A South African Green First
The details matter. Office furniture may not be the most obvious place to start when it comes to trying to improve your environmental footprint, but given the amount of office furniture we buy and use, the impact can be huge.
So it’s good to see one local supplier walking the talk. Formfunc Studio is a Lanseria-based company specialising in improving office environments through ergonomic design, most notably as the African distributor for Humanscale-branded products. It has just bagged a top award for environmental design too. Formfunc has attained the first six-star Green Star Interior v1 rating in South Africa for an office and distribution centre.
We caught up with Kim Kowalski, director and co-founder of Formfunc, to find out how and why.
Why go for the Green Star rating?
It was imperative that our office environment went beyond just an ergonomic solution; it had to also reflect our brand and our philosophy of recreating workspaces that are simpler and healthier for our employees to work in.
What does this really mean?
The word sustainable should not just exist as a buzz word anymore. As a business it was vital for Formfunc to show our commitment to the environment by actually “doing” something actionable and visible. Achieving the international standard of a green star rating was a means to do this. The six-star rating was always our goal.
Furthermore, our core or primary value is to promote health and wellness within the workplace through ergonomic solutions, but it doesn’t stop there; it has to incorporate the “actual” environment that our employees work in.
What did it take to achieve the rating?
To attain this exclusive international rating, the project consultants along with IT solutions provider, Aethyr IT, and design specialists, Mask.Design, and other contractors had to assess every element of the fit-out and scope of work to ensure that it would score a rating of between 75 and 100 credits in accordance with the Green Star Rating Tool.
What does this mean for the local interior design and architectural community?
Over the last few years, Formfunc has been asked for our local content. We need to change the question and challenge the thinking when it comes to the materials we use in our manufacture and assembly processes, what we should rather be asking is “what is in it?”.
To this end, The Living Building Institute has a list of red listed/banned substances. These include asbestos, formaldehyde and VOCs [volatile organic compounds, gases released from materials such as paint and solvents] to mention a few. Chromium 6 is also a very big no-no – it can be found in a lot of office furniture currently in the marketplace. The manufacturers using these substances are the big polluters. So, if we tie in the Declare Label (see box) example, we as a business (and other businesses for that matter) can make better decisions based on knowledge. It also allows industry to apply pressure on these manufacturers to change irresponsible practices.
Further information on the Interiors Rating Tool of the Green Building Council of SA can be obtained at: https://gbcsa.org.za/certify/green-star-sa/interiors