Monthly Archives: March 2015

What does SFC’s current research show?


2015 Consumer Research

Summary of Key Findings by Susan Inglis, SFC Executive Director

The 2015 Green Home Furnishings Consumer Study is the 7th wave of national survey conducted to assess consumer awareness, interest and behavior in a variety of issues related to sustainable furnishings. The samples were intentionally limited to the prime demographics for purchasing home furnishings to ensure that the results would be most applicable to decisions made by companies that service this market. The 2015 study was conducted by Impact Consulting.

Overall, findings indicate a growing concern about sustainability issues and an interest in buying products that are good for the environment, so long as they meet given style and budget requirements.  Quality, price and style are always the main drivers in choosing furnishings, but survey trends show “good for the environment” is more and more part of the value consumers seek.

At least half consumers rate themselves as very or extremely aware and concerned about a range of environmental issues from toxic pollution to using up natural resources to deforestation, with no single issue being of much greater concern.  This tells us that the “engaged” population has been holding steady at about 50%.  Most furniture consumers are taking action in a variety of ways, from recycling at home to switching to CFL light bulbs, and over half have purchased green products in a variety of categories.  However, they still are not buying as much in “eco-friendly” home furnishings products as they are in categories they can access more easily, such as recycled paper products and non-toxic cleaners.  It is clear that this is mostly because they have not been made aware of the options.

Purchase interest in green furnishings is growing, with over half of all furnishings consumers indicating interest in buying eco-friendly home furnishings, if they like the style and the price is right for them. Those definitely interested has grown from around 30% when we began the surveys to about 40%.  These are very healthy numbers.

The current survey indicates that price sensitivity may have peaked. Those who would pay nothing or only up to 5% more fell from a peak of 78% in 2010 to around 70% in the current survey.  This is a significant drop.  Further, the solid 30% who will pay more is in line with general consumer inclination to pay more for a favorite feature or brand.

Awareness of specific eco-options in furnishings remains largely unchanged with recycled content, organic fabrics and reclaimed wood the most recognized, though as we always caution these are also the easiest to fake knowledge of because of the descriptiveness of the terms.  It remains for the furniture sales person to point out the significance of eco-features including other recycled or reclaimed content, bio-based foam, domestic manufacture, etc.  It is clearly worth having the conversation, though, since most consumers will respond to these features when the product is their style and price point.

Sustainable Furnishings Council is pleased to offer a range of training programs to ensure that furnishings professionals, as well as consumers, better understand the simple choices we can all make to help ensure a healthy future.  The survey results show clearly that consumers are eager for us to bust the myth that “sustainable” looks a certain way or always costs more.

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Snow Day Workplace

Today is a rare snow day for our office, but don’t think that we aren’t working! Today I sit house-bound with my husband as we both work from home, networking into our respective servers back at the ranch to keep our projects moving. So as I thought about an appropriate topic to write about, nothing else seemed more relevant than to discuss one of the penultimate questions in commercial design these days: How do we, as designers changes with the times and improve workplace design? How do we use technology in the workplace and how does that affect space, collaboration, and space needs? Because as technology changes and we have greater capacity to work, well, anywhere and at anytime, the shape of our workspaces and what is important to them has changed.

This is a constant and ongoing dialogue in the design community. The major manufacturers of the office furniture industry are constantly revisiting these and related questions: What environments promote productivity? What environments promote collaboration? Creativity? How can we use wireless technology, going paperless, or new software to enhance the workplace? What is really needed in a workspace?

Obviously the answers change based on the type of work being done, the people involved and the company’s values. There is no one-fit answer and that is part of the discovery that a design team goes through with a client. For work like mine – design, architecture and most building engineering – paper will always be a component, so printing and a certain amount of filing will always be needed. I will always need room to spread out and look at physical samples and storage for those samples. I will, therefore, always need something that resembles a traditional workspace. So today, while I can work from home, I am handicapped somewhat. My husband is in the exact opposite position. His work is computer software engineering and never needs to be printed. He doesn’t need filing space at his workplace, because everything is saved on his harddrive or in the cloud. His laptop is pretty much all he needs and he carries it home with him every night from the office. So his work can take place anywhere he feels comfortable enough to work. He is as productive from home as from the office. What space to you design then, for someone that mobile? Or someone who move from site to site on a weekly basis? Or someone who is constantly working in group settings?

Herman Miller, Haworth, Knoll, Kimball, Steelcase, Teknion and many, many other big furniture manufacturing shops are constantly asking and revisiting these questions. They research it and then provide new and innovative solutions to assist in making the types of spaces workers (and managers) want a reality. That includes touchdown spaces for folks who travel from one site to another, collaborative spaces that are causal and help people work together and get things done or dreamed up. No matter what you think you need, there’s probably a solution out there.