For many business owners, refurbished office cubicles represent the absolute last choice for furnishing their offices. These days, it doesn’t have to be.
Refurbished office cubicles are not just cheaper than brand-new, they’re often not much different from brand-new.
It’s not a small benefit, as office managers seek to balance cost, function, and appearance. These days, refurbished office cubicles are the best way to reach that balance.
As used cubicles cost almost half of its new counterparts, it wins hands-down in the price department. As function goes, refurbished office furniture performs as well as brand-new, so office managers suffer no sacrifice in that area.
And as far as appearance is concerned, only the most eagle-eyed of office workers will be able to spot the difference between refurbished and brand-new.
Non-green offices and green offices alike share the same water mains, electric lines, phone cables, and roads – living off the grid is no alternative for most businesses, that’s for sure!
But the line between green offices and their wasteful counterparts is a thin one – and it has to do with how much energy your office expends in any given day, and how much your office has done to conserve the energy it uses, or to minimize its use.
According to the US Department of Energy, total energy consumption in an average office breaks down by the numbers:
Thermostat/Air conditioner, 39% of energy consumption. Keeping cool (or warm) is a positive energy monster – but you can’t freeze your employees to death, can you? Green offices do their part for their employees and the environment by changing roof coatings and insulation to protect against heat and cold, or by setting the thermostat a little closer to outside ambient temperatures – to a cooler setting in winter, or a warmer setting in summer.
Lighting, 30% of energy consumption. By opening the office windows to let natural light in, or by switching light bulbs to the compact fluorescent type, offices can save up to eighty percent of the lighting energy they use.
Office equipment, 16% of energy consumption. Real green offices make sure that office equipment use is conserved and minimized. This includes switching idle computers off and converting monitors to power-friendly LCD or LED monitors.
Water heating, 9% of energy consumption. Like thermostats, water heating can be conserved, too – reducing water temperature to 120 degrees, for example, saves up to 18% of total energy use. Low-flush toilets can help reduce energy consumption even more, as they save up to 50% over more old-fashioned commodes.
An eco friendly office is easy enough to commit to, if one just sticks to superficial environmental advice (save water! Print on both sides of the paper! Unplug that PC after use!). But it takes a real green warrior to meet environmental targets using eco friendly office furniture.
The government has been helpful enough, providing green furniture standards that provide a standard to live up to. The EPA in particular offers procurement guidelines to help you select eco friendly office furniture that lives up to the government’s high standards.
New furniture, then, can be selected using the EPA’s guidelines, which call for FSC-certified wood, water-based or bio-based glues for laminated surfaces, and recycled materials where possible.
New eco-friendly office furniture can also be bought based on their recyclability in the future – tables and chairs made of plywood, steel, chipboard, and plastics can be recycled easily at a processing plant, while compact laminates and MDF are more difficult to recycle in the future.
Go refurbished/remanufactured, if that’s an option for your office – not easy if you have a reputation to uphold, but getting easier due to the glut of furniture (you can thank the recession for bankrupting a significant number of businesses, freeing their relatively pristine furniture for use in the market).
Take the furniture our guys at Cubicles.com are ready to offer you – lower-cost, recycled workstations recreated from used cubicles – processed with eco-friendly procedures to replace and recycle the parts that can still be used.
Cubicles.com uses low-VOC coatings and recycled fabrics in its remanufactured cubicles. They look brand new, but come having already made most of its impact on the environment!
Buy local. Even if your furniture demands can’t live up to the earlier two points, you can still go green with your office furniture, simply by buying from a supplier nearby. By buying local, you cut down on the carbon emissions created by transporting your new furniture from point A to point B.
You know the green office furniture trend has hit its stride when even Chinese manufacturers are getting in on the act. For example, the Aurora Group (headquartered in Guangzhou) has conceptualized an “eco office” concept that it’s promoting in major Chinese cities.
The showcase for the “eco office” idea is Aurora’s X-series chairs, which are made of cloth dyed with EU-certified environment-friendly pigment, and are 80% recyclable.
Which only goes to show that green office furniture is getting much easier to procure. Part of it is due to increased demand: more government agencies are asking for it, more corporations are figuring green office furniture to be a useful PR angle.
So manufacturers have stepped in to fill the need: more furniture on the market is crafted from recycled material, constructed from sustainably harvested resources, and use eco-friendly materials.
Consider remanufactured office furniture, which today comes in practically the same quality as brand new. When old furniture undergoes the remanufacturing process, its metal surfaces are cleaned and repainted (often with low-VOC coatings that limit toxic emissions into the atmosphere), its fabrics are replaced and recycled, and even packaged with recycled material.
Also, recycled materials are making a strong showing in new furniture as well. Recycled fabrics, recycled steel, even recycled soda bottles – these are all weapons in the furniture manufacturer’s struggle to lower costs and gain a higher green profile.
Finally, there’s sourcing renewable materials, which companies like Herman Miller and the Knoll Group do their best to lead in. The former announced that they were using cherry and walnut wood for their high-end furniture, instead of harder-to-replace woods like mahogany and rosewood. The latter is checking up on its suppliers’ sustainable practices and sourcing reclaimed lumber for its product line.
With more customers prioritizing eco-friendliness over lower cost, the furniture industry is responding to a demand for green office furniture that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. (We’re surely no slouches in this department – our remanufactured office equipment category is one of Cubicles.com’s top sellers.)
Get beyond the hype of the eco-friendly office, and you’ll find a workplace that tries to minimize its own environmental footprint. The ideal green workplace also puts systems in place that encourage their tenants/workers to do the same.
Like many ideals, this is harder than it looks. Very few workplaces meet the gold standard of the ultimate eco-friendly office, usually by meeting the tough standards set by the US Green Buildings Council through their LEED program. Which green offices made the cut?
Architectural firm Perkins + Will constructed their Seattle office with lofty green standards in mind – lighting that’s almost 50% more efficient than comparable spaces, water savings of up to 40%, and 80% of building materials sourced within 500 miles of the site.
The office’s design is plenty innovative, what you’d expect in a green design pioneer like Perkins + Will – a “solid white box” fixes the office’s center, from which the open design studio radiates. The box contains the conference rooms and service spaces; the rest of the office uses natural daylight and open furniture arrangements, all the better to encourage closer work between colleagues.
Perkins + Will’s eco-friendly office cost $1 million to build, covering 12,000 square feet in a six-story brick building. It achieved LEED Platinum on October 2006, the first platinum-certified project in Washington State.
Over in San Francisco, Google’s Bay area office pulls out all the stops to earn its LEED gold certification. Past the spectacular views of the Bay Bridge, Google’s workplace utilizes natural light to decrease energy costs (by making artificial lighting superfluous).
Building waste was minimized, through the re-use of partition walls, door assemblies, and furniture. New material used in construction was mostly sourced from local, sustainable sources.
What was thrown away was recycled – up to 64% of it, by Google’s estimate. Efficient water facilities were installed in bathrooms and kitchens. And indoor air quality was preserved by using low-VOC paint, adhesives, furniture, and sealants.
For Google, this kind of attention to detail isn’t a fluke – it’s company policy. In the following video, an employee chronicles the many steps that Google takes to earn its “ultimate eco-friendly office” stars:
The new hotel design will be available in April 2010, implemented on the Courtyard Settler’s Ridge property in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As Marriott learns from the prototype’s example, more green hotels will be built as part of a tenfold expansion planned over the next five years.
Marriott claims it can save up to $100,000 in construction expenses, and reduce design time by six months. The green hotels built using the template will use up to a fourth less energy and water compared to the average hotel. (read more)
Office furniture that’s been around the block doesn’t usually generate a lot of consumer demand. But what about office furniture that’s been recycled from classic scooters?
Watch out for Spanish design house Bel & Bel’s new creations in your local cubicle farm: super-classy hand-made leather office chairs, made primarily from Italian Vespa scooters. The Vespa’s front shield creates a perfect silhouette for an office chair back rest – combined with a few key spare parts, these make office chairs that make an incredible visual impact.
Also, given the variety of colors that old Vespas came in, you’ll probably find a Vespa chair that suits your office, no problem.
In the old days, Vespa scooters were a symbol of carefree Continental lifestyles, immortalized in movies from the Sixties. But the Vespa’s air-cooled two-stroke engine is dirty and bad for the environment; the proliferation of cheap two-stroke cycles around the world accounts for much of the air pollution in developing countries.
“In the cities of many developing countries, the pollution is horrific,” says acting director of the Energy Efficiency Center at the University of California at Davis Daniel Sperling. “Two-stroke engines are a big part of the problem.”
But Vespa is still tres cool for so many retro-maniacs. Sure, old Vespas kill the Earth a little for every mile they run, but that’s no reason to hate them completely, right? So Bel y Bel made the leap from Vespa scooters to office furniture – rejuvenating Vespa retro cool and rehabilitating its polluting former life at the same time.
The era of the green office was supposed to bring us more eco-friendly business processes, recycled office furnishings, and smaller footprints overall. But we’ve yet to find a way to integrate junk mail into the era of the green workplace.
“Somehow, they think a sale offer coming through the mail — as opposed to a newspaper, a magazine, TV, radio or the Internet — is a bad thing. Ads pay for the Internet, as well as broadcast TV and radio programs,” [Potter] said during a speech at the National Press Club. “So, too, ad mail helps pay for universal mail service in America.”
Herman Miller walks the talk where the green office is concerned.
By 2020, the company plans to minimize solid, air, and water emissions; establish a LEED silver certification for its buildings; use 100% green energy; and sell 100% DfE-approved products.
This builds on a proud Herman Miller company tradition of sustainable design and construction – its headquarters was recognized as one of the first “green” office and manufacturing complexes in the U.S., with corresponding high numbers in employee productivity.
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