Project Description

The General marks a milestone achievement within C.Kairouz Architects. It is the first residential building in Australia to use photovoltaic glass on a facade, providing high-quality, sustainable architecture in thriving Northcote.

Acting as both a balustrade and power source on the building’s north facing exterior, The General not only boasts a 7.5 star energy rating, but is striking in its overall design. The Onyx Solar photovoltaic glass supplied by Environmental Technology Solutions (ETS) is used as balustrading that covers an area of approximately 130m2. We worked closely with ETS to develop the product to ensure it could be engineered into a sufficient balustrade with adequate strength and resistance to force. As such, it is the first building the Australia to use the product in this way, and makes a bold statement on what can be achieved with sustainable solutions in the country.

Technically speaking, it displays a solar factor of 10%, making it an ideal candidate to achieve control over the interior temperature. The product has been proven to yield low-emissivity properties, provide a UV and IR filter, promote natural light, and generate power. Statistically translated, 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.

The first part of the site was first acquired in 1984 when Kairouz’ late father, commonly known as ‘The General’, established his family’s butcher business. As business grew with time, each adjacent site was acquired; eventually comprising of six separate titles. The butcher business relocated after outgrowing the facility and it wasn’t until 2014 that the site was redeveloped into The General – a tribute to Kairouz’ father’s to honour his journey as a migrant to successful business owner.

The General’s memorable design is built upon approximately 2087m2 of land size over 6 titles and comprises of 87 apartments across eight storeys with three levels of underground basement to service them. Furthermore, the first two levels are dedicated to mixed-used spaces to accommodate street-frontage restaurants, retail stores and offices. Level 3 sees a large setback carried all the way to the seventh level terrace, perched well above the the treeline featuring a communal gym and unhindered views of the CBD.

The prominent corner location of the site presents a key design opportunity and the architecture seeks to engage by framing and wrapping the corner in a single feature with a curved secondary facade which is glazed with patterned glass that can be illuminated to have a beacon-like effect. This patterned glass is in reference to Kariouz’ father, with a subtle image of a Victorian general on a horse. Viewing the building from the corner of High Street & Bent Street, this feature is juxtaposed by continuous panels of Onyx Solar photovoltaic glass bands across the northern facade, and rhythmic bands of horizontal balustrading and glazing on the eastern facade. Both these elements provide good transparency from inside the apartments as well as providing a level of engagement to the street. All external windows of each apartment are external/residential double-glazed.

Due to the onerous site conditions involving strict height limitations, we successfully negotiated a complicated town planning process by where additional dwellings were granted in response to The General being situated on multiple titles and its proposed energy consumption minimisation strategy. This moment was integral to our ability to maximise the potential of the project.

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 apartments mailboxes.

Offering one, two and three bedroom apartments, the interiors are characterised by a carefully curated palette of tones, while finishes exude luxury with oak floors, timber veneer cabinetry and stone benchtops, a design highlight. Unusual in multi-residential setting, The General also includes gas fireplaces in 14 apartments adding a level of sophistication and opulence.

With sustainability the main focus for us, green spaces enhance the building’s 7.5 star energy rating with a rooftop terrace, green wall in the entrance, and planter boxes on each apartment balcony also a feature.

Elsewhere in the building’s basement, a 25,000 litre rainwater tank which collects water from the rooftops is used to flush 50 toilets.

Encouraging green-centric transport the building contains 137 bicycle parks and is strategically situated directly adjacent to a major tram stop, while two train stations are a mere 500 metres away making green suburban travel effortless for its residents. 

A mixed-use building, The General is also home to street-frontage restaurants, retail stores and offices, encouraging local business, as well as upholding the urban integrity of the Northcote area by continuing the strip-shop aesthetic.

The General offers a coordinated approach to public and private interests by combining the community interest into a forward-thinking project for Cedar Group Developments which shows initiative and leadership in the architectural field.

Although it took a leap of faith to adopt untried initiatives, the architecture of The General is a resounding success both aesthetically and practically, ensuring the sustainable viability for many years to come.”

– Cedar Group Developments

The General was visualised to be a very exciting structure, to stand the test of time in its design and its use of cutting-edge technology on the facade; a combination which will last numerous years and trending architectural phases. It’s energy consumption minimisation strategy is now a precedent for all large-scale developments in the area, achieving a combined average of 7.5 star efficiency rating.

Handover was Nov 2017, and all apartments have been sold.

Photo credit: Peter Clarke