Archive for May, 2013

Government Spends Stimulus Money on Office Furniture

This newly renovated National Park Service building at Grand Canyon National Park is on track to receive a platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

This newly renovated National Park Service building at Grand Canyon National Park is on track to receive a platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

In 2009, in the wake of the country’s economic crisis, the Federal Buildings Fund was given $4.5 billion to turn a slew of federal buildings green.

The goal of the fund was to modernize the nation’s infrastructure, reduce the federal government’s consumption of energy and water and increase the use of clean and renewable sources of energy.

Over the past four years, federal buildings and ports of entry across the country have been completing major renovations using these funds; among the most common improvements have been installing high-performance heating and air conditioning systems,new roofs and solar panels, upgrading lighting and taking water conservation measures (think installing new fixtures in the restrooms, cooling tower treatment and landscape watering improvements).

You might be surprised to learn that as part of these economy-boosting, green initiatives at least one federal administration purchased new office furniture (even the federal government knows how important eco-friendly furniture is).

According to the Washington Examiner, the GSA’s Public Building Service used a portion of its $4.7 million allotment from the Federal Buildings Fund to convert executive office suites to open-office workspace and add mobile workstations in its regional building in Washington, D.C.

PBS felt the renovations would help meet the GSA’s Zero Environmental Footprint goals which included eliminating its impact on the natural environment; use its government-wide influence to reduce the environmental impact of the federal government; minimize the consumption of energy, water and other resources; and use its purchasing power to drive the market to produce more sustainable products services and workspaces.

PBS also thought it could use its newly renovated green office space as an example to customers and visitors of what a Zero Environmental Footprint workspace might look like, according to a report from the Inspector General.

Why Go Green?

There are plenty of reasons the federal government would opt for an eco-friendly office. Here’s what they know about green offices that you should, too:

  • Buying furniture with lower VOC-coatings and adhesives will improve indoor air quality, resulting in happier, healthier employees
  • Employees like the idea of helping the environment, and working in a green office can help boost morale
  • You can make an impact on the future by helping to rescue an estimated 1.5 million desks and 8.25 million chairs from the landfill
  • Customers like working with businesses who use green practices.

How to Green Your Cubicle

What does eco-friendly office furniture look like? It starts with office design. By converting to an open space office, the Public Building Service was able to reduce the amount of floor space it needed for workstations, meaning they didn’t have to heat, cool and light as much square footage. What’s more, open offices allow more natural light into the building, which not only helps lower energy bills, but also improves employees’ attitude and productivity.

Beyond that, buying furniture that is made using sustainable practices or that is recycled is the perfect way to green your cubicle.

Here’s what to look for when buying new:

  • Furniture that’s made with recycled products
  • Furniture that’s recyclable
  • Furniture that’s made with rapidly renewable resources (like bamboo)
  • Furniture that’s PVC- and formaldehyde- free
  • Furniture that uses water-based finishes
  • Manufacturers that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council
  • Manufacturing that uses Low or no VOC adhesives or coatings
  • Lamps/lighting that uses efficient LEDs
  • Manufacturers that use renewable energy to help offset production (think wind, solar, hydro, etc.)

Of course, even better than buying brand-new office furniture is giving some old furniture a second chance at life. Rescue it from an eternity spent languishing in the landfill. Buying used and/or refurbished pieces from a place like Arnolds will help put the green in your cubicle and your wallet.

Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon NPS/Flickr

Trends Spotted at the International Furniture Fair

The annual International Furniture Fair (aka the Salon del Mobile) held in Milan, Italy is traditionally where furniture designers and dealers go for inspiration and trend watching. This year, however, rather than taking innovation to bold new places, many exhibitors showed restraint, updating some of their greatest hits rather than creating something totally new, according to the New York Times.

More than 300,000 visitors from 160 countries gathered in Milan April 9-14 for the chance to see how the world’s top designers envisioned the future of not just furniture, but also cars, fashion and technology. But with the economy in Europe still limping, many visitors said the mood at the famous expo was more austere and conservative.

Young designers and newcomers offered more wow-factor highlights, while old favorites opted for safer bets. Here’s a look at some of the trends spotted at this year’s fair:

Classics with a twist: Many established designers showcasing at the fair put a modern spin on more tried-and-true favorites. The classic Eames Hang-it-All coat rack was re-imagined in pastel colors, an old Jean Prouvé’s plywood-and-steel chair was translated into plastic, and the work of old masters like lighting guru Gino Sarfatti were reintroduced and updated with modern LEDs.

Poufs were all the rage at this year's fair, their economical and lightweight, making them a great option for an office wanting to create more collaboration space.

Poufs were all the rage at this year’s fair. They’re economical and lightweight, making them a great option for an office wanting to create more collaboration space.

Poufs: With the ongoing economic crisis, furniture designers have felt the pressure to make smaller pieces that don’t cost as much to transport overseas, according to the New York Times. In an effort to save money shipping, many designers created variations on this small, cushioned seat. At the IFF there were wool poufs, velvet poufs, knitted poufs and asymmetrical poufs.

With a trend toward more collaboration space and mobile offices, look for familiar home furnishings showing up at work.

With a trend toward more collaboration space and mobile offices, look for familiar home furnishings showing up at work.

Home furnishings at work: A gigantic, 13,000 square-foot exhibition by Jean Nouvel called “Office for Living” displayed several different visions of the modern office, many of which incorporated furniture that straddled the line between residential and office. Categories like home and work are becoming meaningless, Andrew Cogan, chief executive of Knoll, told the New York Times.

Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas of OMA was behind Knoll's Tools for Life line, which received a lot of buzz at the International Furniture Fair in Milan.

Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas of OMA was behind Knoll’s Tools for Life line, which received a lot of buzz at the International Furniture Fair in Milan.

Tools for Life: One specific piece that generated a ton of buzz was the “Tools for Life” collection designed for Knoll by OMA. The goal was to address the increasingly blurred line between work and home life by creating kinetic pieces that users could interact with in surprising ways. One piece, 04 Counter, consists of three horizontal bars that are stacked like a wall and can be used as a room divider, but that can also cantilever out, transforming it into a structure that invites people to stop, talk and collaborate. Other pieces like 05 Table and 06 Round Table can be raised and lowered allowing people to use them at different heights (anywhere from lounging to standing).

Marble: Although not usually associated with frugality, marble was one of the most popular materials on display this year. Most notable was Australian designer Jim Hannon-Tan’s 3 Signs nesting tables made from a single block of marble and Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola’s wall and floor coverings, shelving and tables made from 40 different types of repurposed marble that had been crushed during an earthquake that hit Northern Italy last year.

Shop for high-quality, on-trend used office furniture at Arnolds.

Photo courtesy of Domenico di Donna/Flickr
Photo courtesy of Marcin Wickery/Flickr

How to Optimize Space Planning and Office Furniture

Whether you’re designing an open office layout or a more traditional floor plan, chances are when shopping for office furniture, you want to maximize both productivity and space.

According to an article on PayScale.com, 90 percent of workers said that better workplace design and layout would have a positive impact on their performance. A 2008 survey by corporate architecture firm Gensler found that half of all employees would be willing to work an extra hour each day if they had better workspace, according to CBS News. If that makes your ears perk up, then read on. We rounded up nine ways to optimize any type of office:

When optimizing your office, look for design that gives all employees access to natural light and allows a mix of collaboration and privacy.

When optimizing your office, look for a design that gives all employees access to natural light and allows a mix of collaboration and privacy.

1. Research: The best way to determine what’s working and not working in your current office is to conduct a little (or a lot of) research, Gensler vice president Gervais Tompkin told CBS News. To gather information, shadow employees for several days, visit specific areas of the office (ie: conference rooms, break rooms, cubicles, etc.) every half hour to determine how the room is being used, and ask employees to track their own movements. Red flags for poor design might include things like workers meeting at a coffee shop because they can’t find meeting space in the office, cubicles that are always empty because workers are spending more time collaborating, employees spending large portions of their days in transit to meeting rooms, and employees bringing in their own desk lamps to avoid fluorescent lighting. When creating a new layout, try to address these red flags specifically.

2. Efficiency: One of the things you should find by tracking your employees movement is how much walking they have to do from place to place within the building or campus. If you’re finding that certain employees or departments are spending inordinate amounts of time in transit to places on other floors or across the building, consider keeping departments that work together regularly near each other. Likewise, if there are certain employees who are using the printer/copier/fax machines more often but have to hike to get to them, consider making this office equipment more centrally located.

3. 3D Planning: While there’s no way to actually experience what working in a redesigned office will be like, 3D design software helps you get . Take a virtual tour of what your office would look like with different types of office furniture. In addition to getting a feel for the aesthetics of different types of furniture, look for problem areas like oversized workstations that block aisles or box in employees.

4. Natural light: We know we say it a lot around here, but it bears repeating: Natural light improves workers’ moods, outlook, creativity and productivity so it’s worthwhile to make sure everyone has access to it. This means getting rid of the old notions that executives are the only ones who deserve an office with a window. Tear down walls on the perimeter and allow employees who spend most of their day at desks to bask in the sun. The returns could surprise you.

5. Optimized acoustics: One of the biggest complaints about modern open office layout is the noise levels. No matter what type of office floor plan you choose, it’s important to be aware of how sound carries and how it effects the productivity of your employees. Make sure to group noisier departments (ie: sales, customer service, etc.) away from those that do more focused work. Create sound barriers around loud office equipment, perhaps surrounding copiers or fax machines with filing cabinets or other office storage. Finally, use panel systems, carpeting and ceiling tiles can help absorb noise.

6. Mix of workspaces: Rather then devote one section of the office to meeting space and one section to employee workspace, spread out different types of work areas throughout, sprinkling small conference rooms for 2-4 person meetings and casual seating areas throughout to encourage collaboration.

7. Wiring: All the wires and cords coming out of your computers, phones and tablets make the office look like a technicolor-spaghetti factory exploded. One way to save space and improve organization is by finding furniture that can house all the wiring so it’s not tripping up walkways and getting tangled under desks.

8. Cluster Pods: No, they’re not the latest in Jedi air travel. These types of desking solutions (also called circular core stations or cluster workstations) allow businesses to maximize floor space while giving employees more privacy and a larger work surface (that’s a win, win, win!). If you’re not looking to be that futuristic, there are plenty of other desking options that help use your floor space more efficiently, especially if you want an open office.

9. Ergonomics: This isn’t just a way to prevent employees from getting carpal tunnel syndrome or save them from a few back aches. Making sure your office furniture is ergonomically correct will help improve employees long-term health, mood and productivity. To that end, make sure each employee has a high-quality office chair, has access to natural light (which will help reduce eyestrain) and has other tools like wrist rests on their ergonomically designed keyboard and anti-glare computer screens.

To find pieces that fit your optimized office while minimizing the damage to your bank account, be sure to visit Arnolds.