Using newly developed emissions standards, HON becomes the first office furniture manufacturer to achieve Indoor Advantage Gold certification.

Not content to rest on its laurels, office furniture giant The HON Company has taken its reputation as a “green” manufacturer one step further — and achieved gold.

HON recently made history when it became the first furniture company to have its products certified by Scientific Certification Systems’ Indoor Advantage Program, in accordance with the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers’ Assn.’s X7.1 Furniture Emission Standards.

SCS’ Indoor Advantage Gold certification is awarded to products which conform with two levels of emissions standards: (1) The USGBC LEED-CI Credit EQ4.5 Option B (systems furniture and seating) and BIFMA x 7.1 low-emitting office furniture and seating; and (2) the State of California 01350 Special Environmental Requirements and the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS). The Indoor Advantage Gold program uses, as a basis, the Chronic Reference Exposure Levels set by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, as opposed to threshold levels determined through total volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and threshold limit values (TLVs).

The Advantage Gold certification is just the latest achievement in HON’s longstanding commitment to environmental stewardship. HON initiated its environmental policy — Corporate Pollution and Waste Elimination Standard Practice Instruction — back in March 1990.

Since then, the success of HON’s efforts has been measurable. In recent years, HON has been awarded both the GSA’s Evergreen Furniture and Furnishings Award and the U.S. EPA’s Pollution Prevention Award. The company also has been recognized numerous times for manufacturing excellence, including being named one of the 10 Best Manufacturing Facilities in North America.

Wood & Wood Products talked recently with Mindy Billingsley, HON business manager, about the company’s latest achievements in combining its manufacturing efforts with a commitment to environmental stewardship.

Wood & Wood Products: The HON Company’s Corporate Pollution and Waste Elimination Standard Practice Instruction stresses the use of recycled materials in products, and designing products so that the “manufacturing process has minimal environmental impact.” How exactly does The HON Company’s manufacturing process differ from that of another manufacturer?

Mindy Billingsley: The HON Company practices lean manufacturing, which seeks to eliminate waste in every form. The process employs “right-sized” equipment and techniques to minimize the amount of energy and material required for the task.

W&WP: What types of recycled materials are typically used in HON products?

Billingsley: The HON Company is always looking for new ways to incorporate recycled materials into our products. Right now, we use a [large percentage] of recycled materials including (and their average percentage of recycled content):

• 91% for fabric

• 25% for steel

• 74% for corrugated

• 70% for extruded aluminum

• 100% for cast aluminum

We feel that these amounts represent the best balance of strength and appearance without compromising performance.

W&WP: What was done differently in the manufacture or material usage that enabled the F3, 7800 and Pillowsoft seating lines and Accomplish line of classroom furniture to achieve the SCS Indoor Advantage Program certification?

Billingsley: The materials and manufacturing process used for these particular lines of seating do not differ greatly from any of the seating lines in our offering. The HON Company has made a commitment to certify all of our new products through the SCS Indoor Advantage Program, and as a new offering, the F3 seating line was tested to support this goal. We also tested the popular 7800 and Pillowsoft seating lines and intend to follow with additional testing on other lines.

W&WP: One of the sticking points with many manufacturers regarding the LEED certification has been that credit was not given for products containing urea-formaldehyde, such as composite panels. Of the HON products that received certification, what percentage was made from wood or composite panels?

Billingsley: USGBC/LEED does not certify products, but rather buildings and workspaces receive credits for making environmentally responsible choices in material and equipment. We measure components in terms of percentage weight of the entire unit. For our products that are currently certified, the percentage weight of wood material can vary greatly. For example, metal casegoods obviously contain no wood at all, while our Accomplish desks and our seating lines can have as much as 50 percent wood by weight.

W&WP: In addition to providing a compliance path for achieving LEED EQ Credit 4.5, what effect do you see the SCS Indoor Advantage Program certification having on the marketing/sale of these HON products? With this new certification, will these products be marketed differently from other HON products and/or will the marketing drive be targeted to architects, consumers or whom?

Billingsley: All of our customers are interested in our green initiatives, specifically as they relate to the various markets, such as the education, healthcare and government industries. As the first furniture manufacturer to receive the Indoor Advantage Gold certification from SCS, The HON Company is able to demonstrate to our customers that we’re a leader in this category.

W&WP: Is there a premium/higher cost associated with these green products? If so, approximately how much higher is it over that of a similar, non-certified product?

Billingsley: The HON Company does not classify any of our products as “green.” Instead, we focus on smart material choices and lean manufacturing efforts, which result in products that are environmentally friendly without added costs. However, there are certain categories of materials that do have a cost associated with their “greener” story. An example of this is 100 percent recycled textiles which tend to be a grade or so higher than their non-recycled counterparts.

W&WP: What has customer response been to these new certified products?

Billingsley: Customer response to our new certification program has been very positive, particularly when it is a LEED project. The Indoor Advantage certification is the latest, most stringent compliance path for achieving LEED credit in the Environmental Quality performance area. Indoor Advantage certification specifically addresses LEED EQ Credit 4.5.

W&WP: Are plans underway to have additional HON products Indoor Advantage Gold certified? Why or why not?

Billingsley: It is The HON Company’s goal to target Indoor Advantage Gold for all new products. Furthermore, we will continue to work with our component suppliers to make material improvements that allow current products to achieve certification as well.

Several HON products have received the SCS Indoor Advantage Gold certification, including the Pillowsoft seating line, pictured here.

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