Using pre-owned furniture in sustainable office design
However ‘sustainable’ newly manufactured furniture is, it inevitably has a larger carbon footprint than pre-owned furniture. We’ve been specifying odd pieces of secondhand furniture for a few years now, but increasingly we’re able to fit out offices with primarily used furniture. It’s not always easy and certainly takes a bit of creativity but the benefits for the planet, and often for the clients’ budget can be fantastic. We wanted to identify the barriers to more widespread uptake and inform the suppliers of what we need from them to complete a successful interior project.
Negative perceptions of pre-owned furniture
So much is about perception; when our client wants a new fit-out, they want it new. In the way that fashionistas adopt vintage, we need to demonstrate that pre-owned does not mean old, scruffy, dirty, unfashionable or sub-standard. Most of the pre-owned furniture we supply is immaculate. Some of it has scratches to the underside or virtually imperceptible fading. We quality-check every item and we know what is noticeable – I assure you, as designers, we are very fussy about appearance. Our suppliers would certainly never allow a soiled or worn item to go on sale. It takes a small leap of faith but you won’t be disappointed.
Choice & availability
Need forty identical desks? It might be a challenge when buying secondhand, but that’s where we need to get creative. Creating seamless schemes whilst utilising a range of furniture shapes and sizes is what we love doing. It doesn’t mean adopting an eclectic style, it just means a bit of clever design. We have a directory of used furniture suppliers and we can quickly check on their stock levels. With basic task chairs, we can source large numbers and with items like pedestals and lockers, which are often pretty generic, there will always be plenty available. Difficulties arise when looking to source specific colours, unusual models or specified brands but generally, those items are the minority in an office scheme. Keep an open mind, be flexible and be prepared to adapt at the last minute to get the pre-owned furniture your project needs.
Delivery & assembly
When we buy from one of our regular furniture suppliers/manufacturers, we know that the people installing will be able to assemble that piece in their sleep. They do it all the time. The same range of furniture, the same assembly systems, the same tools – it’s easy for them. Secondhand suppliers are different. They deliver and assemble different items every day and inevitably it’s going to take a bit longer and there may be a few more hiccups along the way. An emergency trip to a DIY store isn’t uncommon. However, the suppliers we work with are professionals and have the right attitude. The items need to look and function like they were straight off the production line and if that requires more time on site, then that’s what happens.
An unexpected advantage of buying pre-owned
Are you worried about the indoor air quality of your office? It’s becoming a key focus of healthy interiors and pre-owned furniture can help avoid the perils of off-gassing. The leaching chemicals from new plastics, MDF, adhesives and textiles are estimated to take one to two years to dissipate to the level believed to have no effect on human health. Pre-owned furniture is likely to have lost those potentially harmful VOCs and have little deleterious effect on your indoor air quality compared to buying new. In the WELL v.2 Building Standard pre-owned furniture can gain your project credits for just this reason. Just in case you needed another reason to choose pre-owned furniture!