Herman Miller Makes Strides in Design for the Environment Initiative

Herman Miller Makes Strides in Design for the Environment Initiative

a href=http://www.greenbiz.com/frame/1.cfm?targetsite=http://www.hermanmiller.c... Miller, Inc., a provider of office furniture and workplace consulting services, has announced that it’s making measurable progress in its efforts to design and manufacture more environmentally responsible products, primarily through its Design for the Environment (DfE) project launched last year.

"We're seeing a growing amount of interest in sustainability both inside and outside of the company," said Scott Charon, commodity manager in New Product Development at Herman Miller. "Stockholders, members of the A&D community, and customers are asking more questions about product lifecycles, recyclability, and product disassembly. At some point in the future we may not have a choice regarding how we handle these issues, so we're taking advantage of the choices we can make now."

Herman Miller’s DfE team was charged with three deliverables: the development of an environmental rating tool for new products; the creation of a materials database that prioritizes existing environmentally friendly materials and spurs the development of new ones; and the establishment of disassembly guidelines and related training procedures.

According to the company, all of these goals have been achieved, with associated training procedures now in progress. The DfE team currently is focused on sharing its findings with designers, suppliers, product development groups, and others who participate in the design and manufacture of Herman Miller products.

The DfE team works closely with McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC), a design firm dedicated to revolutionizing the design of products and services worldwide. William McDonough and Dr. Michael Braungart founded MBDC in 1995 to promote and shape what they call the "Next Industrial Revolution" through the implementation of eco-effective design principles. In addition to Herman Miller, the firm's clients include Ford Motor Company, S.C. Johnson, and Nike.

"MBDC has been instrumental in helping us develop our product assessment tools while providing a good reality check for our efforts," Gabe Wing, chemical engineer and DfE team member explained. "They are strong advocates for eco-friendly design, and that makes it compelling for others to join in."

Despite the challenges the office furniture industry faces in today's uncertain economy, Herman Miller environmental affairs manager Paul Murray affirmed that the company's senior management remains steadfast in its endorsement of the DfE initiatives. "Support from the top has never been in question," he said. "Herman Miller has long advocated product durability, longevity of design and other factors that tie directly to our environmental commitment."

Charon acknowledged that designing more products with earth-friendly materials and recyclability in mind presents its share of challenges. "A lot of work remains to be done, and we won't suggest we have all the answers when it comes to sustainability," he said. "But we feel we're moving in the right direction while staying true to Herman Miller's legacy of responding to change through design and innovation."