Make sure your next furniture purchase conforms to this revised BIFMA standard for safety, performance and materials

by Brianna Crandall — March 4, 2019 — The ANSI/BIFMA e3-2019 Furniture Sustainability Standard has been released, updating the e3-2014 version in several notable ways. This revision restructures the standard, first recognized by ANSI in 2010, to harmonize with other leading programs addressing environmental, health, wellness, and social impacts through a product manufacturing, use, and recovery lens. The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) also revised its Storage Units standard.

Furniture Sustainability Standard

The Furniture Sustainability Standard was developed with not-for-profit standards development organization NSF International and has been recognized for its vision, relevance, and market penetration over the last decade. It is recommended by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to all federal purchasers and enjoys a broad cross-section of stakeholder participation. This document benefited from the input of 80 individuals in 49 different organizations.

BIFMA Executive Director Tom Reardon praised stakeholders for wrestling with the many indicators of best practices in the sustainability field:

We deliberately brought in experts from outside of the furniture industry to challenge us and help us create a stronger standard that is in step with customer needs.

Highlights of the updated standard include:

  • A new credit was created for demonstrating conformance with the most recent versions of the applicable ANSI/BIFMA Product Safety and Performance Standards. This will ensure that a product meets the minimum levels of safety, durability, and structural adequacy for market usage.
  • The Low Emitting Furniture credit is now a prerequisite. All applicable furniture products conforming to this standard must also meet the ANSI/BIFMA X7.1 FES Standard for emissions.
  • A number of credits enhance well-being by rewarding products that meet dimension and adjustment ranges referenced in the BIFMA G1 Ergonomics Guideline, mitigate health risks through lighting solutions, or meet criteria mirroring the requirements of the Healthier Hospitals program.
  • Credits pertaining to materials, energy, and atmosphere have been redesigned to better align with ISO life cycle assessment standards. The organizational boundary and methodology for recalculating baselines are modeled on World Resources Institute criteria.
  • New credits have been added to foster the collection of generic industry datasets to compare changes in operating processes over time and demonstrate the effectiveness of the standard.
  • As the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system continues to recognize the importance of BIFMA’s LEVEL Certification Program, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) impact categories have been expanded to reflect LEED language.
  • The Social Impacts section incorporates new points for community outreach, planning for climate adaptation, assessment of high-risk suppliers, and pursuing criteria of a Benefit Corporation (B Corp).
  • There is a new option or “pathway” for manufacturers to address chemicals in products. In addition to the prior process (Annex B), utilization of the GreenScreen method for chemical hazard assessment, Cradle to Cradle Certified Material Health Assessment Methodology, or the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) are now alternative options.

Shari Franjevic of Clean Production Action welcomed the release of the new version of e3, saying:

The addition of full material inventory, chemical assessment, and product optimization is an enormous step towards advancing the GreenScreen mission to catalyze the design, development, and use of inherently safer chemicals, materials and products.

Copies of the new ANSI/BIFMA e3-2019 Furniture Sustainability Standard are available to order from the BIFMA Online Store immediately, along with other BIFMA standards and guidance documents.

Storage Units Standard

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) also approved BIFMA’s revised safety and performance standard: ANSI/BIFMA X5.9-2019, Storage Units. This new national consensus standard was finalized and approved on February 1, 2019. It supersedes and replaces the 2012 edition.

The Storage Units Standard is intended to provide a common basis for evaluating the safety, durability and structural performance of storage units designed for use in commercial and institutional environments. It provides test methods and performance requirements for freestanding, mobile, and wall-mounted storage units.

The BIFMA Subcommittee for Storage Units Standards and diverse industry stakeholders worked for two years to revise this standard. The 2019 version incorporates several updates and improvements, the most significant of which are to the Stability Tests. Public input along with round-robin testing provided valuable improvements to several of the stability tests.  A detailed Summary of Changes is listed in Appendix C of the document.

The X5.9-2019 standard defines the specific tests, laboratory equipment, conditions of test, and recommended minimum levels to be used in the testing and evaluation of the safety, durability, and structural adequacy of Storage Unit products. BIFMA will formally withdraw the X5.3 Vertical Files standard as the tests in X5.9-2019 now apply to these units also.

Copies of ANSI/BIFMA X5.9 – 2019 Storage Units are also available from the BIFMA Online Store.