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Biz611 signs first tenant

Ken Gaylord, the architect and contractor, stands in front of Biz611. Ken Gaylord, the architect and contractor, stands in front of Biz611.

Biz 611, the business incubator and living example of a sustainable work environment at 611 N. Church St., has its first tenant.

ECO, the Environmental and Conservation Organization, will move in when the building opens this spring.
"This is a way to ensure that ECO's going to continue to walk the walk and talk the talk by being in the greenest building in Henderson County," said David Weintraub, ECO's executive director. "This is a very different building than anything else that I've ever seen. The way that it's laid out is there is space all over the building, including the rooftop, that can be used for gathering space for informal meetings."
To say the building and tenant were meant to be together is to understate how simpatico the two are.
Jonathan Butler, a software developer who made millions when he sold his automated trading system to Citibank, has modeled Biz611 after two other successful incubator centers he built in his hometown of Charleston, S.C. After buying the historic Landmark apartment building, Butler decided to tear down the annexes behind it and build an incubator here. He saved the old brick, which has been cleaned and stacked and is ready for use as the outer sheath of the two-story 100,000-square-foot office building. Butler is signing up tenants now. He is offering a building that can't be matched anywhere around here.
The V-shaped roof will capture rainwater to be reused flushing toilets and watering the landscape. Solar panels will supply most of the electricity. The modular wall system, made by DIRTT Environmental Solutions, makes it a snap to remodel according to a tenant's needs.
"If you figure all the other space it's actually larger" than ECO's current quarters on Third Avenue West, Weintraub said. "The conference room allows us to do the workshops and the lectures and the forums that we tend to do on a larger scale."
"The library is not workable for most public programs because you have to get out of there by 8," he said. "It helps us to do more and do it in a healthier greener way."
Butler envisions the building as an incubator for startups in green industries or software development — his two passions. They'll work in a space that encourages collaboration through the open flexible floor plan, abundant common space and chance encounters.
"Too often when you're in an office building you're kind of cloistered away," Weintraub said. "You have your little space and pass each other going to the bathroom and that doesn't lend itself to the kind of interactive atmosphere that this has."

No wasted water
Architect and builder Ken Gaylord also found a like-minded partner in Butler.
Giving a tour of the building recently, Gaylord explained the innovations that make Biz611 unique.
The conference room, which seats 40 people, has interior walls of shot-blasted cinderblock.
"Jonathan's a real minimalist," Gaylord said.
A conventional builder might look at the construction as inside out. The block wall is on the inside. The insulation is behind it. Studs and sheetrock are inefficient for heating and cooling. "When you do that, you lose thermal mass," he said.
Gaylord worked with a supplier in Asheville to give the interior block a textured look. They sat around a conference table and brainstormed about how they could improve the look with a limited budget.
"I said, could you shot-blast each one, and they said, yeah, we could do that. They did 20,000 of them."
The restored brick exterior will make Biz611 look like a companion to the Landmark — if you ignore the V-shaped roof, wall of living plants and 750-gallon rain barrels.
Using captured rainwater to flush toilets and water plants was an innovation that stumped the city of Hendersonville, which saw a revenue loss. Utilities calculate sewer use by metering the water that goes in to a house or building.
"So we're going to meter sewer," Gaylord said. "This is the first project in Henderson County if not Western North Carolina that is using harvested rainwater to perform those functions."
Part of the roof runoff will also go into a 2,000-gallon retention basin at the base of the east-facing green wall.
"The idea is to put no stormwater into the city stormwater system, nor to use any city water for flushing or irrigation," he said.
A ductless heating and cooling system pumps refrigerant to each unit. Biz611 won't have the common office-building syndrome of the secretaries burning up while the accountants freeze.
"We have 27 units and every one of them has its own thermostat," Gaylord said. Projected energy savings is 35 to 50 percent.

Vertical garden is edible, too
The builders are working with local horticulturists to come up with the most appropriate kind of plants and vegetables for the vertical garden.
"What I hope is that wall could be a burst of color," he said. "We could have flowers blooming."
"From the roof terrace you'll be able to watch the water come off the roof into a trough where it flows into a cistern," he added. "We're trying to make it visible, where people can see it and touch it."
Inside, Biz611 has "six or eight common spaces because in this entrepreneurial environment we want people to talk to each other all the time," Gaylord said.
The human resources software developer PeopleMatter, which moved to Butler's successful Flagship incubator in Charleston, became a $4 billion a year company with more than 100 employees.
"That's the kind of dynamic we want to see happen, — brilliant, creative people working together to make great stuff happen," Gaylord said.
A green building is the right space for Weintraub and ECO.
"To pick some tomatoes and pull your lunch off the wall, yeah that's pretty neat," Weintraub said. "It's kind of back to an older time when your office was your home and where your food was. It's about sustainability."
Gaylord says that the design, engineering and mechanics of green technology will be on exhibit all the time at Biz611.
The architect searched across the country for solar panels that were transparent instead of opaque, figuring they would let in more light and make the building even more pleasant a place for workers. Butler asked if the see-through models generated as much electricity. When Gaylord said no, he had to convince the skeptical owner that the tradeoff would be worth it.
"We're not just trying to spin the wheels of the grid backward," he said. "We're trying to spin the human wheels forward."