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.

For our commercial tenant improvement project we chose to go with a “green” carpet.  The critical  things to look for when picking a commercial grade environmentally sustainable carpet is 1) what is the carpet top made of; 2) what is the backing material made of; 3) what type of adhesives will be used.

Carpet Top: The carpet that we selected is Shaw Eco Solution Q.  Is premium nylon carpet.  The carpet top is made of 25% recycled content.  Any amount of recycled content helps reduce the amount of raw materials use to create the carpet.

Carpet Backing: The backing of the carpet is Shaw EcoWorx.  EcoWorx is marketed as the first 100% sustainable non-PVC tile carpet backing.  Based on my research I’ve learned that for the last 25 years PVC backed carpet has been predominately used.  This is bad because PVC backed carpet can’t be recycled.  The PVC backing contaminates the yarn.  This means once the carpet has reached the end of its useful life it ends up going into the landfill.  By using EcoWorx, our carpet will be recycled when it reaches the end of its useful life.

Carpet Adhesives: The carpet adhesive is Shaw 5000 Pressure Sensitive Adhesive.  It is a low-VOC adhesive as its VOC properties are negligible.  This means better air quality for everyone working inside our space.  For more details about why indoor air quality is important please read my other post on this subject.  Of all the various materials brought into our space, the Shaw 5000 adhesive definitely has the strongest smell.  Most things like the paint have been nearly odorless.  Even though the Shaw 5000 contains no solvents, alcohol, ammonia, is non-toxic, non-flammable, no calculated VOC’s, and is anti-microbial it still has a pretty strong smell.  The smell is not over powering, does not cause your eyes to water, give you headaches, or harm your body in any way, but I was a bit surprised with the odor.  The adhesive was rolled onto the concrete surface and allowed to sit for a day prior to putting down the carpet tile.  By allowing it to dry it become very tacky but allows the carpet tile to be removed if necessary.  If the carpet was put down immediately after the adhesive was applied (when wet), then the carpet would be permanently installed and very difficult to remove in the future.

At the end of the carpet installation, all of the scraps will be collected and sent back to Shaw to be recycled.

We decided to use a carpet tile instead of carpet delivered on a roll.  The carpet tile we picked came to us in boxes containing 24”x24” carpet tiles.  Commercial carpet needs to be very durable, handle high traffic wear, be stain and color resistant, and provide a high fire rating.  Using carpet tile is a smart choice for Thinkspace because we are in the executive office suite industry which means we have a high traffic wear.  The other big bonus for us is in case there is permanent damage from coffee or copy toner spills inside the private offices, we will not have to replace the carpet in the entire office, rather, we can just swap out the stained carpet tiles and replace it from a less visible area or quickly put in a new tile.  It allows us to keep the space looking clean and new and keep our maintenance costs down.

Green Festival Seattle 2008

This weekend Seattle is hosting Green Festival 2008 at the Washington State Convention Center.  According to the Seattle-PI, at least 20,000 and up to 30,000 people will attend this event this weekend.  I took my family to the event on Saturday .  The weather outside was about 80 degrees and it was probably the best weather we’ve had in Seattle for all of 2008, yet, inside the place was packed.  It felt like there were more people inside than at the Seattle Home Show.

Inside there were more than 300 exhibits.  Companies were displaying everything from clothes, body care products, organic beer and wine, fair trade coffee/tea/chocolate, kitchen tiles made from renewable resources, fun activities for kids (my four year old had a great time), ways to reduce your energy consumption, samples of food, and even live music.

Some notable samples that I tried: Dancing Goats Blend coffee.  I tasted this black and it had a nice sweet, dark, smooth flavor without any bitter taste.  Dancing Goats coffee is certified organic and fair trade certified.  Dancing Goats is from Batdorf & Bronson Coffe Roasters which is located in Olympia, WA.  I also tried a sample of Mango Ceylon Tea from Choice Organic Teas.  I’m not much of tea drinker, but the taste of this tea was very pleasant.  I even bought a box to take home.  It tastes great both hot or cold with ice.  Choice Organic Teas is created and packaged by Granum, Inc located in Seattle.  I have never tried fairtrade chocolate before, but, it certainly does taste good.  Theo Chocolate had samples and it was possibly the best chocolate that I’ve had a in long time.  Theo Chocolate operates their business in Seattle.

I found it interesting to see how much marketing collateral there was.  Each exhibit had paper brochures, flyers, trinkets, magazines, etc.  I kept looking on the back of each piece of paper looking for something that said “100% post consumer recycled paper” but I didn’t see much of that.  Perhaps that is something that goes without saying since this is the “Green Festival”.  The one funny thing that I saw was a booth from a Printing company that flew out here from Pittsburgh.  They were telling me that I could print out my marketing materials, business cards by sending them a file to their FTP server and then they would print out it out on recycled paper and mail it back to me.  In my opinion, it would seem to make more sense to use a local print shop than to have it mailed halfway across the country.  The fuel for transporting the green printed materials seems to negate any benefits of actually printing it on recycled paper.  I was also happy to see compost, paper, bottles, plastic recycling containers throughout the exhibition center.

The impression that I came away with was that I know Seattle is a green city, but after attending this event, there are significantly more people than I thought that are truly living a green lifestyle.  People of all ages are looking for ways to contribute to preserve our environment.  I was truly inspired after attending this event.

Sherwin Williams Harmony

We have put a lot of focus on air quality for our executive office suites build-out.  Early on in our design process we decided to use either a low or no-VOC paint.  Yes, it’s good for the environment (reduces smog and ozone pollution) but even more important it is good for your health.

“VOCs” are Volatile Organic Compounds and are loaded in traditional paint.  VOCs are chemicals like benzene, toluene, vinyl chloride, formaldehyde, ethyl and mercury.  These chemicals are what you would call “new paint smell”.  Breathing in these chemicals can have short- and long-term adverse health effects.  In a residential application, it is these smells which cause you to leave your house for a few days after you paint.  These smells continue to off-gas for a long time after you can no longer detect them.

According to the EPA, “Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors, where concentrations of pollutants are often much higher than outdoors. Risk assessment and risk management studies have found that indoor environmental pollution is among the greatest risks to human health”.  The EPA’s study further disclosed that “Conventional paints contain VOCs that vaporize, dispersing into the air we breathe.  Exposure to VOCs can result in irritation of the eyes, nose, and skin; respiratory problems; headaches; nausea; and dizziness.”  Workers are more productive in non-toxic environments, less prone to illness, and employees feel that their employer cares about their personal health.

The EPA produced a publication titled “Ventilation and Air Quality in Offices”.  It stated “A committee of the World Health Organization estimates that as many as 30 percent of new or remodeled buildings may have unusually high rates of sick building complaints. While this is often temporary, some buildings have long-term problems which linger, even after corrective action. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that poor ventilation is an important contributing factor in many sick building cases.”

When evaluating the decision to use low or no-VOC paint, we had two criteria.  Firstly, was cost.  The cost of low or no-VOC paint is about fifty cents more per gallon than a high quality latex paint.  That is really insignificant and makes one wonder “why do paint manufacturers make paint that contain VOCs?”.  If everyone knew how harmful traditional paints are, I don’t think anyone would want to use them anymore.  I paid about $24 per gallon for the Sherwin Williams Harmony paint.  The other area of importance to us is performance and maintenance.  We checked to make sure the paint is scrub resistant, washable, and does not yellow over time.

The paint that we selected is Sherwin Williams Harmony.  The paint meets the GS-11 standard and qualifies for LEED certified projects.  While the painters where applying the primer and paint I was amazed when I walked into one of the offices and could barely detect any paint smell.  Not only is this good for the future tenants that will occupy the space, it is also good for the existing tenants that are currently working in the building.  For any future projects, home or office, I will definitely use a no-VOC paint.