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Life Cycle Assessment for Enhancing Product Environmental Performance


Improvement in the environmental performance of office furniture products is a challenging undertaking, due to the diversity of product lines, demanding aesthetic and durability standards, and a customer base with limited knowledge of environmental tradeoffs.  This study will provide a comprehensive view of the life cycle environmental profile of three Steelcase office furniture products.  This assessment will provide the foundation for meaningful consideration of product design alternatives and communication with stakeholders both internally and externally.  Overall the long-term objective of the Steelcase-University of Michigan partnership should be the development and deployment of life cycle based tools for enhanced business decision making.  The specific objectives of the Phase I activity are to:

1.    Complete a streamlined life cycle assessment for three Steelcase products consistent with ISO 14040 standards
2.    Quantify product environmental performance in easy to understand product information sheets to support environmental declarations
3.    Highlight product environmental attributes and opportunities for design improvement
4.    Establish streamlining approaches for future products

The project team will also work closely with Steelcase in support of efforts to integrate life cycle assessment into lean environmental businesses processes.  Additional topics that could be examined in further research include an exploration of design alternatives and tradeoffs and the strategic integration of life cycle information into other business areas (e.g., purchasing).

Three product categories have been selected for the Phase I research based on initial conversations with Steelcase representatives.  Additional discussion between CSS and Steelcase will be useful in finalizing the proposed list.  The selected products address an immediate need for product information, provide valuable examples for development of streamlined approaches, and represent product types likely to have need for future LCA.  The three products recommend for the initial investigation are:
1.    Slim chair
2.    AirTouch height adjustable table
3.    Wood casegoods product, to be identified

Steelcase Inc
Research Areas
Food Systems and Consumer Products
Consumer Products & Packaging