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Sustainable Office Design & Furniture

When undertaking a new office refurbishment, it’s more important now than ever before to consider the eco-credentials of the office furniture placed in the building. There are lots of conflicting advice and elements to consider when designing the office. Below are a few things to consider;

Materials

Steel: As steel manufacturers, it’s no surprise that we’re a big fan of steel as a core product. Although it’s not the most environmentally friendly getting it out of the ground, it’s 100% recyclable again-and-again and doesn’t lose any of its strength during the recycling process. Most steel used now contains a percentage of recycled steel as a minimum. It’s also extremely durable and long-lasting, plus it can be repainted to freshen up its look. 

Steel Manufacturing
Camira Ocean Fabric

Fabric: There are a lot of commercial fabrics which feature recycled yarns, and some ranges have been around for a long time and sport a wide range of colours. Fabric manufacturers are creating more and more fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles like the latest Oceanic range from Camira. Recycled fabrics are a great way to enhance an environmentally friendly chair. It’s also wise to consider the location of the fabric. In high-traffic areas, a stronger material such as a high-quality vinyl or leather may last longer and can easily be wiped down, maintaining its fresh look. 

MFC: At Flexiform, we prefer to use FSC approved MFC (Melamine Faced Chipboard) for all our tables, storage, and desks. Why? It’s environmentally friendly and recyclable, plus it has antibacterial surface properties as well as being abrasion and scratch-resistant. Our MFC conforms to ISO 12460-5 formaldehyde emissions, which sets a limit of 8mg of formaldehyde per 100g of chipboard.

FenixNTM Laminates: FenixNTM is a unique laminate range with the ability to heat up the work surface to repair micro-scratches. The ability to keep the finish looking neat and tidy extends the product lifecycle.  

Wilson Ply Table Leg
Meeting Room Design

Carpets: Choosing an eco-friendly carpet tile is another great way to reduce the environmental impact of an office refurbishment. Companies like Tarkett promote their use of ECONYL®, a yarn made from 100% regenerated nylon including discarded fishing nets and post-consumer yarn waste from their carpet recycling centre. 

Solid Wood: A lot of office chairs and collaboration tables feature solid oak, walnut, beech or ash wood legs or worksurfaces, which are particularly popular at the moment. At Flexiform, we ensure our hand-picked seating suppliers and component supply chain are all FSC accredited.  

Plastics: While plastic is considered a dirty word at the moment, a lot of plastic office chairs such as our Melita and One-Shot chairs, have a minimum recycled content of 30%, with any plastic production waste 100% recycled. 

Chrome: The process of chrome plating isn’t environmentally friendly, however, this may be offset as it can provide extra protection, thus extending the product life cycle. Chrome also rarely falls out of office design trends, it may be a finish worth considering for furniture such as stacking chairs, which is often moved around a lot and easily damaged. There are now ‘chrome effect’ finishes that are a great alternative too. 

Company Accreditations

When choosing your office furniture supplier, it’s important to ask about the companies policies and accreditations such as ISO 14001, ISO 9001, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Furniture Industry Sustainability Programme (FISP). All these accreditations audit the company to ensure they are taking steps towards a more environmentally friendly manufacturing process while ensuring the products are built to last. If you don’t want to do the research, going through a framework such as YPO or CCS ensures that the company is satisfactorily accredited. 

Product Lifecycle

It’s also worth ensuring that the office furniture manufacturer is based in the UK, helping minimise transporting furniture extra air miles. At Flexiform, our manufacturing facilities are based in West Yorkshire, and we minimise the number of components we use from overseas. We also try to be transparent about our environmental output, showcasing our ongoing efforts to reduce the amount of electricity, water and CO2 emissions. 

Accredited & Tested Office Furniture

Many office furniture manufacturers now test their products for their CO2 output, most companies will provide this information on product datasheets. There are many different ways to do this, at Flexiform we chose to get an independent environmental specialist to calculate the CO2 emissions. Some of our product offerings has achieved the Cradle-to-Cradle accreditation, recognising safer sustainable products made for the circular economy.

These considerations can all filter into the decision making process. Navigating through the most environmentally friendly office furniture products can be difficult, for help and advice, contact Flexiform today: www.flexiform.co.uk

CO2 Breakdown

Image Credit: Camira Oceanic Fabric