March 2007 Tech Brief

Image courtesy Haworth

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions trading, a market-based strategy for mitigating climate change, has been steadily growing over the past few years, and furnishing and building-product companies are among the industries adopting the practice.

U.S. furniture systems manufacturer Haworth announced late last year that its Zody task chair had earned “Planet Positive” certification. The designation is the brainchild of Guy Battle, the London-based environmental and building engineer.

He has been working with Haworth since before the chair’s release in 2005 to examine procurement and manufacturing processes with the aim of reducing and managing the CO2 emissions associated with Zody and the company’s other products.

To deliver these services, Battle has created dcarbon8, a consultancy separate from Battle McCarthy, his engineering and landscape practice. “As a designer, there are only so many buildings I can touch,” says Battle. “This has a wider impact.”

After reducing CO2 emissions as much as is practical, dcarbon8 clients purchase vouchers for 110 percent of the remaining embedded CO2. These certificates are passed on to the product’s buyer so that the end user can invest in a carbon offset project of their own choosing.

The production of the Zody is responsible for approximately 200 pounds of CO2, or about 30 to 40 percent fewer emissions than that of a similar task chair, according to Battle. Therefore, Haworth provides vouchers worth 220 pounds for each chair it produces. Because the value of the offsets is greater than that of the emissions associated with the product, the net result is carbon negative rather than carbon neutral, explains Battle: “There is a net positive impact on the planet.”

The Zody had already earned certification under the Cradle to Cradle protocol created by William McDonough, FAIA, and chemist Michael Braungart (see page 82). That program examines factors like the potential for components to decompose or be reused and the quantity of energy and water consumed in manufacturing. “The two initiatives are complementary,” says Franco Bianchi, Haworth president and C.E.O.

In addition to Haworth, dcarbon8 clients include manufacturers of products such as cladding and flooring and industrial real estate developer ProLogis. The company is building a supermarket distribution center in the Midlands region of the U.K. that will incorporate technologies such as cogeneration, photovoltaics, and solar heating. It is expected to be the world’s first Planet Positive building when it opens in August.