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Everyone is talking about office sustainability.That’s the basic message of the third annual GreenBiz Group Employee Engagement poll, conducted in Spring 2014 and released last September. In the survey, cocreated by the nonprofits GreenBiz and the National Environmental Education Foundation, 73% of respondents said that their employers were providing them with information on organizational sustainability initiatives.
The survey also revealed that employees see a strong connection between social and sustainability objectives. Finally, it indicated that expertise related to sustainability was becoming a more important characteristic specifically in SMBs, while enterprises have plateaued due to strong emphasis on sustainability in recent years.
When offices want to make environmentally conscious design decisions, they can look at eco-friendly furniture and products as one piece of a general green program that targets six areas for improvement (as outlined below).
What is green office furniture?One of the main products that businesses buy with sustainability in mind is furniture. What makes office chairs and desks sustainable? That’s a complicated question, notes IT and workplace writer S. Gonzales. “Green office furniture … includes furniture that has been pre-owned, refurbished or made with recycled content,” says Gonzales. “It also includes furniture that is made to protect office air quality and can be recycled easily after use.”
There are two basic ways in which furniture and other products typically meet green expectations, both of which are suprisingly simple. One is durability. That can apply to numerous products but is especially the case with furniture, so that desks or other items don’t get tossed after the typical ten years of use. The other major element of sustainability for furniture is that it isn’t damaging the indoor air quality. Consider the following characteristics of clean-air-friendly sustainable furniture for your office design:
- Manufactured using no volatile organic compound (VOC) coatings, or using low amounts, as with urethane
- Does not contain formaldehyde
- Is free of polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
6 areas for sustainability optimizationAgain, furniture and office products are just one piece of an eco-conscious program. According to the Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) of the National Institute of Building Sciences, six major broad areas are good targets for improvement if you want to achieve a more sustainable office:
1. The location for your office, including the decision to retrofit an existing structure or build from the ground up. 2. Energy consumption. 3. Water conservation. 4. Office design and materials. “The materials used in a sustainable building minimize life-cycle environmental impacts such as global warming, resource depletion, and human toxicity,” says the WBDG. “Environmentally preferable materials have a reduced effect on human health and the environment.” 5. Indoor environmental quality (IEQ). 6. Day-to-day use and maintenance.
Sustainability not in a vacuumLike any other office design factor, you can’t really look at sustainability as independent. No element of business exists in a vacuum.
At Beaux Arts Group, we explore sustainability optimization as one ingredient of our innovative approach to create a distinctive, high-performance workplace interior addressing your dynamic needs. >>>Contact a design specialist.