Herman Miller Designs Furniture for the Green Hospitals Movement

Herman Miller Designs Furniture for the Green Hospitals Movement

Herman Miller Inc. and its Nemschoff, Brandrud and Herman Miller Healthcare subsidiaries are introducing their latest green designs in hospital furnishings for patient, visitor and exam rooms.

The wall systems and furniture, which are showcased this week at the HealthcareDesign.10 conference in Las Vegas, feature recycled and recyclable content, few volatile organic compounds, and designs and finishes that are easy to clean, said Herman Miller Healthcare's Director of Product Management Joel Van Wyk and Nemschoff Senior Vice President Paul Nemschoff.

The furnishings are also designed to withstand heavy use without compromising looks for durability or environmental responsibility, Nemschoff and Van Wyk said in a phone interview with GreenerBuildings.com before heading to the conference that began this weekend and concludes today.

"Healthcare is arguably one of the most violent environments for furnishings," said Nemschoff. "Hospitals are open 24-7; they never close. Furniture really needs to be designed well from the beginning and be designed for long-term performance."

The Compass and Co/Struc modular wall-mounted furnishings and storage systems (pictured top and above right, respectively) allow hospitals to easily reconfigure components or move them elsewhere in a facility when rooms need to accommodate additional functions or are repurposed, Van Wyk said.

Typically, hospitals would rip out existing interiors and start afresh if they needed to make changes.

With the new offerings, said Van Wyk, "not only did we work hard to make sure we were using appropriate materials, we also designed the systems so that they are flexible and can be changed as needed," he said.

The recently released furnishings, which include Nemschoff chairs and the sofa (pictured right), are the latest examples of the company's efforts to embed environmental responsibility into products from their materials and manufacture to their use, disassembly and eventual recycling, Van Wyk and Nemschoff said.

The Durawrap finishes used in the Compass system, which went to market in September, are 99.9 percent PVC-free, said Van Wyk, who added that the line was developed according to the company's Design for the Environment protocol. The products contain as much as 58 percent recycled content and the non-wood portions are up to 37 percent recyclable; the company uses waste wood and the wood in recycled furnishings that come back to the firm as fuel, Van Wyk added.

Nemschoff, acquired by Herman Miller in 2009, also has a long history of environmental stewardship. Nemschoff best practices include emphasis on replaceable components in furnishings for more than 20 years, shipping with reusable blanketwrap for almost two decades and low VOC finishes for more than 10 years.

"We have been setting the benchmark for (finishes) for more than than decade," said Nemschoff. "That's a historical point of pride for us. Our finish epitomizes the reality that you can have an environmental finish and have better performance."

Most furniture finishes found in institutional settings don't last when very strong cleaners and disinfectants are used. What usually happens is "effectively they're wiping the finish off the chair," Nemschoff said.

The 2010 Healthcare Design Conference caps a year of several high-profile efforts by hospitals and healthcare providers to make their operations and supplies more energy efficient, less wasteful and more environmentally sound.

Images courtesy of Herman Miller Inc.