Furniture manufacturers say they’re seeing more clients ask about the environmental impact a proposed furniture purchase may have. Using remanufactured furniture is good for the environment, as well as a company’s bank balance.
Still, remanufactured furniture can’t always fit the bill. And most eco-conscious new furniture systems have carried higher price tags. Fortunately, the price differences are coming down, Webb says. “As we go down the road of green furniture, the more they get used, the narrower the price gap.”
Another concern is what some call “greenwashing,” or claims of environmental friendliness that are more marketing hype than fact. To reduce this, the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) has partnered with NSF International to create a sustainability standard modeled after the LEED rating system. Once the standard is finalized, facility executives will be able to use it to help determine whether furniture is developed and manufactured in a way that minimizes impact on the environment.
Until then Johnson urges facility executives to remember that “buying quality is a form of sustainability.” The longer a piece of furniture remains in use, the fewer replacement pieces that will be needed. That reduces the amount of resources used and the number of products that end up in landfills.
Considering a variety of factors, including flexibility, productivity, quality and sustainability, is really the best strategy for furniture selection. Focusing on cost, and simply dividing the square footage available by the number of people it will house, “shortchanges everyone,” Lynch says. The key is to consider how furniture will contribute to the work being done.
Karen Kroll, a contributing editor for Building Operating Management, is a freelance writer who has written extensively about real estate and facility issues.
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