To achieve their target of net zero by 2050, a leading UK bank sought additional ways to significantly reduce carbon emissions.
With a huge amount of embodied carbon in commercial furniture, they wanted to find a sustainable alternative to purchasing new. Collecting robust data was key to the success of the study. Bureau was appointed to undertake an embodied carbon assessment of re-use and remanufacture of their existing office furniture. A project in Manchester was the test case for assessing carbon emissions for the different options.
Embodied Carbon Analysis
An embodied carbon analysis was carried out using Bureau’s Scope 3 FF&E (furniture, fixtures, and equipment) carbon reporting tool. This tool was developed with a leading environmental consultancy.
A comparison was made between re-use and remanufacture of furniture assets versus the disposal of existing assets and replacing them with new. To accurately report on the different options, emissions related to transportation for re-use and remanufacture were included in the calculation.
Examples below of the research and the findings
Re-use of Furniture Assets
Re-use of product, without the need for remanufacture, is the least carbon intensive form of circular re-use. If product is only travelling a short distance, the embodied carbon of an entire re-use project is minimal.
Example - over 1140 task chairs were re-used from a different workspace for the new site. Purchasing new would have resulted in 42 tonnes of carbon emissions generated. Disposing of the used chairs to landfill, rather than re-use them would have added a further 42 tonnes of carbon. Therefore, a potential 84 tonnes of carbon emissions could be avoided just in re-using rather than replacing the chairs.
Remanufacture of Furniture Assets
Remanufacture of product is more carbon intensive than re-use of product, but far less carbon intensive than manufacturing new. Furniture can be ‘made new’ where needed, minimising unnecessary carbon spend and retaining the quality aspects of the product.
Any waste fabric from the process is dealt with by segregating the materials into natural
and synthetic fibres for recycling. Recycled fabrics can be used in the automotive industry
as acoustic panels, stuffing for punch bags, animal bedding etc.
In this case, where remanufacturing was required to keep the quality high, there were associated carbon costs. The carbon cost of remanufacturing was calculated as 28 tonnes of carbon emitted. Purchasing new assets would result in a carbon cost of 42 tonnes.
And, as with re-use, this option keeps existing assets out of landfill avoiding further
The consultancy work carried out supported the client’s view that re-use and remanufacture of office furniture would positively contribute to lowering their carbon footprint. With data provided, the client’s design team are now making informed decisions for re-use and refurbished furniture across their estate. Where product is re-usable but not in good condition, they will re-manufacture and refurbish assets.
With carbon emission data calculated, they can accurately report to stakeholders on the impact they are making. Measuring carbon emitted or avoided is essential to ensure that their business is on track to meet its carbon reduction targets.