Knoll president and COO Lynn Utter with Byron Morton, head of MMPI, which hosts the NeoCon show at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.
Knoll president and COO Lynn Utter with Byron Morton, head of MMPI, which hosts the NeoCon show at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.

CHICAGO - Lynn Utter, the dynamic president and COO of Knoll NA, formally assumed the presidency of a revitalized Business & Institutional Furniture Manufacturer's Association during its annual meeting at NeoCon 2014 in Chicago. The takes the reins of the Grand Rapids, MI-based BIFMA board through 2016, from izzy+ president  Chuck Saylor, who retires from the role.

"We are at a terrific point in our market. There is incredible change going on in the workplace," Utter told BIFMA members at a breakfast the contract furniture organization stages each year during NeoCon.

"We have clients who are craving a different way of working," Utter said. She urged members to contribute their business metrics to BIFMA's business surveys to help identify buying trends that can drive design.

"In this era of big data, for our industry, BIFMA is the best source of information." While some furniture manufacturers may be hesitant to surrender sales and production information, "Data helps us all, so we can target our businesses better."

Following Utter at the podium was Tom Reardon, executive director of BIFMA, who outlined progress on LEED, e3/level (BIFMA's green products rating framework) Health product Declaration, Life Cycle Assessments, industry outreach and education - priorities set for BIFMA by its board over the past two years.

On level, which was launched five years ago, Reardon reported that there are 60 furniture manufacturers certified under the program, with over 5,100 products lines. He noted that the latest Health Product Declaration and LEED v4 frameworks for greener and healthier environments will require adjustments in level, based on feedback at level strategy days held by BIFMA.

"We need to have level aligned more clearly closely with LEED and HPD, to assure level meets these needs," Reardon said.

A presentation on "Design - Leveraged,"  a research project commissioned by BIFMA in partnership with the IIAD interior design group. Produced by formal Wall St. Journalist Kevin Salwen, the report features case studies exploring the furnishing and workspace design usages of major brands - including Coca-Cola, Zappos, Twitter, Manpower and Quicken Loans.

Salwen said the brand mission of the company tends to drive interior space design needs, and that generally more open, adaptive and flexibly collaborative spaces are in demand.

"Only one quarter of office spaces are optimized for design, Salwen said, citing a Gensler study finding. Corporate executives' approach to interior space is affected by their three current priorities: real estate costs, finding and keeping talent, and establish an environment that fosters innovation.

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