Contract - Designing for Health: How Green is Your Furniture?

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Designing for Health: How Green is Your Furniture?

13 September, 2010

-By By Amy Sickeler, Marcia Knight, and Sara W. Hepler


"Designing for Health" is a monthly, Web-exclusive series from healthcare interior design leaders at Perkins+Will that focuses on the issues, trends, challenges, and research involved in crafting today's healing environments.

During the summer of 2010, as the Gulf of Mexico filled with oil and a “fix” seemed imminent, again we were confronted with an urgency to reduce our dependence on oil and other natural resources. We continually promise to treat our environment differently and better. As architects and designers in the United States, the USGBC and LEED certification program have influenced many of us in how we design buildings to meet increased sustainable standards. For interior designers, having assistance with the selection and specification of furniture for our projects can result in less damaging impact our projects have on our environment. Finding an objective and clear review system for the selection of furniture can be challenging. Many designers and institutions continue to help move our culture towards a greener, more sustainable future by providing multiple avenues through which we can achieve sustainability.

One of the largest institutions that will have an impact on our sustainable specification and procurement process is the General Services Administration (GSA). During a meeting of the Coalition for Government Procurement, GSA administrator Martha Johnson stated, “We should set our sights on eliminating the impact of the federal government on our natural environment.” GSA has set a goal of reducing to net-zero the federal government’s impact on our environment. “The GSA is a member of President Obama’s Green Team, which is in place to move the United States forward towards a net-zero environmental footprint. In turn, the government has the market power to move industry towards environmentally friendly, sustainable products and practices.”

Johnson continues, “A zero footprint goal will pull change through our system, ratchet our priorities away from…process and towards solving society’s needs and won’t be reached without a significant and perhaps spectacular trail of success and failures [which] will extend to GSA’s vendor partner.” Without this driver influencing all of us and our clients, many more years could be added to reducing energy consumption through consumerism and on our projects.

In addition to GSA, USGBC and LEED support, the NSF International and Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) has initiated a new system for designers to use in evaluating furniture. NSF International states, “Manufacturers, suppliers, architects, designers, and government procurement now have a U. S. national standard for the production of sustainable furniture: BIFMA e3 sustainability standard. The standard establishes performance requirements that address the triple bottom line— economic-environmental-social equity— throughout the supply chain. It is applicable to business and institutional furniture, which is manufactured in one facility or multiple facilities, one country or multiple countries.”

In June, 2009, BIFMA announced the premier of the product certification program level™, a modular program modeled after LEED with specific prerequisites, optional credits, and three conformance levels, with level 3 certification being the highest rating. When a manufacturer wants to submit a product to the BIFMA e3 sustainability standard, its organization, facility, and product is evaluated by an independent third-party certification process. The standard focuses on quantifiable metrics in four key areas:
- Material Utilization
- Energy and Atmosphere impacts
- Human and Ecosystem Health
- Social Responsibility

From the rating system’s inception, Perkins+Will has supported BIFMA’s level program. In addition to guidance from rating systems, specifications and procurement begins with our innovative thinking and design. Along with factory adherence to green practices and social responsibility and the use of highly renewable and low-VOC materials, consider the means and methods of product procurement, installation efficiencies, and client maintenance. We need to research options for reduced shipping requirements (and corresponding carbon footprint), reduced distance of shipping, ease of installation, flexibility of rework, adaptability of product, and ease of repair (a kit-of-parts), as these attributes can affect the sustainable qualities of a product.

Teknion Synapse chairWe were inspired by Teknion’s Synapse chair (left), designed by Carl Gustav Magnusson. The Synapse chair is composed of five fluid and replaceable parts that can be shipped in 1/3 the space of a typical chair and easily assembled and re-assembled on-site. The attributes of the Synapse chair along with other green products can inspire the work we perform every day on our projects. Many designers not only specify millions of dollars in furniture, but also design and create millions of dollars worth of custom furniture or casework. We should be asking the same means and method questions mentioned above for both furniture and millwork designs.

Perkins+Will has a hospital project where we asked ourselves if we could reduce materials used, utilize local materials, and reduce the trucks required to ship the product to the site by designing the millwork product to be transported in a condensed manner; creating ease of installation by eliminating complicated installation methods and reducing energy consumption and providing for replacement ability so the product would have a longer life span. An example is a footwall design for a children’s hospital. It was designed using local materials, and its shape was created so the pieces would stack in a way to reduce shipping space requirements. The installation time is being reduced by the simplicity of detail, which results in greater flexibility for future change.

So, how green is your furniture? Realizing and using all of the tools available to us, as well as our internal creative thinking has assisted us in designing and specifying innovative and sustainable products for our projects. We need to, in turn, share our successes and failures to continue to learn and support each other in reducing our dependency on natural resources and in caring for our environment and for each other.

Amy Sickeler, RID, ISDA, LEED AP, is a principal at Perkins+Will. She serves as the director of design for the Atlanta office’s interiors department as well as the healthcare interiors practice leader for the office. She can be reached at amy.sickeler@perkinswill.com.

Marcia Knight, RID, LEED AP, IIDA, is a senior associate in the Atlanta office of Perkins+Will. She is involved on numerous healthcare projects, focusing on the integration interior design with architectural design to create spaces responsive to client needs, goals and design aesthetic. She has developed a particular expertise in directing and managing Furniture and Furnishings design and specification packages for large-scale projects, such as the recent King Saud University Health Science Centers in Al-Hasa, Jeddah, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. She can be reached at marcia.knight@perkinswill.com.

Sara W. Hepler, RID, LEED AP, works in the Atlanta office of Perkins + Will as a healthcare designer. As a part of the design team on a recent health sciences campus, she helped develop an innovative and sustainable footwall design for a children’s hospital. She can be reached at sara.hepler@perkinswill.com.

References
BIFMA. (2009, 05 12). Commercial Furniture Industry Launches "Level". Retrieved 08 12, 2010, from levelcerified.org.

NSF. (2009, 03 10). http://www.nsf.org/business/newsroom/pdf/su_bifma.pdf. Retrieved 07 14, 2010, from Improve your Sustainability Profile.

Spoth, T. (2010, 05 10). GSA's goal: No environmental impact. Retrieved 08 17, 2010, from Federal Times.com.

Teknion. (2009). Synapse.pdf. Retrieved 08.16.2010, from teknion immediate release.

Past installments of "Designing for Health" include (click on title to access the full article):
Workspaces for Well-being
The Cultural Differences of Latin American Countries and Their Desire for American Influence
Light and Its Role in Patient Safety
Research-Based Client Communication
An Urban Clinic—Connecting with the Community
Patient and Staff Safety in Behavioral Health Facilities
A Harmonious Companionship—Rejuvenating State-of-the-Art
Leading by Design – A Place to Flourish




Designing for Health: How Green is Your Furniture?

13 September, 2010


"Designing for Health" is a monthly, Web-exclusive series from healthcare interior design leaders at Perkins+Will that focuses on the issues, trends, challenges, and research involved in crafting today's healing environments.

During the summer of 2010, as the Gulf of Mexico filled with oil and a “fix” seemed imminent, again we were confronted with an urgency to reduce our dependence on oil and other natural resources. We continually promise to treat our environment differently and better. As architects and designers in the United States, the USGBC and LEED certification program have influenced many of us in how we design buildings to meet increased sustainable standards. For interior designers, having assistance with the selection and specification of furniture for our projects can result in less damaging impact our projects have on our environment. Finding an objective and clear review system for the selection of furniture can be challenging. Many designers and institutions continue to help move our culture towards a greener, more sustainable future by providing multiple avenues through which we can achieve sustainability.

One of the largest institutions that will have an impact on our sustainable specification and procurement process is the General Services Administration (GSA). During a meeting of the Coalition for Government Procurement, GSA administrator Martha Johnson stated, “We should set our sights on eliminating the impact of the federal government on our natural environment.” GSA has set a goal of reducing to net-zero the federal government’s impact on our environment. “The GSA is a member of President Obama’s Green Team, which is in place to move the United States forward towards a net-zero environmental footprint. In turn, the government has the market power to move industry towards environmentally friendly, sustainable products and practices.”

Johnson continues, “A zero footprint goal will pull change through our system, ratchet our priorities away from…process and towards solving society’s needs and won’t be reached without a significant and perhaps spectacular trail of success and failures [which] will extend to GSA’s vendor partner.” Without this driver influencing all of us and our clients, many more years could be added to reducing energy consumption through consumerism and on our projects.

In addition to GSA, USGBC and LEED support, the NSF International and Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) has initiated a new system for designers to use in evaluating furniture. NSF International states, “Manufacturers, suppliers, architects, designers, and government procurement now have a U. S. national standard for the production of sustainable furniture: BIFMA e3 sustainability standard. The standard establishes performance requirements that address the triple bottom line— economic-environmental-social equity— throughout the supply chain. It is applicable to business and institutional furniture, which is manufactured in one facility or multiple facilities, one country or multiple countries.”

In June, 2009, BIFMA announced the premier of the product certification program level™, a modular program modeled after LEED with specific prerequisites, optional credits, and three conformance levels, with level 3 certification being the highest rating. When a manufacturer wants to submit a product to the BIFMA e3 sustainability standard, its organization, facility, and product is evaluated by an independent third-party certification process. The standard focuses on quantifiable metrics in four key areas:
- Material Utilization
- Energy and Atmosphere impacts
- Human and Ecosystem Health
- Social Responsibility

From the rating system’s inception, Perkins+Will has supported BIFMA’s level program. In addition to guidance from rating systems, specifications and procurement begins with our innovative thinking and design. Along with factory adherence to green practices and social responsibility and the use of highly renewable and low-VOC materials, consider the means and methods of product procurement, installation efficiencies, and client maintenance. We need to research options for reduced shipping requirements (and corresponding carbon footprint), reduced distance of shipping, ease of installation, flexibility of rework, adaptability of product, and ease of repair (a kit-of-parts), as these attributes can affect the sustainable qualities of a product.

Teknion Synapse chairWe were inspired by Teknion’s Synapse chair (left), designed by Carl Gustav Magnusson. The Synapse chair is composed of five fluid and replaceable parts that can be shipped in 1/3 the space of a typical chair and easily assembled and re-assembled on-site. The attributes of the Synapse chair along with other green products can inspire the work we perform every day on our projects. Many designers not only specify millions of dollars in furniture, but also design and create millions of dollars worth of custom furniture or casework. We should be asking the same means and method questions mentioned above for both furniture and millwork designs.

Perkins+Will has a hospital project where we asked ourselves if we could reduce materials used, utilize local materials, and reduce the trucks required to ship the product to the site by designing the millwork product to be transported in a condensed manner; creating ease of installation by eliminating complicated installation methods and reducing energy consumption and providing for replacement ability so the product would have a longer life span. An example is a footwall design for a children’s hospital. It was designed using local materials, and its shape was created so the pieces would stack in a way to reduce shipping space requirements. The installation time is being reduced by the simplicity of detail, which results in greater flexibility for future change.

So, how green is your furniture? Realizing and using all of the tools available to us, as well as our internal creative thinking has assisted us in designing and specifying innovative and sustainable products for our projects. We need to, in turn, share our successes and failures to continue to learn and support each other in reducing our dependency on natural resources and in caring for our environment and for each other.

Amy Sickeler, RID, ISDA, LEED AP, is a principal at Perkins+Will. She serves as the director of design for the Atlanta office’s interiors department as well as the healthcare interiors practice leader for the office. She can be reached at amy.sickeler@perkinswill.com.

Marcia Knight, RID, LEED AP, IIDA, is a senior associate in the Atlanta office of Perkins+Will. She is involved on numerous healthcare projects, focusing on the integration interior design with architectural design to create spaces responsive to client needs, goals and design aesthetic. She has developed a particular expertise in directing and managing Furniture and Furnishings design and specification packages for large-scale projects, such as the recent King Saud University Health Science Centers in Al-Hasa, Jeddah, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. She can be reached at marcia.knight@perkinswill.com.

Sara W. Hepler, RID, LEED AP, works in the Atlanta office of Perkins + Will as a healthcare designer. As a part of the design team on a recent health sciences campus, she helped develop an innovative and sustainable footwall design for a children’s hospital. She can be reached at sara.hepler@perkinswill.com.

References
BIFMA. (2009, 05 12). Commercial Furniture Industry Launches "Level". Retrieved 08 12, 2010, from levelcerified.org.

NSF. (2009, 03 10). http://www.nsf.org/business/newsroom/pdf/su_bifma.pdf. Retrieved 07 14, 2010, from Improve your Sustainability Profile.

Spoth, T. (2010, 05 10). GSA's goal: No environmental impact. Retrieved 08 17, 2010, from Federal Times.com.

Teknion. (2009). Synapse.pdf. Retrieved 08.16.2010, from teknion immediate release.

Past installments of "Designing for Health" include (click on title to access the full article):
Workspaces for Well-being
The Cultural Differences of Latin American Countries and Their Desire for American Influence
Light and Its Role in Patient Safety
Research-Based Client Communication
An Urban Clinic—Connecting with the Community
Patient and Staff Safety in Behavioral Health Facilities
A Harmonious Companionship—Rejuvenating State-of-the-Art
Leading by Design – A Place to Flourish

 


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