Selecting Office Furniture for LEED V4.1 – Part II of II: IEQ Credits

(Part I has been previously posted.)

Choosing low-emitting, sustainable furniture is important for all projects, especially those pursuing LEED. Part I of this blog shared insights on how furniture can contribute to LEED V4.1’s Materials and Resources (MR) credits. Furniture can also contribute to the Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) credits for Low-Emitting Materials and Interior Lighting.

See below for some helpful tips on selecting furniture to contribute to the IEQ credits.  

IEQ Low-Emitting Materials: Indoor air quality can be negatively impacted by furnishings emitting formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) above thresholds deemed acceptable, which can negatively impact human health and productivity. To create healthy indoor spaces, it is important to look for products that have been tested and certified for low emissions through an indoor air quality (IAQ) program.

At least 75% of a project’s furniture budget should be spent on products that meet one of the following:

Furniture emissions evaluation criteria: Look for products certified to SCS Indoor Advantage™ Gold, Greenguard Gold, or other third-party low-emitting product certification programs.

On the certificates, look for the smaller print noting the product’s conformance to ANSI/BIFMA e3 criteria 7.6.1, 7.6.2, and/or 7.6.3. Products meeting only the ANSI/BIFMA e3 7.6.1. criteria are worth half their value, while products meeting 7.6.2 are worth their whole value. Products meeting 7.6.3 criteria are worth 1.25 times their value. (“Gold” level products typically meet 7.6.2 or 7.6.3 criteria.)

Some notes:

  • Even though products may be certified to the ANSI/BIFMA e3 Furniture Sustainability Standard (LEVEL), that doesn’t mean they’ll automatically meet e3 7.6.1, 7.6.2, or 7.6.3 criteria. It’s important to request documentation showing the product has achieved these criteria (typically an IAQ certificate).
  • Furniture products may contain composite wood materials like particleboard, MDF (medium density fiberboard), or plywood. These products would fall under the furniture evaluation criteria and do not need to meet composite wood evaluation criteria.
  • Most IAQ certificates are valid for one year and renewed annually. Project teams should request the certificates covering the products’ manufacturing dates to meet the Low-Emitting Materials credit (which could require one or more certificates, depending on the certificate validity period).

Example of an Indoor Advantage Gold certificate for workstations furniture, showing conformance to ANSI/BIFMA e3 7.6.1, 7.6.2, and 7.6.3. IAQ certificates are typically valid for one year and renewed annually.

Inherently non-emitting sources criteria: products made only of non-emitting materials like stone, hardwood, glass, metals, and others qualify, so long as they are not refinished with a VOC-containing material like wet touch-up paint or wet adhesives (if used, VOC-containing materials must adhere to additional guidance as laid out in LEED V4.1).

Salvaged and reused materials criteria: products more than one year old at time of use would count, so long as they are not refinished with VOC-containing materials.  

Where do we find low-emitting furniture documentation? Check furniture manufacturers’ websites, certification provider websites, and databases like mindful Materials and Ecomedes.

IEQ Interior Lighting, strategies for Lighting Control and Surface Reflectivity: Studies have shown that workers can be more comfortable and productive in environments that are carefully illuminated and provide occupants with lighting controls.

Lighting Control: To support enhanced lighting and individual control at workstations, add task lights to workstations (which many furniture manufacturers offer). To meet this strategy, task lights must have on, off, and midlevel lighting capabilities (e.g., the ability to dim).

Workstations task lights support enhanced lighting and individual control.

Surface Reflectivity: Selecting surfaces with high Light Reflectance Values (LRVs) helps spaces appear lighter and brighter. Worksurfaces, tables, and cubicle walls can be specified with lighter colored finishes with high LRVs to contribute to this strategy. Look for surfaces with LRVs above 45% (0.45) for worksurfaces, and above 50% (0.5) for movable partitions.

 

Examples of laminate finishes and their corresponding Light Reflectance Values (LRV).

Where do we find lighting strategy documentation? In most cases, this information is available on manufacturers’ websites or by request. LRVs may be under development for some finishes (so request this information early!).

Creating spaces to enhance productivity and human health, while minimizing environmental impacts is part of every LEED project’s goals. Finding and specifying furniture products to meet LEED V4.1’s IEQ criteria will help projects achieve certification goals and contribute to healthier, more productive environments for occupants.

Resources:

Online LEED credit library

Mindful Materials Library (users may need to sign up for an account)

SCS Global Services Green Products Guide

UL Environment UL SPOT database (users may need to sign up for an account)

Ecomedes

Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Registry

Declare Label database

Health Product Declaration Repository

About the Author

Courtney MolineCourtney Moline, LEED AP ID+C, WELL AP, helps lead the Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability efforts for HNI Corporation and its furniture and fireplace brands. As a member of HNI’s CSR team, she works cross-functionally to develop and manage the organization’s key social responsibility and environmental sustainability initiatives.

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