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.

Seattle-Bellevue area No. 6 on list of smallest carbon footprint

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“.

Big business, small footprint.

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!

Recycled Glass Counter for our Commercial Lobby Desk

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 counter top.  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.

 

“Green” Commercial Eco-Carpet

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

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.

Thinkspace’s Goal is Innovation in Design for Recycling

 Sorted debris

Tenant improvements can require a new company moving into an existing building to create a lot of demolition debris.  In order to build out our Thinkspace executive office suites, 5.79 tons or 11,580 pounds of demolition debris was removed.  The number of tons could have been much greater, but one of our goals was to reuse any and all existing materials for our new build out.

The demolition debris was sorted and put into sealed containers.  Each container was ticketed, tracked, and taken to a recycling center.  Once at the recycling center, the debris was resorted and weighed.  The report broke down the materials into the following groups:

Wood Derived Fuel, Alternate Daily Cover, Processed Planting Medium, Aggregate Feedstock, Bulk Steel to be processed, Prepared Steel, Scrap Aluminum, Scrap Copper Wire & Pipe, P.V.C. – Plastic Siding, L.D.P.E. – Plastic Film,  H.D.P.E. – Plastic, Carpeting, Carpet Pad, Cardboard, Gypsum Rock, Designer Mulch, Pulp Furnish, CHEP Pallets for Reuse, Electronics and Fluorescent Lights, Non-Recyclable Residuals.

Preliminary results show that we have exceeded our goal of 95%.  Our potential LEED recycling rate is 97.7%.  If we continue to maintain our recycling level throughout the entire build out, we will earn an extra LEED point for Innovation in Design.

I prefer to no longer use the term “demolition” as the process really should be called “deconstruction”.  In order to save existing door frames, trim, doors, etc, a lot of care is given to removing these items.  Also, the process of meticulously sorting and piling up debris is not easy.

Because there is so much additional labor to getting the debris recycled as well as additional attention air quality and dust control, I had to compare what the cost difference is versus going straight to the landfill.   It was definitely more expensive to recycle the debris rather than dump it in the landfill – it cost approximately 2% more.  Total demolition cost was about $2.06 per SF.

Being “green” is not easy or cheap, but the end result of having 97.7% of the material recycled is well worth the effort and money.  Up front, doing a LEED Certified for Commercial Interiors project is not cheaper than a normal tenant improvement project but the payback is huge in terms of air quality, healthy work environment, energy savings and knowing that tons of debris can be recycled instead of ending up in a landfill.

Earth Hour – Businesses raising awareness for energy conservation

Earth Hour

I think businesses like Google are doing an excellent job in raising awareness for energy conservation.  The Google home page is “blacked out” as they have “turned out the lights” as symbol to raise awareness for Earth Hour 2008.  It’s quite striking to see the normally white background on the Google home page suddenly go black.  While its not saving any energy doing this, it certainly is going to raise a lot of awareness to everyone that goes to Google to do a search.  I checked the other top search engines and I don’t see any reference to Earth Hour on their sites.  I admire Google for taking a strong stand and reaching out to their entire customer base.

Buildings represent the greatest opportunity for considerable reductions in CO2 emissions.

 On March 13th, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) issued a report stating “buildings represent the greatest opportunity for considerable reductions in CO2 emissions”.

“Every year, buildings in North America cause more than 2,200 megatons of CO2 to be released into the atmosphere, about 35 percent of the continent’s total CO2 emissions.  In the United States alone, the total built floor space covers over 27 billion square meters, or more than five and a half times the size of Grand Canyon National Park.  According to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, buildings represent the greatest opportunity for considerable reductions in CO2 emissions, with net economic benefit.”

If buildings are the greatest opportunity to reducing CO2 emissions, then what are the barriers?  The report stated “The barriers to doing improvements to existing buildings is understanding the lifecycle costs of the building.  Understanding the life-cycle costs of a building is still a significant challenge.”  Another barrier is split incentive.  “Often the one paying the bill and the one capturing the benefits differ.  A developer may not be interested in paying for green features when the benefits will be passed on to the new owners or tenants.”

“Green building will help ensure North American competitiveness in the global market for products, technologies, and practices essential to North America’s future. Such products, technologies, and practices include heating and cooling systems, advanced building materials, water-reclamation systems, high efficiency appliances, energy efficient lighting, construction and demolition debris recycling, and many more.”

I would highly recommend that you download the entire report from the CEC.

Furniture made from soft drink cans

Emeco StoolWe have selected furniture for the Thinkspace office and the one piece that I’m most excited about is the Phillippe Starck designed Emeco stool.  We have purchased these in bar stool height (14″ W x 14″ D x 30″) for the cyber cafe.

The stool is produced in the United States and is environmentally friendly.  80% of the aluminum is recycled.  Half is post consumer (soft drink cans) and half is postindustrial (manufacturing scrap).  The Emeco craftsman grind each weld flush to give it a seemless appearance.  The aluminum is three times stronger than steel and has a estimated life of 150 years.  It also comes with a life-time warranty.  Emeco started their business designing chairs for the U.S. Navy and one of the design requirements was that it be torpedo proof!  If you have the time, you should check out the video on YouTube that shows someone taking an Emeco chair and catapulting it into a brick wall 50 times.  It pretty much survives with very little damage!

By selecting environmentally sound product choices we expect it to provide us credit toward our LEED certification.  Also, there’s no off gassing because aluminum does not emit VOCs or aldehydes in any measurable concentration.  The things that I really like about this stool is the excellent craftsmanship, modern, elegant, attractive design and the fact that it costs about the same price as a nice stool made of plastic or wood.

It Pays to be Green – Conservation Grant Awarded to Thinkspace

Save Energy

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) has awarded a $13,000 conservation grant to Thinkspace for energy efficient lighting retrofits.  Thinkspace’s plan calls for a reduction in energy consumption by approximately 21,106 KWH.  Annual energy cost savings are estimated to be a little over two-thousand dollars per year.  Our discussions with PSE have been on-going for three months.  It is much more difficult to qualify for a grant that I would have thought.  In the end I’m glad that it was not handed out so easily as I got to have a much better understanding about what it really takes to save energy.  A lot of hard work and analysis by the architect and electrical contractor have made this possible.  Read about the first post regarding “Incentives for Going Green“.

Incentives for Going Green

Energy Efficient BulbOver the past few months, I have been searching for companies, organizations, government agencies that encourage other companies to go green with their tenant improvements.  One of the first places that I called was PSE (Puget Sound Energy).  I talked with an Energy Management Engineer and he was happy and willing to meet me at the building to discuss my goal of finding a way to reduce the building’s energy consumption by at least 30%.

I found out that PSE offers many different incentives to increase a commercial building’s energy efficiency.  One of the most attractive programs is their energy efficient grant which can pay up to 50 percent of a project’s cost, and may fund up to 70 percent of the installed cost.  Grants often range from several hundred dollars to over a hundred thousand dollars.  While that might sound really great it’s not easy to eligible for a grant.  I have been going back and forth with my electrical contractor, architect, and PSE Energy Management Engineer to come up with an optimal plan.  This has been an exciting process for me as I look at all the possible ways to reduce energy in the building and do so in a cost effective manner.  I think it’s much easier for a building to go green from the ground up than for a building that is only seven years old and retrofitting green.

One area of focus is using energy efficient light fixtures and lamps.  My research uncovered that many older buildings use T12 lamps (the diameter is 1 ½” lamp and use 40 watts).  They are cheap and reliable and approximately 58% of the buildings out there still use them.  One of the big drawbacks is that they draw approximately 6.5 watts of power even when the lamps are burned out.  The PSE Energy Management Engineer stated it’s much easier for a building that is using T12 lamps to replace or retrofit those fixtures with T8 lamps (the diameter is a 1” lamp and use 28 watts) and obtain a energy grant.  The space that Thinkspace will occupy is in a building which is only seven years old.  The building is already equipped with T8 lamps which is part of the challenge of identifying ways to be even more efficient.  A key metric that PSE uses is the ratio of KWH energy saved versus the total cost of the upgrade (materials and labor).

The architect has been focusing on ways to make sure we are optimizing as much daylight as possible.  The electrical contractor is focusing on reducing our watts per SF, calculating our total KW consumption with various light fixtures, and recommending the use of higher performance ballast and lamps.  We’ve submitted our plan to PSE Energy Management Engineer and are now waiting to find out if our latest plan will be eligible for a energy grant.  I will report back once I hear from PSE.

Energy Efficient Commercial Light Fixtures

Commercial Light FixtureElectricity is one of the largest expenses in a commercial office building.  Whether you’re the building owner or a tenant that is occupying a large space, it is good business to look for ways to reduce your energy consumption.  For a building owner it means lower utility costs, a more energy efficient, and desirable building.  For a tenant, if you have a triple net lease (NNN), that means lower operating costs.  For our project, we are looking to reduce our electricity consumption by at least 30%.  In addition to receiving the benefits listed above, we will also earn LEED points toward our certification.

One way we are reducing energy is by using energy efficient commercial light fixtures.  Initially, I thought that energy efficient light would be poor light quality with an ugly commercial looking lense cover.  I was pleasantly surprised to find this is not true.  The light fixture we selected is attractive with a contemporary appearance.  The smart design uses both a high performance ballast and lamp which provides a combination of direct and indirect light.  What I really like about the light fixture is that it looks great, the fluorescent lamps are not visible, and feels like more comfortable light with no glare.

Thinkspace is the first LEED-CI Office Project in Redmond

Once I decided that the business was going to make an impact by going LEED Certified, I spoke with my friend Stuart Mckee, former State of Washington CIO, who told me that I should look into how government could assist me in my endeavor. This triggered a whole bunch of ideas which included looking into grants from the State and City.

I immediately saw that Mayor Nichols had a huge initiative for Sustainability in the City of Seattle. I contacted Peter Dobrovolny in Mayor Nichols’ Green Building Program organization but he told me “unfortunately, we only work with projects within the City of Seattle”. I decided perhaps I should check with the City of Redmond. I went out to the City of Redmond website but could not find anything that stated they had a Green Building Program. I immediately thought perhaps it is best to contact Mayor Ives directly and ask if such a program exists. I contacted Mayor Ives through email and she responded “Thank you so much for your inquiry. We want to be very supportive of all property owners interested in sustainable construction and redevelopment. I have suggested that we consider a speedier review process for ‘green buildings.’ Staff will follow up with you”. Not long afterwards, I was contacted by City Staff and had a meeting to describe to them the type of sustainable improvements that was planned for Thinkspace.

The City of Redmond told me that they have not yet received a building permit that was for a LEED Certified Commercial Interior office building project, so they formed a “Green Team” specifically for this project. It consisted of people from different departments:

Judd Black, Development Review Planning Manager; Jason Lynch, Building Official; Cathy Beam, Principal Planner, AICP; Nathalie Schmidt, Assistant Planner, AICP; Mark Selvin, Building Inspector; Carol Anderson, Building Plans Examiner; and Jozanne Moe, Building Plans Examiner

The turnaround time for the building permits was truly expedited. The tenant improvement project was submitted as three different applications. From application to approval it took seven (7) days one of the floors and 14 days for the other two. I appreciate the fact that the building permit process was so quick and that City of Redmond is committed to sustainable buildings.

Why we are seeking to be LEED Certified

USGBCOur story begins with our business needing to build out space to run our company.  Our 25,000SF build-out is large and I wanted to make sure we did something special with the space.  I wanted to make sure that our space was not just another run-of-mill tenant improvement project.  After I started to do more research, I came across the USGBC (United States Green Building Council) website and found statistics which stated “worldwide buildings account for 33% of all carbon emissions”.  That’s when I felt strongly that Thinkspace pursue to be LEED Certified.  I didn’t want to just superficially put some “green” materials in the lobby area and call our company “green”.  Rather, I wanted to make sure that we took this as far as we could and try and obtain the highest level of certification.  I felt this is a great opportunity to make a dent and reduce our carbon footprint.