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.

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.

I’ve finally got a little time to write about my office chair.  While out shopping for new office furniture, I had my sights set on a Herman Miller Aeron.  The same kind of chair that I used to sit on back when I was working for “the man”.  I had been looking around for a long time trying to find a good deal.  I looked on Craigslist, Murphy Auctions, eBay, DoveBid, I even asked my neighbor Rick who still works for Disney to sell me one of the old chairs that they were no longer using but he was not able to get me one.

When I was out looking, I saw a funky looking chair in the showroom and decided to give it a try.  The shape of the back is unlike a traditional chair.  It still provides all the support of a “normal” chair but it seems to be supporting my spine angle much better.  I also like the support that I’m getting right between the shoulder blades and lower back.  I sat in a Herman Miller Aeron for four years and I don’t remember ever having my chair feel as comfortable as the Keilhauer Junior.  I ended up purchasing the chair with a black leather seat and adjustable arms.  It has enough controls without being too complicated.  The Keilhauer Junior is designed by Tom Deacon.  The design has a very contemporary style to it and makes a bold statement.  The chair is also GREENGUARD Certified and contributes to our LEED certification.

I’ve been using the chair for one month and absolutely love it.  The cost of the Keilhauer Junior is maybe $200 cheaper than a Herman Miller Aeron.  While the cost of the chair is still not cheap, I rationalized with myself that I’m now at that age where I can’t afford to have back pain.  Going to a chiropractor would cost me a lot more in the long run not to mention the impact on my golf game.

There is an article in the Seattle Times that reviews a study done in 2005 which states Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue is ranked number six as lowest carbon emissions per capita. I’m not sure why the study is three years old and just being released now.

The article goes on to state that “Seattle draws its energy primarily from essentially carbon-free hydropower” and has a carbon footprint which is 10 times less than Washington DC’s carbon footprint.

“The authors [of the study] offer a partial portrait of overall emissions, concentrating on residential electricity and fuel use and the mileage traveled by cars and trucks, factors that contribute about half of overall carbon emissions. The calculations do not include industrial emissions, those from commercial or government structures and those from air, rail or sea transportation.”

It would be interesting to see how much these figures would change if the study actually included commercial structures. Cities like Los Angeles, which is ranked #2 on this list would probably not stay ranked at #2.

“The Honolulu area, with the smallest carbon footprint, ranked No. 1 in the study, from the Brookings Institution, followed by the area including Los Angeles and Orange counties in California, the Portland-Vancouver area, the New York metropolitan area and the Boise-Nampa, Idaho, area.”

The list of 10 smallest and largest metropolitan cities carbon footprints can be found on the Seattle-PI website.  Here the link to the Seattle Times article titled: “Study: Seattle area No. 6 on list of smallest carbon footprint“.

The Eastside Business Journal published an article about thinkspace on May 22.  The full article can be found here.  Here are a few highligts from the article.

Thanks to thinkspace, almost any small start-up company can overcome daunting obstacles, costs and compliance issues to become a certified “green” business from day one. 

“Many small businesses find it advantageous to market themselves as ‘green’,” states Mary Benz, Vice President of Operations at thinkspace.  “thinkspace makes this green opportunity available to any size business.”

I’m am quoted as saying “Fortune 500 companies can build LEED certified office space if they choose but for the small guy, it is much more difficult. ”

A variety of office sizes and configurations are available, ranging from single offices to 1,000 sq. feet of space for a team of employees.  Additionally, “coworking space” is an option that makes shared-space available on a daily or monthly fee basis.

On page 7 of the May 23-29, 2008 edition of the Puget Sound Business Journal, Thinkspace is highlighted as a new Eastside executive office suite.

The PSBJ commercial real estate reporter Jeanne Lang Jones tells the story of Thinkspace how we are seeking LEED silver certification, how we used HEPA filters to control dust during demolition and how we recycled 97.7% of our demolition debris.  She also mentions that we have energy efficient lighting and our goal of reducing our energy costs by about 30%.  She also states “Besides using nontoxic (low or no VOC) paints, recycled carpet and energy efficient lighting, Chee is also providing tenants with bike racks, a shower and changing room and a charging station for electric cars.”

I’m being quoted saying “It’s better space at the same price our competition charges.”  In the article, a tenant of Thinkspace is quoted, “It’s the nicest Class A space in downtown Redmond…An office with sustainable features like this is just not available to small businesses…For entrepreneurs, it is an affordable way to limit their carbon footprint.”

If you have a online subscription to the Puget Sound Business Journal, you can read the whole article here.  If you don’t, contact me.

Thinkspace offers big business benefits to companies of all sizes and operate their business with a small footprint. To us, a small footprint means operating your business in office space that was designed with sustainability in mind.

Your company name does not have to be “Dell, General Electric, Google, Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, Ford, Microsoft, or Intel” in order to be able to make a significant difference in reducing its carbon footprint. Thinkspace provides a path that allows SMB’s to have a LEED Certified Green Interior and operate an office in a responsible sustainable manner. Thinkspace goes one step further and also calculates the carbon footprint for each individual office and provides an easy way for each company to become carbon neutral.

Thinkspace’s design team has been charged to ensure that sustainable practices are woven into the buildings improvements from its inception. The Seattle area is leading the charge in green buildings and has an industry base to support and demonstrate this ability to the world. We aim to reduce our electrical consumption by at least 30%, use green building materials like recycled glass counter top in the lobby, have great indoor air quality by using low and no-VOC type paints and carpet adhesives, carpet made from 25% recycled materials, and operate our business with sustainable best business practices.

Our space has a lot of natural light — 80% of our offices have natural light, and our interior space has relites which allow light to pass through from other areas into the interior space. We have an energy efficient commercial lighting design which was awarded an Energy Conservation Grant.

During our build-out our demolition process focused on recycling all debris. We have recycled approximately 97.7% of the debris keeping it from going into a landfill. There is a lot of “greenwashing” going on out there and we wanted our clients to have confidence in knowing that we have gone to the highest level in seeking out our LEED certification.

Other big business benefits include our implementation of next-generation VOIP communication technology. Thinkspace has invested in the best communication foundation so that your business can have a competitive advantage and be more efficient.

Thinkspace is located in Redmond and has office space available from 113 SF up to 1043 SF. We also have shared coworking space, virtual offices, meeting rooms, and hosted software. Come check out website at www.thinkspace.com and schedule a tour of our space and join our community!

After we had written the business plan we started to brainstorm company names.  Initially, we came up with direct, descriptive, on-target names like “Redmond Executive Offices”, “Redmond Office Space”, and “Redmond Executive Suites” but these names lacked any imagination and were downright boring.  I just could not see myself or any other person that we hired coming to work excited about the company and what we do.  So we abandoned the direct approach and went with the creative approach to naming our company.

This reminded me of an experience that I had back in 1999 when I was at a Internet startup company funded by Maveron. Maveron is backed by Howard Shultz. The marketing company was the same company that came up with the name Starbucks.  The marketing company referred to the creative approach as the “empty vessel” approach to naming a company. I did not participate in that process until the marketing company come up with eight different concepts.  The marketing company presented the ideas on black poster board with logos and names.  Most of the names were not real words, but a combination of two words or parts of words.  Going through that experience helped provide with a reference point on how I might approach this.  During my naming research, I ran across a very good blog article from “The Name Inspector” which states: “Forget that “empty vessel” stuff–most good names are not empty vessels, they’re just indirect”.

While going through the indirect process, I was thinking about words that could represent office space without using the words “executive offices” or “executive suites”. I wanted the name to represent our commitment to sustainability without using the trendy words like “eco” or “green” pre-pended to another word.  I also wanted a word that works with our coworking space, which to me is really each person’s “think space”.  Lastly, I wanted something that could represent “virtual office” without using those words. That is when the name “thinkspace” came into my head.  I immediately knew that this was it.  I liked the fact that it was short, memorable, easy to spell, and limitless.  I also liked the fact that when I tell people my email address I don’t have to spell the word out.  Some domain names are so hard to spell it’s hard for people to write it down correctly.  When I read a definition of the word space it stated: “The unlimited expanse in which all things exist”.  I thought that was a pretty cool tie in to our company and what we’re trying to achieve.

As a sanity check, I bounced the name “thinkspace” off my brother Steve and sister Leaming.  Steve immediately said he liked it too.  He said “I like it because of what you are doing with the carbon neutral stuff, it is encouraging people to think outside the box, their work environment and the environment around them”.  I appreciate my wife, Steve, and Leaming for contributing with the brainstorming process and being a sounding board.

The image at the top of this post was taken from Visual Thesaurus.  I’m amazed at how engaging this tool is and how much fun it is to learn about words.

Every private office has an occupancy sensor in our newly built out Thinkspace office.  Our goal is to reduce energy consumption by more than 30% for the space that we occupy.  We installed commercial light fixtures with higher performance ballast and lamps.  That alone should help us get to the 30% energy savings.  In addition to energy efficient commercial light fixtures, we installed occupancy sensors.

There have been a number of times when I have been driving by the building at night and have seen lights on.  Sometimes people accidently leave the lights on in private offices and sometimes the cleaning crew forgets to turn off the lights.  This happens in the evenings during the week day and even over weekends.  With the installation of the occupancy sensor, we can ensure that lights are turned off if people are not working inside the space.

According to the EPA, occupancy sensors can reduce a room’s electricity consumption up to 90%.  Based on a study, here’s the estimated energy savings based on room type:

 

Occupancy area

Energy Savings

Private office

13-50%

Classroom

40-46%

Conference room

22-65%

Restrooms

30-90%

Corridors

30-80%

Storage areas

45-80%

 

The other item that we also installed was the VendingMiser on our vending machine.  The VendingMiser powers down the lights and compressor of the vending machine if there are no people around in our kitchen area.  It still keeps the items inside cool but it dramatically reduces the amount of energy consumed by an average of 46%.  This saves about $150 per vending machine on an annual basis as each vending machine consumes approximately 7-14 kWh per day.  It feels great to be reducing our energy consumption as well as creating a more energy efficient space.  These types of energy reducing methods also count toward our LEED certification.

The Thinkspace main lobby desk has been built and installed.  In addition to having a professional appearance we wanted our lobby to make a statement about sustainability.  To gather ideas, we went to Ecohaus and looked at different types of materials and decided we wanted to showcase beautiful sustainable materials.

We used a gorgeous Vetrazzo recycled glass countertop.  The counter is made of 85% recycled glass.  The color of the glass is clear, green, and brown and comes from curbside recycled glass bottles.  The glass is shattered into tiny pieces and mixed with cement, concrete, and fly ash.  Fly ash is a by-product of coal fired electric generating plants and improves the quality, strength, and durability of the concrete.  The material is as strong a granite, is scratch resistant, is thermal resistant, and has a similar care and maintenance to granite.  Vetrazzo recycled glass counters come in 60″ x 108″ slabs and can be cut down to any size.  Any granite frabrication shop can polish the edges.  Be sure to ask the fabrication shop for any of the remnant pieces.  The cost of the slab runs about $70/SF.  When you compare the cost of granite versus the cost of a recycled glass counter, the recycled glass falls right in the middle range of granite.  Cheap granite can cost $30/SF while the high end can cost $120/SF.  One positive about recycled glass counters is that it does not come from a granite quarry where after all of the granite is mined, all that is left is a big hole in the earth.

The front of the desk is constructed with Teragren Moso bamboo panels.  Moso bamboo is a rapidly renewable resource.  Teragren is a company with a very strong sustainability statement and controls the manufacturing process of the bamboo.  They handle the process from harvest to distribution.  This is important as they are not just an importer of the bamboo materials.  Teragren is located in Bainbridge Island, Washington.

The workspace counter top is made of Formica Laminate.  Formica Laminate is a low-emitting product and is GreenGuard Indoor Air Quality Certified.

All of the items used to construct the lobby desk (recycled glass counter top, bamboo panels, and laminate counter) contribute to our LEED certification.