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Furniture / Furnishings

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Design Guidance

Overall Strategies

Furniture and furnishings play a large part in the indoor air and environmental quality of a space. Low-emitting furniture should be selected wherever possible in order to minimize any negative indoor air quality (IAQ) impact. Finishes and flame retardants for the furniture should come from low-emitting sources, and any hardwood should be third-party certified. Select simple furniture with fewer variations in materials. Metal fastenings or low-VOC adhesives should be used to construct the furniture rather than high VOC adhesives. Use of metal fastenings is preferred as it reduces the amount of VOCs emitted as well as allowing for the furniture to be recycled or partially reused at the end of it's useful life. Additionally, furniture should be ergonomically-designed to provide maximum comfort and convenience for the occupant.

Seating

Seating is a critical component of the furnishings. High quality ergonomically flexible seating options are paramount in supporting a high quality work environment for each employee. Select seating options that avoid brominated flame retardants, plasticizers, or PVC. Additionally, the seating should be recyclable for proper disposal at the end of its useful life.

Task Seating

Task seating is exceptionally important in open offices because of the amount of time employees spend here. It should hold a third party certification for low emissions, contain recycled content, and be locally manufactured if possible. Ergonomics are of primary concern with task seating, and care should be taken to source task seating that is highly adjustable to employees' bodies. 

Desk

Desk selection should be driven by sustainable materials. Refer to the compare section for guidance. Using casters will support the flexibility for future relocation. Also consider use of key board trays and computer monitor mounting arms to support ergonomics.

Casework / Millwork

Select casework and millwork that have sustainable attributes such as rapidly renewable, recycled content and sustainably managed forest material. Also look for products that are low-VOC and formaldehyde-free. In addition, consider ease of maintenance and durability when choosing any material.

Fabrics / Upholstery

Use durable and cleanable upholstery for soft-sided furniture, especially in rooms where coffee, drinks, or food may be present. Select upholsteries that have low VOC content and made of materials that do not significantly contribute pollution by their manufacturing.

Systems Furniture

Systems furniture is frequently used in open office areas because of its flexibility in being reconfigured and rearranged. It is generally comprised of metal, wood, and glass components. Care should be taken to source systems furniture that holds a third party certification for low emissions, contains a high percentage of recycled content, and is locally manufactured. Panels should contain glass or be kept to a low height to preserve access to daylight and views.

Best Practices

  • Use moveable, re-configurable furniture to maximizes functionality of space such as rolling/locking casters and moveable white boards.
  • Select ergonomically-designed furniture to provide maximum comfort and convenience for the occupants.
  • Use low-emitting furniture to protect indoor air quality.
  • Select third-party certified wood to ensure extraction is from a sustainably managed forest.
  • Evaluate sustainable attributes such as high recycled content and rapidly renewable materials when selecting furniture for the space.
  • Select furniture constructed with metal fastenings rather than high VOC adhesives to protect indoor air quality.
  • Use ENERGY STAR rated copiers, fax machines and other office equipment, they use less electricity.
  • Use double sided copy setting as default on all printing equipment.
  • Support recycling of toner cartridges and purchase of recycled content paper products.
  • Specify composite wood products that do not contain urea-formaldehyde as a binder or adhesive.
  • Use modular furniture systems that allow for reconfiguration and reuse.
  • Specify composite wood products that do not contain urea-formaldehyde as a binder or adhesive.
  • If reception seating is upholstered it should have highly durable commercial fabrics with 100,000 double-rubs and contain either recycled or bio-based fibers.
  • Furniture and wall panels with fabrics should be durable 100,000 or more double rubs.
  • Modular planning principles provide flexibility for future spaces that may be required due to changes in laboratory designation, equipment or departmental organization. Ensure laboratory piped services, HVAC, power and communication cables are delivered to each module in a consistent manner, and do not fix casework unless necessary (e.g., with sinks or fume hoods).
  • Before purchasing, check to see if existing furniture, perhaps in a surplus department, can serve the lab’s needs. Send unused furniture back for reuse.
  • Install metal wall bumpers help to minimize damage as equipment is wheeled down the hall.

Compare Furniture / Furnishings Options

EB = Existing BuildingsNC = New Construction and Major Renovation

Federal Requirements

Guiding Principles

  • Biobased Content ( Guiding Principles [EB, NC])
    Section: V. Reduce Environmental Impact of Materials

    Per Section 9002 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act (FSRIA), for USDA-designated products, specify products with the highest content level per USDA's biobased content recommendations. For other products, specify biobased products made from rapidly renewable resources and certified sustainable wood products. If these designated products meet performance requirements and are available at a reasonable cost, a preference for purchasing them shall be included in all solicitations relevant to construction, operation, maintenance of or use in the building. USDA's biobased product designations and biobased content recommendations are available on USDA's BioPreferred website.

  • Low-Emitting Materials ( Guiding Principles)
    Section: IV. Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality

    Specify materials and products with low pollutant emissions, including composite wood products, adhesives, sealants, interior paints and finishes, carpet systems, and furnishings.

  • Recycled Content ( Guiding Principles [EB, NC])
    Section: V. Reduce Environmental Impact of Materials

    Per Section 6002 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), for EPA-designated products, specify products meeting or exceeding EPA's recycled content recommendations. For other products, specify materials with recycled content when practicable. If EPA-designated products meet performance requirements and are available at a reasonable cost, a preference for purchasing them shall be included in all solicitations relevant to construction, operation, maintenance of or use in the building. EPA's recycled content product designations and recycled content recommendations are available on EPA's Comprehensive Procurement Guideline website.

  • Indoor Air Quality ( <span id="docs-internal-guid-f1e45d2e-bf74-2656-0c1b-777092dd54a0"><span>Guiding Principles [EB, NC]</span></span>)
    Section: IV. Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality

    Guiding Principles for EB & NC: Take actions to ensure optimal indoor air quality, including:
    (i) “Test for radon in buildings and mitigate high levels.”
    (ii) “Establish policy and implement a moisture control strategy to prevent building materials damage, minimize mold growth, and reduce associated health risks.”
    (iii) “Use low emitting materials for building construction, modifications, maintenance, and operations. In particular, specify the following materials and products to have low pollutant emissions: composite wood products, adhesives, sealants, interior paints and finishes, solvents, carpet systems, janitorial supplies, and furnishings.”
    (iv) Establish a policy and implement necessary protocols to protect indoor air quality during construction, renovations, repairs, and alterations, and during occupancy.
    (v) “Prohibit smoking in any form within the building and within 25 feet of all building entrances, operable windows, and building ventilation intakes.”
    (vi) “Use integrated pest management techniques as appropriate to minimize pesticide usage.”
    Determining Compliance: “Develop and implement an indoor air quality policy that considers the following: moisture control, use of low emitting materials and products with low pollutant emissions, necessary protocols to protect indoor air quality during construction and in the finished building, prohibition of smoking in any form inside and within 25 feet of all building entrances, operable windows, and building ventilation intakes, and use of integrated pest management techniques.”

  • Material Content and Performance ( Guiding Principles&nbsp;[EB])
    Section: V. Reduce the Environmental Impact of Materials

    From the Guiding Principles for EB: Procure construction materials, products, and supplies that have a “lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment over their life cycle when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose”, including:
    (i) “Use Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) section 6002 compliant products that meet or exceed EPA’s recycled content recommendations for building construction, modifications, operations, and maintenance.”
    (ii) “Per section 9002 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act (FSRIA), for USDA-designated products, use products with the highest content level per USDA’s biobased content recommendations.”
    (iii) “Purchase products that meet Federally Recommended Specifications, Standards and Ecolabels or are on the Federal Green Procurement Compilation.”
    (iv) Eliminate, to the maximum extent practicable, “ozone depleting compounds and high global warming potential (GWP) chemicals where EPA’s SNAP has identified acceptable substitutes or where other environmentally preferable products are available” during construction, repair, or replacement at the end of life.
    Determining Compliance: “Procure products that meet the following requirements where applicable: (A) RCRA section 6002, and (B) FSRIA section 9002, and (C) Federally Recommended Specifications, Standards and Ecolabels or are on the Federal Green Procurement Compilation for other green products, as appropriate, and (D) Avoid ozone depleting compounds and high GWP chemicals.”