Flexible DIY furniture made from sustainable materials offers new options in office design
Flexibility is a key attribute of today’s offices – and not just in terms of office design and space planning. Office furniture itself is having to become more versatile to accommodate ergonomic sit-stand working, for example, or mobility for the quick and easy re-purposing of office space.
Tapping into this trend is a new generation of adjustable, modular DIY furniture that enables businesses to provide temporary workstations on demand or quickly create a ﬂexible working environment for individuals and teams.
Typically, these solutions are portable, lightweight, ﬂat-packed for easy storage and environmentally responsible, being made from recycled or sustainable materials.
Thinking outside the box
One recent introduction is PIXEL from Bene, a collection of pine plywood boxes that can be put together and embellished with different accessories to create a variety of furniture pieces. For example, placing a PIXEL Pad on top of a box makes a comfortable seat, while adding Bene’s Frame_S Boards creates a vertical workspace or room divider.
Michael Fried, Bene managing director for sales, marketing and innovation, says the ability to re-configure and re-arrange space to suit changing requirements is particularly useful for fostering creativity.
“In the case of workshops that deal with everything from the analysis and development of ideas to the presentation of solution models, spatial settings often have to be changed several times a day in order to encourage thoughts to ﬂow,” he said.
“With PIXEL, we have developed a comprehensive workshop system that can do a lot – in a ﬂexible and unpretentious manner. In combination with the product lines we presented in the spring (FRAME_S, NOOXS, Think Tanks and SETTLE), this furniture facilitates teamwork, making an important contribution to internal company communication, and thus to the success of a company.”
Other solutions on the market are made from another lightweight, portable material – cardboard. This has a significantly smaller impact on the environment than conventional office furniture, as it is 100% recyclable. It also produces surprisingly sturdy desks.
New market entrant aiBox offers a range of cardboard furniture including a standing desk (see box). Nathan Edwards, the 26-year old founder of the company, said he developed the cardboard standing desk as an alternative to the expensive corporate models on the market.
The ﬂat-pack, portable workstation weighs just 6.5kg and doesn’t require any tools, screws or glue for assembly. The pieces simply slot together and, when the desk’s not needed, fold down and convert into a sizeable carry case for storage or transportation.
Considering what it is made from, the desk has a non-budget price tag of £129, which Edwards says reﬂects the price of other desks on the market. “We’re not trying to compete with every cheap desk that’s on Amazon and eBay; we’re looking to compete with the standing desk market and bring a unique solution to people’s work lifestyle,” he said.
Edwards adds that thanks to the use of 3-ply virgin corrugated cardboard, the desk is stronger than you might think. “We’ve done a lot of user testing. Cardboard’s not the strongest material in the world – it’s certainly not as strong as wood or steel – but the way we’ve designed it and with its corrugated structure the desk can hold 85kg if spread evenly across the top. We calculated it can hold something like 110 Apple Macbooks.”
Cardboard in disguise
A more elegant option is the FlutePRO workstation from FluteOffce. Flute began life as Cardboard Future in 2009 and launched the FlutePRO workstation in 2011.
Walk into an office kitted out with FlutePRO workstations and chances are you won’t realise they are made out of cardboard thanks to the fine finish and choice of colours (white, light blue and stone grey). Flute can also produce bespoke versions and add logos or graphics.
The workstation is supplied in parts for the customer to assemble, with patented connectors that slot into place. Flute says the average assembly time for one person is five minutes and, because it weighs just 15kg, FlutePRO is easy to move around. It can hold 1700kg.
The company takes sustainable design seriously, utilising waste cardboard and virgin fibre from managed sustainable sources and boasting 100% cradle-to-cradle sustainability. CEO Rod Fountain said: “We now position ourselves as an up-cycler of waste fibre. We have a centre of excellence in West Sussex and an assembly plant in Kent and currently upcycle about 10,000 tonnes of waste per annum into high value products for M&S, the NHS, Imperial College, Thames Tideway and the Dutch Postal Service.”
He added: “We are a front runner in the circular economy and our mission is the elimination of waste and the enhancement of life for all. And it’s great fun!”
And he’s right. DIY solutions do bring an element of fun to office furniture and can even encourage teamwork as employees band together to build the ideal workspace for their needs.
The most common tech thrown away by offices
Over the past year, waste clearance company EnviroWaste has been keeping a record of tech found in waste collected from London offices. The Top 20 most discarded tech items are:
1. Samsung laptops (240)
2. HP fax machines (211)
3. Toshiba laptops (198)
4. Logitech webcams (153)
5. Acer laptops (144)
6. HP scanners (142)
7. Binatone telephones (98)
8. Proaction paper shredders (79)
9. Canon printers (53)
10. Assorted franking machines (51)
11. Philips projectors (51)
12. Sony video cameras (47)
13. Microsoft webcams (44)
14. Epson scanners (43)
15. Goodmans radios (32)
16. Samsung smartphones (30)
17. Acer Chromebooks (27)
18. Seagate hard drives (19)
19. Blackberry mobile phones (11)
20. Canon digital cameras (5)
Any items that could be refurbished
or were still in working order were
sold on to second hand retailers,
with profits donated to the Wildlife