The move acknowledges the ongoing frenzy world-wide when it comes to the design and production of commercial furniture, especially high-end ergonomic seating and workstation systems.

Many of the outcomes have been noteworthy in terms of environmental improvement with specific eco features related to more benign, low energy materials, as well as design for durability, disassembly and recycling.

Despite these positive achievements across the sector in Australia, Europe and North America, there still remains a genuine obstacle when it comes to a straightforward comparison between products and their respective environmental claims.

Specifiers and end-users of environmentally improved commercial furniture are still being unnecessarily challenged with competing environmental claims in the absence of widely supported guidelines, certifications and standards.

Unlike energy star ratings for major appliances, there is no trusted or tested environment-related standard for commercial furniture. Hopefully this is about to change.

The Australasian Furnishing Research and Development Institute, AFRDI, is demonstrating industry leadership and commitment by funding the development of a sustainability standard for commercial furniture.

As an independent, not for profit technical organisation serving buyers and sellers of furniture in Australia and New Zealand, AFRDI has acknowledged the importance of maximising environmental performance and furniture sustainability through sensible and realistic measures that can assist furniture manufacturers and suppliers to reduce life cycle environmental impacts while also providing buyers and specifiers with a coherent standard that can deliver clarity in performance and associated claims.

The standard development process will consider a wide range of environmental impact areas relevant to the furniture life cycle – from materials selection and manufacture, through to use, reuse and end-of-life management.

The project will also investigate performance considerations in relation to environmentally preferable materials selection, cleaner production, waste avoidance, resource recovery and the relevance of reducing overall embodied energy and associated greenhouse gas emissions.

Given the environmental significance of design and manufacturing decisions, as well as end-of-life management for commercial furniture, the sustainability standard will focus on these areas as a priority.

An essential part of the project will involve consultation with relevant stakeholders including furniture designers and manufacturers, specifiers and procurement specialists.

AFRDI says it understands the environmental, economic and social value of being inclusive of ideas and views from a diverse range of stakeholders as it develops the standard.

Dialogue will be established with other organisations also working on product oriented environmental initiatives to help ensure compatibility and relevance.

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