evolving Melbourne workforce with a greatly enhanced focus on sustainability, wellness, collaboration, connection to the public community, nature and productivity,” said developer Cbus Property CEO Adrian Pozzo.

The structure has been modified to support "a diverse ecology of workspaces," according to Davis.

“We know that the relationship between the work we do and where we do it has been forever transformed,” he said. “We didn’t want to design a building that would be outdated by its completion. Instead, it will cater to any work setting and scenario, engage with its surroundings, be open to the neighbourhood at the ground, and achieve the best tall commercial tower performance in Australia. When it welcomes its first tenants, it will be Melbourne’s most flexible, sustainable and, frankly, human commercial building. It is architecture designed for the future, which is already here.”

A new development application has been submitted to the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). Construction of the project is expected to begin in 2022.