As part of the continuing effort at Steelcase to introduce environmental product innovations, the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems has conducted a series of life cycle assessment (LCA) demonstration projects. These projects showcase the methods, tools, and results application of LCA for office furniture products. This document provides detailed methods, analysis and results relating to the most recent project – an LCA study of three products.
The three products examined in this study were:
1. Siento chair with polished aluminum base, T-arms, and leather upholstery
2. AirTouch height adjustable table, 30”x 42” straight
3. Garland double pedestal desk with cherry finish, cove edge, left pedestal: file/file, right pedestal: box/box/file
In partnership with Steelcase engineers, the CSS team collected data on product composition, manufacturing processes, distribution and ultimate product disposal. This information was used to construct individual product models in the LCA modeling software SimaPro. The SimaPro model served to combine data from Steelcase engineers with information on materials production and standard processes, and ultimately to calculate LCA results.
Results were compiled in six environmental impact categories: energy resource consumption, global warming potential, acidification potential, criteria pollutants, solid waste, and total material consumption.
In addition, the individual product system results were considered on a per kg basis and normalized to inform observations on the relative importance of material selection verses total product weight. The figure below highlights the differences between the three product systems by showing the results per kg of finished product mass normalized on a scale from 0-1.
The role of specific system parameters in the overall results were further investigated in a sensitivity analysis. Particleboard resin content and extruded aluminum recycling rate were found to be the most significant parameters in determining overall system performance.
Steelcase continues to make significant progress in identifying new opportunities to reduce environmental impacts in both their products and facilities. The judicious use of life-cycle assessment will serve to further this goal while providing a scientifically sound, defensible basis for development of environmental product declarations. Hopefully, LCA will continue to bridge the design, engineering and marketing communities leading to products that inspire customers while reducing environmental impacts.