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

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