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VengaWorks Venture Center, 943 W. Overland Road, Meridian

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Starting at $199 per month
Ryan Skene,208-489-0110

This column normally focuses on residential real estate. But since many of us spend more time at our workplaces than at home, this week we're looking at a membership-based office building that is flexible, high-tech and certified green.

The declining economy has exposed deep cracks in some of the old ways of doing business. Statistics show the average office building is only 40 percent occupied at any given moment, making it a huge, energy-sucking asset. Imagine an airline or restaurant trying to stay afloat by only having 40 percent of its seats occupied. For some Treasure Valley business owners, that's where VengaWorks Venture Center comes in.

As local companies downsize and look for ways to cut costs, VengaWorks helps reduce overhead by offering private and semi-private office space that can be customized to suit a company's needs.

Instead of having to maintain a static building in a dynamic economy, the flexible usage plans at VengaWorks allow members to adjust the amount of office space they need. As a company grows, walls that double as wood-grain white boards can be reconfigured in 20 minutes to accommodate more employees. If the company shrinks, so can its office, and so will the rent.

This way, the building that would be only partially occupied is being used in a new, more responsible way. And instead of leases that can tie a company up for as long as five years, the work spaces at VengaWorks are rented on a monthly, weekly or even a daily basis.

But the responsibility doesn't stop there. Regional Vice President Mark Gilbreath believes it is important to be responsible in the use of energy and resources as well. The center's modern, single-story building was constructed and certified according to LEED Gold standards.

Low-VOC paints, carpeting, adhesives and sealants were used throughout the interior in order to leave toxins out and keep indoor air quality high. Plentiful windows allow daylight to help illuminate offices situated along exterior walls, while clerestories and skylights draw light into interior spaces. The center saves money on electricity bills while the naturally lit, non-toxic work environment results in more productive workers.

Idaho Power was so impressed with the building and its many energy-saving features that it cut VengaWorks a $20,000-incentive check after the project was completed. The power company also conducts tours of the facility as a show-case for green building standards.

This smart business ecosystem comes furnished so you can focus on running your business instead of start-up details like costly phone and Internet installations, furniture choices, copy machine leases, or even selecting eye-catching art work.

A cutting-edge Cisco phone system keeps members in touch with their customers. Fiber optic Wi-Fi provides a secure, private Internet connection. Smart Board interactive white boards allow members to make bold presentations to clients and co-workers alike, and paintings from local artists decorate the hallways.

Whether it's a kitchen-table start-up, an established business or work as a stand-alone consultant, VengaWorks outfits businesses with Web and snail-mail addresses, a phone number and a furnished, high-tech work space in just one hour. In addition to offices, the Venture Center also provides conference rooms, a seminar room, open cubicles and even social areas for taking a break from the grind.

The economic climate is ripe for a business-support model that is flexible, high-tech and certified green.

Pros: Turn-key office solution in a healthy, high-performance environment.

Cons: Why didn't anyone think of this sooner?