Sammamish man creates ‘space’ for home business owners

Mary Decker, Reporter for The Redmond Reporter wrote an article in the June 14th newspaper about thinkspace.  “Like many of his Sammamish neighbors, entrepreneur Peter Chee thought it would be wonderful to work at home. Instead, he felt isolated. He missed the atmosphere…: Here’s a link to the article.

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Walk Score helps calculate community connectivity for office neighborhoods and LEED Certification

A local Seattle company, Walk Score, has just launched a new service to calculate the walkability of your neighborhood.  I don’t think I can better state what their service is so here’s a quote from their website: “We help people find houses and apartments in walkable neighborhoods. Walk Score shows you a map of what’s nearby and calculates a Walk Score for any property. Living in a walkable neighborhood is good for the environment and good for your health.”

The reason I like this tool is because it visually shows where all the area ammenties are in relation to your address.  When deciding where to run your business you should look for a building that has a high Walk Score.  Having a higher Walk Score, can provide local businesses with foot traffic to help sustain their business.

As soon as I saw this website, I wanted to see what my Walk Score was for our office space in Redmond.  We managed to score a 95 out of 100 possible points.  It’s important for businesses to be operating in a building that has high community connectivity.  I’m always looking to do business locally with other businesses in Redmond, rather than sending my business off to other cities.

The other useful thing that I can see this service being used for is for LEED Certification.  The first thing that is on the USGBC LEED Certification checklist is Sustainable Sites and Community Connectivity.  In order to get points toward your LEED certification your building has pedestrian access to at least 10 of the basic services below within ½ mile:

  • 1) Bank; 2) Place of Worship; 3) Convenience Grocery; 4) Day Care; 5) Cleaners; 6) Fire Station; 7) Hair Care; 8) Hardware; 9) Laundry; 10) Library; 11) Medical/Dental; 12) Senior Care Facility; 13) Park; 14) Pharmacy; 15) Post Office; 16) Restaurant; 17) School; 18) Supermarket; 19) Commercial Office; 20) Community Center, and other recognized services evaluated on their merit.

The one thing that Walk Score does not factor in is alternative transportation.  They are aware of this and have an FAQ that addresses this on their website.  I think my Walk Score would be even higher if they included this as we are located right next to the Redmond Transit Center.  If they expanded their service to include this, it would help with another LEED Certification Category of “Alternate Transportation: Public Transportation”.  The requirement for that is: 

  • Tenant to select building within ½ mile of a commuter rail, light rail or subway station or ¼ mile of two or more public or campus bus lines usable by tenant occupants.

I’m very happy with Walk Score and have added their Walk Score Real Estate Tile onto the thinkspace website location page.  I think it helps show why our location is ideal for coworking space and where people are looking for high community connectivity.

Blogging for your Business

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Steve Broback, co-author of “Blogging for your Business“.  We had a very interesting conversation inside the thinkspace office.  He addressed me initially as the “the blogger”.  I was humored by that comment.  I was glad that he knew that thinkspace had a blog before he had even toured our space.  During our conversation I asked him what kind of work does his business do and he stated that he was an author and handed me his book.

I’m a bit of an information freak and quickly read the entire book.  In the past, I’ve googled the topic of business blogging a lot and read a lot of different blog posts.  I’ve always been a bit skeptical about what I was reading because I always felt like some SEO company is trying to sell me something.  I enjoyed reading this book because it didn’t feel like I had to buy something at the end.   Rather there were a lot of different practical ideas being introduced and discussed.  Chapter 7 “Launching Your Blog and Getting Noticed” was my favorite chapter in the book. I’ve tried a few techniques that were in “How to engage the Blogosphere” and got immediate results.  Understanding the rules of engagement is critical.  Getting other bloggers attention requires a bit more savvy than having a press release blasted out through the newswire.

I believe that blogging for your business is critical if you want to engage your customers in what you’re doing.  Your customers become much more educated in what you are doing, it can show them what makes your product or services unique, and allows you to stands out from the crowd.  One of the keys to being successful at business blogging is bringing something new to the table.  Don’t be a part of the “echo chamber”.  “Use your unique personal experience and knowledge to create original content that others can regurgitate.”  I strongly recommend this book to anyone looking to start a blog for their business.

Find a restaurant in your neighborhood and save gas by ordering online

A friend of mine, Julia May, founded a company called “Clickeats”. The company provides online ordering for restaurants. Julia and developer Jay Karlin provide the technology and engine to any restaurants that wishes to provide their customers online ordering. Since most restaurant owners don’t have the time to setup a website and building out an online ordering component is not feasible, this gives restaurants a very quick way to be online at a reasonable price.

Clickeats has a restaurant search tool that allows you to filter by many different things. For example, I tried to do a search by organic Japanese food, provides catering, and is in Redmond. The Clickeats engine then displays a list of restaurants that meet that criteria. You can even sort by things like does the restaurant provide delivery. With gas prices so high, I don’t want to be driving anywhere if I don’t have to. So, naturally, I’m looking for restaurants that are in my neighborhood, where I can walk over to them, or they can deliver the food to me.

How to conserve water and pick a toilet for your LEED project

I’ve focused a lot on energy conservation in the thinkspace blog, now it’s time to address water conservation. When setting goals for our project, I originally was thinking about how can I conserve the maximum amount of water in my project. According to various articles that I have read, toilets consume the most water in a building — usually between 25 percent and 33 percent. I started to compare standard toilets to waterfree urinals. The metric that stood out the most was each urinal flushes down 40,000 gallons of water each year. My plan was to save 40,000 gallons of water for each urinal. I started to research customer satisfaction of these waterfree units and talking with people that worked in buildings that used these. The response I got from them was “whatever you do, don’t install those waterfree urinals, they smell bad, they are hard to maintain, it’s just not worth it”. The maintenance issue is also a tough one to deal with as I hear it’s not cheap to keep those filters serviced and if you don’t do a good job servicing them, that’s when the smell gets pretty bad. That’s too bad that I kept hearing these kinds of comments from various people, as I was pretty excited to be possibly saving so much water.

The next thing that I started to look at was the Toto Aquia dual-flush toilet. These types of toilet use less water than a traditional toilet. It’s not a toilet that flushes either once or twice, but rather it has two buttons on top of the tank that release either 0.9 gallons or 1.6 gallons depending on whether it’s a #1 or a #2 (I guess since this is blog, it’s safe to talk about this as this does not reflect the official view of the company, LOL). I spent a bunch of time talking with my rep at Keller Supply about water conserving toilets and she said these kinds of toilets are much better than the smaller tank toilets that were used in the past because those toilets seemed to get clogged all the time or people would have to physically flush the toilets twice, thus, not really saving any water at all. I didn’t want to have a sign in our bathrooms that say “flush toilet twice”.

The next toilet that I started to look at was the Sloan Ecos Dual-Flush Electronic Flushometer. Now this really was an interesting looking toilet. It is a hands-free, state-of-the-art, and dual-flush water saving toilet. Their marketing material states it’s “the ultimate in water savings and hygiene”. It sounded great to me as I don’t know who really likes touching the flush handle of a toilet. The Sloan Ecos releases 1.1 gallons for a #1 and 1.6 gallons for a #2. The water savings is not as good with this unit when compared to the dual-flush Toto Aquia. The question that everyone is always dying to ask is how does this know whether it’s a #1 or #2? Based on what I’ve read, the Sloan Ecos uses “Smart Sense Technology(tm)” that automatically selects how much water to release based on how long a user remains in the sensor range. Basically, the time interval is as follows: a person that stays in range for less than a minute is categorized as doing a #1, otherwise, the toilet is thinking it’s a #2.

We looked into what it would take to install a Sloan Ecos and it is a wall mount toilet. Meaning its water supply comes off the wall. Due to the location of where the toilet was being installed, I would have had to build out the thickness of the wall and run the plumbing inside the wall rather than having the plumbing under the floor. Since this is a commercial tenant improvement on an existing building and would have cost me a lot more I had to make a business decision and go with the Toto Aquia instead as that is more like standard toilet installation. While it doesn’t have the smart technology, it a less expensive and a more water conserving solution! Of course, this also earns us LEED points toward our LEED certification!  The price of the Toto Aquia is also priced reasonably (approximately $370) and I will definitely consider it using it again in my next project.

Plastic Bottled Water in the Workplace and at Home

I’ve decided to strongly discourage the use of bottled water in our workplace. We’ve recently completed the build out of our office space in Redmond and instead of using those huge 5 gallon containers of water from Sparkletts or Arrowhead we installed a filtered water system. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about bottled water and I’m convinced enough that drinking water from plastic bottles is not the most healthy thing to do. Firstly, regarding the large 5 gallon containers of water, those huge containers are made of polycarbonate. An article in Science Daily, discusses “Plastic Bottles Release Potentially Harmful Chemicals (Bisphenol A) after contact with hot liquids”. Companies that provide those huge 5 gallon containers reuse those bottles 40-50 times. I don’t know whether it is healthy or not to re-use those containers, but why take the chance?

The other thing that the article states is that “Previous studies have shown that if you repeatedly scrub, dish-wash and boil polycarbonate baby bottles, they release BPA (Bisphenol-A)”. This was a concern to us because we warm up our bottles with near boiling hot water, we microwave the bottles to clean them, and we scrub and wash the bottles. We recently got rid of all our Dr. Brown baby bottles and replaced them with Green To Grow baby bottles. These bottles are Bisphenol-A and Phthalate free plus they have a cute smiley face on them. There’s no way on earth I’m going consciously expose my babies to something that might be harmful to them. The Green To Grow bottles are about 2x more expensive, but it just isn’t worth the risk to save a few bucks.

The other area that my wife and I have completely stopped using is Kirkland bottled water. We used to buy cases of this stuff at Costco. Since we started to “green” our lives we’ve decided to do away with the disposable use-it-once lifestyle. There are so many articles out there that talk about the billions of bottled water containers that are going into the landfill. A noteable article to read is in E Magazine called “Bottled Water Backlash”.  The other really disturbing story that most people have heard about is the gigantic floating mass of trash (3 million tons and about twice the size of Texas) which is floating somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. If that doesn’t make one concerned or worried I don’t know what else could convince you to make a lifestyle change.

The other thing that we have rid our home of is plastic re-usable water bottles. I used to use those all the time too. Re-using plastic bottles can also leech out harmful Bisphenol A. You have to really start checking what kind of plastic your bottles are made of. Not all of them are safe. Some are ok to use once but they are not safe to re-use. Kind of confusing and takes a lot of research to figure out all those different plastic codes. My wife brought home a new container for me. It’s a SIGG, Swiss Water Bottle. It’s manufactured in an eco-friendly environment and is 100% recyclable. The company has a strong commitment to sustainability and makes an attractive product.

All this said, I’m focused on making sure that our company works in a more sustainable work environment that is healthier for my employees, tenants, and the environment.