Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Post [Waste] Office
Archit Sawhney & Bryon Krebs
Site: Old Post Office, Chicago, USA
Illinois Institute of Technology
Antony Wood
Studio: 2012 Hi-Rise, Lo-Carb: Chicago
The Post [Waste] Office transforms the vacant Old Chicago Main Post Office into a waste management center and cultural hub. The building combines recycling, energy generation, and community engagement.

The Post [Waste] Office becomes a new type of waste management center

Current practices in waste management are not efficient

Waste can be re-utilized in many ways

Size comparison

Urban context study showing the relation between the site and the loop

Concept model made from design sketches

Structure diagram showing the project’s adaptive re-use

Building section showing the re-use of the existing building components and new spaces

Storefront entrance with artists creating works and performing

Interior view of the grand atrium with Congress Parkway below

Rooftop Arboretum open to the public during all seasons

The space between the two greenhouses allows for an outdoor rooftop sculpture garden

“The city of Chicago, spends $231 per ton of trash disposal, the highest paying city in the US, with the second highest being Los Angeles which pays $129 for the same ton.”

Waste management and recycling cost much more in Chicago than in other cities thanks to inefficient pickup routes and long travel distances to remote landfills. Re-using (“recycling”) the long-abandoned Post Office building prevents demolition waste and the energy and material expenditure of new construction.The Post [Waste] Office  transforms the former post office into an efficient and iconic space for managing the Loop’s vast quantity of waste. Waste processing fuels on-site energy generation. Artists and small industry take advantage of on-site recyclables. Rooftop winter gardens provide a public amenity. The building doubles as an education center, putting the recycling process on display.

Adaptive Re-Use
The Old Chicago Main Post Office was a major hub for mail processing, housing heavy sorting equipment in a three-million-square-foot space.The building currently straddles the Congress Parkway. Extending this division forms a grand atrium.Removing every other floor accommodates large recycling and energy production equipment. The old building has low floor-to-floor heights. A large chimney on the southern half of the building exhausts the new energy equipment. The robustness of the existing structure enables a large rooftop arboretum.

The building’s location just west of the Loop permits easy waste delivery. Expanded loading docks accept waste rather than mail. The project also seeks to link the building to the pre-existing network of tunnels under the loop, allowing for pneumatic trash delivery. Additionally, pedestrian links lead to the restored art deco grand lobby and across the river via a “green” bridge and riverwalk.

Rooftop Arboretum
Pedestrian routes take visitors throughout the building, allowing it to serve as an education center. These routes culminate at the rooftop year-round glass-enclosed arboretum. These two green house spaces serve as a public amenity for events or leisure and increases the building as a “destination” to visit. The glazing of the arboretum wraps down the southern façade of the existing structure. The interstitial space created between facades is utilized as a greenhouse to grow saplings in a compost generated by the waste processing in the building. The saplings are planted throughout Chicago.