US Army Corps of Engineers
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Army administrative office furnishings going green, sustainable

Published March 25, 2013
    Projects under way at Army installations are looking very different from the environment in which we work today. Forward-thinking installations are requesting furniture that is moveable and multi-purpose in lieu of systems cubicles, changing the appearance of Army administrative office spaces across the country. 
    The new workspace can be described as an open, collaborative arrangement, with low panels, task-focused lighting and natural finishes. There is lots of daylight. People are meeting informally, in lounge areas instead of conference rooms. Teams are conducting ad hoc meetings with tables pulled together in their shared space. The different look is a direct result of the focus on sustainability.
    This trend is growing since the passage of Executive Order 13514 in 2009. The Centralized Furnishings Program, managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, is adapting to incorporate more sustainability by design, making “greener” material and product selections that complement new spacial concepts and furniture layouts. Products that demonstrate reduced carbon footprint, earth-friendly characteristics and environmentally favorable solutions are continuously researched. This fiscal year, the Centralized Furnishings Program will achieve the target of 95 percent sustainable product procurements mandated by E.O. 13514. 
    Achieving the goal comes from a thorough understanding of the mandates and requirements as they apply to furnishings and a strategic approach toward achieving these goals. Using Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or High Performance Sustainable Buildings guidelines gets you part of the way, but offers minimal guidance for furnishings. To assist Army installations in achieving this goal, Huntsville’s Centralized Furnishings Program has prepared a “Guide for Sustainable Interiors” (published on EKO in September 2012 and available by request from the author) that targets three different audiences with varying needs:

USACE personnel, with building design and construction responsibilities, who provide this information to their consultants in order to select a broad range of items that fulfill requirements for sustainability in the development of interior design and furnishings specifications (different from LEED certification requirements).

Users and installation Directorate of Public Works staff who gain a general knowledge base, enabling them to procure products for minor renovations of interior spaces when professional interior design services are not available or used.

Commanders who have an understanding of the requirement, value and responsibility for the procurement of sustainable furnishings.

    The Centralized Furnishings Program staff is a knowledge source for customers to supplement the federal standards for increased sustainability. As part of a strategic approach, a current list of acceptable testing authorities and resource listings from the private sector is maintained. Specifications set minimum performance standards for each type of product to assist in meeting the 95 percent target. Requirements address lower energy consumption, rapidly renewable materials, low volatile organic compounds emissions and reuse of post-consumer materials.
    Some examples from projects include Certified Energy Star or Federal Energy Management Program designations for refrigerators, task lighting with compact fluorescent or light emitting diode lamps, and third-party certification programs that ensure low VOC products. Design specifications generally require aluminum, steel or natural finish materials, recycled plastic or certified wood content. By requiring these minimum standards, customers can be assured that the Centralized Furnishings Program continues to help them meet the Executive Order targets.

Deborah Neel

Release no. 13-022