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This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management. Today's tip is that furniture selection is increasingly being driven by sustainability.
A growing number of organizations are taking sustainability into account when purchasing products, including furniture. In 2009, BIFMA announced an independent sustainability certification program for commercial furniture, called "level." The program is modeled after LEED, and considers the types of materials and amount of energy used to manufacture a product, among other factors. In total, about 30 elements of the manufacturing process and materials used are evaluated.
Another program is the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS). CHPS is a non-profit focused on making schools better places to learn. Its tools, such as a building rating system, can help schools use energy, water and material more efficiently, and operate in a safe and healthy manner.
Three attributes are significant when it comes to determining the environmental responsibility of different products. One is the location at which the item was produced or manufactured. Products made near where they'll be used mean that less energy is needed to transport them to their final destinations. In addition, most production operations within the United States are subject to a range of environmental regulations. That may not be the case in other parts of the world.
Another consideration is the degree to which a product incorporates recycled or re-used materials. In general, the more a product uses recycled or re-used material, the better it is for the environment. However, you still want to consider what likely will happen to the product after you're done using it. If it can't be re-used or recycled in some way, you may want to look for a product that offers the same functionality and durability, but that can be re-processed down the road.
The third factor is the product's impact on indoor air quality. The preference, of course, is for products that emit few or no chemicals that can compromise indoor air quality.