overcooked candy bars

So candy bars should be cool when you buy them, right? Well IIT has figured out a terrifically inefficient method to fail to deliver cool candy bars. Jam a bunch of vending machines in a room with no ventilation. It also makes the Pepsi machines work harder to keep the Pepsi cool, and it just becomes a negative feedback loop of energy wasting and poor snack delivery.

They do it better in Tokyo

Architects can only do so much to create buildings that meet the needs of the clients, the users, the general public and those of good taste. We are tasked to design structures that perform in specific ways. Over time, the needs of clients and institutions change, and so then must the function of the already existing buildings. This is where facility managers come in. When the original purpose of a section of a building becomes obsolete, it is essential to find uses that are compatible with the space that they will occupy.

Case in point: A gooey Milky Way bar purchased from a vending machine in 3440 S State St. As an architecture student at IIT, I have ample opportunity to experience the wonders of Mies van der Rohe’s many buildings on campus. As Director of the Department of Architecture and Campus Architect from the late 1930’s until 1958, Mies was responsible for the University’s master plan and eventually built 19 structures on campus. The Milky Way bar in question came from one of these buildings. It was originally a laboratory building with lots of individual work spaces for discreet experiments. Now the ground floor is partially used for a charter school, where the rooms have windows, and most of the rest is dormant, empty space. One 400sf room in particular is now the home of 5 vending machines, eleven fluorescent light fixtures and a microwave. All of these machines produce lots of heat from the lights, air compressors and whirring gears. And in this room the result is gooey candy bars coming out of the vending machines.

It only gets worse when you pick it up

This room was designed for some purpose that did not require windows or much in the way of air conditioning, so when someone decides to fill it up with heat generating appliances and fixtures, they are not doing anyone a favor. Not hungry architecture students, not employees of the University and charter school who use it as a break room, and not the university official in charge of energy efficiency.

Mies was not good at designing energy efficient buildings (one look at, let alone two semesters in, Crown Hall is enough to prove this fact). A lot of focus is placed on reducing energy consumption in the construction of buildings, but the truth is that over the course of any buildings lifetime, the vast majority of resources are consumed by day to day operation. Doing things like placing heat-producing refrigerator boxes in a room where they make themselves work harder to deliver gooey candy bars is about as opposite to what could be called best practices as I can think of.

So here’s what I propose, building managers and facilities operators; take an inventory of your spaces, take an inventory of your organization’s spatial requirements, and then do your best to make smart decisions. Your utility bills will go down, your employees may enjoy their day a little more, and you’ll probably sell more Milky Way bars.

check out more about Mies’ plan for IIT here


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