A walk-in freezer that once held ice cream has been remodeled into a Santa Fe architecture office.
Vahid Mojarrab recently set up shop in the 550-square-foot freezer after cutting four holes in the metal walls for a door and three windows, and removing the compressor unit.
He said he figured the space was “a perfect fit” for architecture specializing in high-performance, energy-efficient structures like the German-inspired “Volkshome.”
Mojarrab, who came to the United States from Iran in 1977 and has been in Santa Fe since 1992, said that after he and a former partner closed an office in the Baca Street area of the Santa Fe Railyard, he began looking for a place where he and his sculptor wife, Carol Ware, could set up their joint business, Wamo, derived from the first two letters of their last names.
“Coming from Los Angeles, I used to work in this very industrial area and a friend of mine who owns part of Taos Cow ice cream, we were talking and he said, ‘I have an empty freezer if you want to look at it,’ ” he said. “It was situated well because it was at the corner of the building and since it was a walk-in freezer, it had an ample ceiling height. … With just a couple of punches on the outside, we transferred that into our office very easily.”
Mojarrab figures the walk-in freezer is about 50 percent more energy efficient than a typical office because the sheet metal on the inside and outside of its exterior walls are separated by extruded polyurethane insulation, so there’s little “thermal bridge” to lose energy.
Energy efficiency isn’t a high priority for tenants of office buildings where utilities are paid by the landlord. “But eventually, the tenant pays for it,” he said. “At the end of the year, your landlord comes to you and says, ‘Your utility bill is so high I have to raise your rent.’ … Eventually, the buildings become outdated and not affordable anymore because the energy bill keeps going up.”
Mojarrab said he left the big walk-in freezer door in place, and often leaves it open, but also installed a regular doorway as well as three new windows to provide daylight and ventilation. He installed a small heat pump to heat and cool the space.
“Frankly, we have not turned it on this season,” he said. “We have such a beautiful summer that with the open window ventilation that place has been maintaining 71 degrees.”
Taos Cow continues to use the other five-sixths of the building, where it has two other walk-in freezers, at 1404 Maclovia St. Mojarrab, who is leasing his space from Taos Cow, said the firm is looking for a site where it can both make ice cream and retail it.
Although walk-in freezers and meat lockers have been re-purposed into offices and even apartments in New York City and other urban areas, Mojarrab said this is the first such use he has heard of in Santa Fe.
Contact Tom Sharpe at 986-3080 or email@example.com.