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Furnishings aren’t one-dimensional. They incorporate many different materials, and each material has its own environmental and health issues. In GreenSpec we look for furnishings that don’t introduce harmful emissions into the space and are made from lower-impact materials and manufacturing processes.

Indoor environmental quality

The introduction of furnishings that off-gas hazardous chemicals can undo all the care given to using “clean” building materials. Furniture and furnishings incorporate many separate components, each of which can introduce pollutants. As a result, they can be a significant source of indoor air quality problems—from binders in wood composites such as particleboard, from finishes used on the products, from flame retardants used in foam cushions, and from adhesives used to assemble the products.

Products covered in fabric, such as upholstered furniture and workstations, can also collect dirt and airborne contaminants, releasing them later.

Each material has a unique environmental profile

GreenSpec looks at furniture materials based on their key environmental attributes. For example, upholstered products should reduce hazards from chemicals in fabrics and foams, such as halogenated flame retardants. Hardwoods—especially tropical hardwoods—used in furniture manufacture should be third-party certified according to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards to ensure that they were harvested in an environmentally responsible manner.

The attributes GreenSpec looks for include salvaged material, pre-consumer and post-consumer recycled content, use of agricultural waste, certified wood, rapidly renewable material, material that is natural or minimally processed, or uses alternatives to hazardous components.

Comparing the many environmental claims furnishings is challenging. Multi-attribute green product certifications like BIFMA’s “level” certification can provide an even playing field. However, you’ll have to dig deeper to get at a product’s tangible benefits.

Furniture

Furniture and casework is often selected based on aesthetics, ergonomics, durability, and cost. In addition to that, make sure that it doesn’t introduce harmful emissions into the space and look for lower-impact materials and manufacturing processes. Better choices in furniture are typically simple, made with a minimum of different materials, and designed for disassembly to encourage end-of-life recycling.

Modular, flexible, integrated interior architecture for office partitions and cubicles that incorporate such features as access flooring, walls, wiring and cabling, and lighting, can decrease building and remodeling time significantly.

The greenest product is often one that has already served one useful life. Where feasible, reusing or refurbishing existing furniture or selling it for reuse can save both financial and environmental resources. Also, choosing enduring design over a trendy look reduces the pace of replacement cycles, minimizing associated impact.

Countertops

Countertops have particular performance demands because of their high use and exposure to water, especially at the seams of sink cutouts and backsplashes. A variety of suitable countertop products with environmental advantages are available. Ceramic tile or natural linoleum surfaces also offer green countertop options.

Window treatments

Window treatments (also known as window attachments or retrofits) include storm windows, shades, blinds, awnings, films, and air sealing upgrades to existing windows. The selection of window treatments is a complex proposition, with almost two dozen window treatment options and attributes. GreenSpec lists high performance window treatments that significantly improve the thermal performance of existing windows.

Outdoor Furnishings

Outdoor furnishings are made from a wide variety of materials, each with its own environmental and health issues. Whether you're looking for seating and tables, trash and recycling bins, outdoor planters, or other site furnishings, choose durable, low-maintenance products made with lower-impact materials and manufacturing processes, which do not use hazardous preservative treatments or finishes. Outdoor furnishings are a good use for recycled plastic material, including commingled plastics for which there are limited applications.

Furnishings aren’t one-dimensional. They incorporate many different materials, and each material has its own environmental and health issues. In GreenSpec we look for furnishings that don’t introduce harmful emissions into the space and are made from lower-impact materials and manufacturing processes.

  • Ekla Home Furnishings
  • Ekla Home Furnishings
  • Ekla Home
  • Ekla Home Furnishings
    Ekla Home
    Ekla Home’s Organic sofas, chairs, and beds are made with FSC-certified wood; certified organic natural latex, wool, and cotton; and zero-VOC finishes. Ekla Home’s Organic textiles are from O Ecotextiles and most are either Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or Oeko Tex certified, according to the company. These furnishings contain no chemical flame retardants.
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  • KI Chairs with AirCarbon Plastic
  • KI Chairs with AirCarbon Plastic
  • KI
  • KI Chairs with AirCarbon Plastic
    KI
    KI, manufacturer of commercial furniture, offers chair lines made using a petroleum-free polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) plastic called AirCarbon. The raw materials used to make AirCarbon are taken from agriculturally sourced methane, thereby sequestering this powerful greenhouse gas. While the standard AirCarbon plastic is biodegradable, the plastic used for KI's chairs is engineered for durability and is not biodegradable. It is carbon-negative and recyclable, according to the company. The Strive and Grazie lines will be the first products to use AirCarbon. They are available as stacking chairs, stools, and in other styles. KI's conventional chairs are Indoor Advantage Gold certified for low emissions; certification is anticipated for KI chairs.
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  • FlexWave Light Shelf
  • FlexWave Light Shelf
  • Draper, Inc.
  • FlexWave Light Shelf
    Draper, Inc.
    Draper’s FlexWave Light Shelf is installed on windows to reflect natural light up onto ceilings, reducing glare and the need for artificial lighting. The curved, surface of FlexWave Light Shelf reflects low-angle light far into the building. They install quickly as individual units or as part of a longer continuous run, according to the company, and no tools are needed to rotate them down for cleaning.
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  • Livello Table
  • Livello Table
  • Teknion
  • Livello Table
    Teknion
    The Livello height-adjustable workstation integrates power sources and adjusts for sit-to-stand collaboration. The height adjustments range from 28"–46" and come in oval, boat, or rectangular shapes 72"–120" in width, and the tables can be nested for for storage. A concealed cable tray and electric panel manage wires and controls. Materials include 53% pre-consumer recycled content and are certified as low-emitting according to UL Greenguard Gold standards. The workstation is BIFMA level 2 certified.
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  • Visio Chair
  • Visio Chair
  • Teknion
  • Visio Chair
    Teknion
    Teknion's Visio office chair is made of 50% recycled materials (11% post-consumer) and intended to be almost completely recyclable at the end of its service life. The chair's seat, arms, back, and headrest are adjustable in height and tilt, and the chair is available in five fabric colors. Visio is certified to BIFMA Level 2 and UL Greenguard Gold and is Living Building Challenge Red List Free.
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  • Davies Office Refurbishing
  • Davies Office Refurbishing
  • Davies Office Refurbishing, Inc.
  • Davies Office Refurbishing
    Davies Office Refurbishing, Inc.
    Davies Office Refurbishing offers "as is" salvaged and refurbished office furniture from all major office furniture manufacturers. The company also offers rentals, a trade-in and banking program, powder coat finishes, and recycled content fabric options.
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  • Conklin Office Furniture
  • Conklin Office Furniture
  • Conklin Office Furniture
  • Conklin Office Furniture
    Conklin Office Furniture
    Conklin Office Furniture has been offering used office furniture since 1981. Used cubicles, desk sets and office chairs are sold in "as is" condition as well as refurbished condition. Options include 100% recycled fabric and 100% post-consumer recycled worksurfaces.
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  • Hamilton Sorter Modular Casework
  • Hamilton Sorter Modular Casework
  • Hamilton Sorter Company
  • Hamilton Sorter Modular Casework
    Hamilton Sorter Company
    Hamilton Sorter offers modular casework for a variety of commercial, healthcare, and educational applications. Its products are certified UL Greenguard Gold and designated Red List Compliant by the International Living Future Institute; they are also available with FSC-certified wood. Products include casework for lockers, laboratories, patient rooms, pantries, and more. A number of finishes and veneers are available, including powder coats and standard laminates. Marmoleum, stainless steel, and other coatings are available at additional cost.
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  • Somfy Systems Automatic Controls
  • Somfy Systems Automatic Controls
  • Somfy Systems Inc.
  • Somfy Systems Automatic Controls
    Somfy Systems Inc.
    Somfy Systems manufactures a number of different systems to motorize window coverings and help regulate solar exposure. Their products can be applied to retractable awnings, rolling shutters, exterior screens, and interior shades. The systems are programmable and remote controllable, and can also be controlled via an Internet-based interface. Research suggests that motorized and automated window coverings significantly improve the energy performance of adjustable window coverings, in both homes and commercial buildings.
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  • Temperfect Office Chair
  • Temperfect Office Chair
  • Tempronics
  • Temperfect Office Chair
    Tempronics
    The Temperfect office chair from Tempronics can provide an energy-efficient alternative to space heaters in allowing office occupants to control individual thermal comfort. Powered by a low-voltage DC power supply, the chair uses semiconductors embedded in foam cushions to move heat toward or away from users at the turn of a dial. The chair’s maximum power draw is 80W while cooling and 60W while heating, and Tempronics claims that providing the chairs to all occupants of an office can allow temperature setpoints to be expanded to 61°F in winter and 84°F in summer for HVAC energy savings. The base chair, prior to the addition of the semiconductor pads, is Greenguard certified and contains 35% recycled material. The Temperfect chair is made in Mexico and carries a two-year limited warranty.
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  • SlimLite Porcelain Panels
  • SlimLite Porcelain Panels
  • Daltile
  • SlimLite Porcelain Panels
    Daltile
    Daltile’s SlimLite is a large-format porcelain panel that can be used for exterior cladding, walls, countertops, and other solid surfaces. Imported from Italy, these panels have all the performance characteristics of porcelain: they are strong, dense, nonporous, and impervious to moisture. They are also chemical resistant; resist scratching, staining, fading, and cracking; and are not affected by freeze-thaw cycles. Though these panels take significant energy to produce, they should have a very long service life and require minimal maintenance. SlimLite panels are thin—approximately 1/8" (3.5 mm) thick—and flexible, and are available in sizes up to 3' x 10' and more than 40 color and texture options.
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  • Plane Porcelain Panels
  • Plane Porcelain Panels
  • StonePeak Ceramics
  • Plane Porcelain Panels
    StonePeak Ceramics
    Plane from Stonepeak is a large-format porcelain panel that can be used for exterior cladding, walls, countertops, and other solid surfaces. Imported from Italy, these panels have all the performance characteristics of porcelain—they are strong, dense, nonporous, and impervious to moisture. They are also chemical-resistant; flexible; resist scratching, staining, fading, and cracking; and are not affected by freeze-thaw cycles. Though these panels take significant energy to produce, they should have a very long service life and require minimal maintenance. These ¼"-thick (6 mm) panels are available in sizes up to 5' x 10' and come in three colors—white, silver, and Calacatta Vena, a marble simulation printed onto them.
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  • Laminam Porcelain Panels
  • Laminam Porcelain Panels
  • Crossville Inc.
  • Laminam Porcelain Panels
    Crossville Inc.
    Crossville’s Laminam is a large-format porcelain panel that can be used for exterior cladding, walls, countertops, and other solid surfaces. Made in Italy, these panels are strong, dense, nonporous, and impervious to moisture. They are also chemical resistant and flexible; resist scratching, staining, fading, and cracking; and are not affected by freeze-thaw cycles. Though porcelain takes significant energy to produce, the panels should have a very long service life and require minimal maintenance. Laminam panels are thin—approximately 1/8" (3.0 mm) thick—and are available in sizes up to 3' x 10' and in more than 50 color and texture options.
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  • Sportworks Bicycle Racks
  • Sportworks Bicycle Racks
  • Sportworks Northwest, Inc.
  • Sportworks Bicycle Racks
    Sportworks Northwest, Inc.
    Sportworks offers a range of secure, space-efficient, and convenient steel bike racks. As is common in steel building products, the steel contains pre-consumer recycled content. Included in Sportworks offerings is an Living Building Challenge Red-List Free, scratch-resistant model with an EPDM bumper. Sportworks offers a one-year warranty against manufacturing defects.
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  • Suberra Cork Surfacing Materials
  • Suberra Cork Surfacing Materials
  • ECO Supply Center
  • Suberra Cork Surfacing Materials
    ECO Supply Center
    Suberra, distributed by ECO Supply Center, is a high-density cork surface material that can be used for residential or commercial work surfaces or countertops. Made from pre-consumer cork granules and 0.8% polyurethane binder, Suberra can withstand temperatures of up to 350°F and, because it is homogenous, can be sanded down or repaired if damaged. It is available in 1-¼"-thick, 25-½"-wide, 36-½"-long slabs, but the edges typically require trimming in order to have a 25" x 36" finished dimension. Suberra typically requires additional support when used as a countertop or similar surface, but the slabs can be glued together to form clean seams. Suberra is also available in 6-1/4"-thick slabs that can be for use in furniture, sculpture, and other applications.
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