Remanufactured Furniture Trends
By Doug Pilgrim, LEED-AP ID+C
From the June 2014 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
Traditionally, facility managers (fms) have sought out remanufactured office furniture for its favorable price point. But increasingly, savvy buyers are considering remanufactured furniture for its inherent green attributes. When fms can meet all their custom requirements for a project, surpass green standards offered by a “new” manufacturer, and bring the project in substantially under budget, that’s a win across the board. It is good for the client (and the fm), good for the remanufacturer, and good for the environment.
Remanufacturers can supply fms with information that they can apply directly into their organization’s sustainability reporting. When evaluating remanufactured furniture, fms should ensure the process has been third-party verified on aspects such as energy savings, carbon dioxide avoidance, raw materials conservation, recycled content, and landfill diversion. This provides fms with the hard numbers they can include into their sustainability reporting, alongside financial reporting.
Capture LEED Points
With the proliferation of projects seeking LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), many fms look to ensure remanufactured furniture will address some of the certification requirements and earn points for those projects. Just as their new furniture counterparts do, remanufacturers can offer a variety of solutions; they too can address daylighting, controllable lighting, VOCs, FSC-certified wood, and rapidly renewable material credits.
But remanufacturers are also qualified to offer specific solutions. One of these solutions relates to waste management. Take for instance the MR2 credit (Construction Waste Management Credit) in the LEED rating system. The intent of the Construction Waste Management Credit is “to divert construction, demolition, and land clearing debris from landfill disposal; to redirect recyclable recovered resources back to the manufacturing process; and to redirect reusable materials to appropriate sites.”
LEED allows project managers to include existing furniture from their sites to be counted as construction waste. This waste is raw material for remanufacturers. They can take a client’s old furniture and offer them the highest credit for those products. That value can then be applied to the current project’s furniture needs, or banked for future purchases. This is a way to maximize the value of unwanted furniture assets and eliminate the economic and environmental costs associated with landfills and scraping, while at the same time acquiring one or more LEED points.
One credit that furniture remanufacturers can solely address is the Commercial Interior MRc3.2 credit; this is the “Materials Reuse—Furniture and Furnishings” credit. The intent of the credit is “to reuse building materials and products to reduce demand for virgin materials and reduce waste.” The requirement is for 30% of the total furniture budget is spent on salvaged, refurbished, or used furniture and furnishings. This provides the opportunity to get the maximum value from the furniture budget and earn LEED credit at the same time.
If project managers are pursuing the current LEED credit MR 4 for recycled content, remanufacturers can aid in obtaining up to two points. The credit focuses on the use of recycled content in the materials, furniture, and furnishings for the project.
One point is available for 10% recycled content on the total project, and another is available for 20% on the total project. In three separate projects, by re-indexing existing work surfaces and using remanufactured and no VOC powder coated panels, a remanufacturer was able to offer their customers products that were more than 70% toward this credit. This goes a long way in helping to reach the 20% overall for a project.
Another often overlooked advantage in using remanufactured furniture is when addressing the current Regional Materials credit, MR 5. Like those that manufacture new, remanufacturers can produce inventory within 500 miles of a client’s projects. And they can show that the materials were recovered from within 500 miles of the site. This aids fm in gaining an extra point, when they need 10% of their materials to be “harvested” within 500 miles of their location.
On The “level”
One of the recent developments over the last year is the recognition by the USGBC of the ANSI/BIFMA e3 Furniture Sustainability Standard. Under Pilot credit 80, project teams are allowed to earn an Innovation point for purchasing products that are certified under this standard. But what is that standard?
Over the years one of the dilemmas facing fms is which green standard(s) they should use to evaluate furniture remanufacturers. There are so many on the market (hundreds) that it gets confusing and difficult to make the right choice. The best choice is to use the ANSI/BIFMA e3 Furniture Sustainability Standard and level® certification. This is a multi-attribute, sustainability standard and third-party certification program for the furniture industry. It was created to deliver a highly open and transparent means of evaluating and communicating the environmental and social impacts of furniture products purchased for the built environment.
The ANSI/BIFMA e3 Furniture Sustainability Standard takes into account a furniture company’s social actions, energy usage, material selection, and human and ecosystem health impacts. The level certification addresses how a product is sustainable from multiple perspectives. This is a program that not only applies to new manufacturers but also to remanufacturers.
The level standard has three conformance thresholds. Products can be awarded a level 1, level 2 or level 3 compliance mark based on their contribution and points achieved. level 3 is the highest award a product can achieve and is similar to a Platinum ranking in the LEED rating system.
One of the major concerns when reviewing the sustainability attributes of a product is life cycle assessment (LCA). A key component of LCA is recyclability. What happens to a product when it is no longer needed in a facility? Remanufacturers want their product back after its useful life, so it can be remanufactured and transformed into new items. By offering clients credit for products that were purchased previously, remanufacturers offer an opportunity to close the loop. For instance, an fm could replace a cubicle farm with lower height collaborative work spaces, that could then be later exchanged for the next endeavor. When evaluating furniture choices, remanufactured items may be an ideal fit.
Pilgrim is national business development manager at Davies Office, a provider of remanufactured furniture and sustainable office solutions. With more than 30 years of experience in the office furniture Industry, he is a LEED AP and BIFMA level® faculty member.