The challenge – Demand for office furniture is growing rapidly, driven by rising urbanisation and an associated increase in ‘white collar’ jobs. By 2024, the size of the industry will be about USD100 billion dollars. Manufacturing office furniture requires a high volume of input materials and energy. After a typical 5-7 year usage period, 80-90% of these valuable resources are lost to landfill or incineration. This linear model leads to a huge loss in material value, carries many future raw material supply risks to producers, and does not adhere to the low-carbon industrial model needed to mitigate our current climate crisis. How can the office furniture industry address rising demand in an increasingly resource constrained world?

The solution – One way to address these challenges, is for furniture companies to ensure products, components, and materials are kept at the highest value as long as possible. Ahrend has achieved this by manufacturing all of its office furniture products with modularity, disassembly, and life extension as core design principles. In this way repair, upgrades, and modifications are easily achieved so that every single product can have multiple lives, thus conserving valuable materials and reducing the energy required to make new products.

What makes it circular? Designing products that are flexible and long-lasting is all well and good, but how can businesses unlock the economic potential and environmental benefits to circular design? Ahrend believes the answer to this question lies in furniture-as-a-service (FAAS) so that instead of buying outright, customers can instead pay a monthly fee, returning the furniture to Ahrend when they no longer need it.

What are the benefits? For the environment – a reduction in material usage and carbon emissions. For businesses – closer relationships with customers, more profits, and a more secure materials supply chain. For customers – lower office set up costs and more flexibility in a fast-changing business environment.

Hundreds of millions of people around the world begin their day at the office by sitting down on their swivel chairs and resting their arms on their desks. With rising education levels and a growing service economy, the number of people starting their day like this will rise. Urbanisation and expanding global middle class, also contribute to the growth of ‘white collar’ employment. Combining these factors mean demand for office space and therefore office furniture will increase significantly in the next few decades