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Supporting Environmental Responsibility in Schools with Sustainable Furniture Solutions

April 20, 2023
  • K-12 Education
  • Higher Education
  • Sustainability

At KI, we recognize the critical importance of sustainability in education. Explore how our eco-friendly furniture solutions support our customers' environmental goals for a better future. 

In 2021, more than 1,000 colleges and universities around the world committed to changing their operations to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 or earlier -- raising the standard of environmental responsibility among institutions of higher education.

At the K-12 level, the U.S. Department of Energy has worked with more than 3,400 schools through several programs to improve their buildings’ energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.

Our team at KI recognizes that sustainability is top of mind for teachers, staff, and school administrators. Below, we share how we’ve supported some of our education customers to achieve their sustainability goals.

Keep reading until the end of this blog to check out our new eco-friendly furniture filter that allows you to browse by sustainability certifications!

Longevity Leads the Way

Furniture solutions that create flexible, multipurpose environments play a key role in schools’ sustainability efforts. Multifunctionality ensures that environments can evolve with the needs of a curriculum, reducing excess waste.

At Notre Dame of De Pere, that forward-thinking mindset was integral to the process of transforming the school’s previously separate elementary and middle school buildings into a single learning hub.

“We knew it was important to think about how students learn right now and how this space will need to adapt for the next 50 years,” said principal Molly Mares.

Mares and her team incorporated our smaller-scale Intellect Wave seating to enable younger students to move from formal learning at a table to informal learning playing on the floor. They also used mobile Ruckus activity tables and MyPlace lounge furniture with casters to support older students’ brainstorming sessions and group learning.

In addition to supporting long-term environmental goals, the benefits of adaptable environments include empowering students and igniting their sense of agency and self-confidence as they take control over their learning space.

Putting Wellness to Work

Sustainable learning environments are ones that promote overall wellness and make for happier, healthier students and teachers. Schools can achieve this in part by letting the nature we seek to preserve into the interior space. Maximizing the use of natural light indoors can also significantly reduce the amount of artificial light needed to meet lighting standards, resulting in lower energy and HVAC costs.

At Guilford Technical Community College in North Carolina, school administrators undertook a major renovation of their student center, the heart of their campus. Maximizing natural light was a key part of the design.

The GTCC team eliminated the brick walls lining the building’s perimeter and replaced them with a glass-front building with multistory windows to allow sunlight to stream in. The team created glass-enclosed study rooms and offices using Lightline architectural walls and Unite panels with glass toppers, which ensure that the natural light can permeate deep into the space.

Research shows that maximizing natural light has a significant impact on student and staff well-being, and that’s exactly what GTCC witnessed. “People seem to be a lot happier,” said Mitchell Johnson, GTCC’s vice president of operations and facilities. “The openness makes the offices feel like a better place to be.”

Benefits of GTCC's renovation extend beyond energy conservation and cost savings. They have also succeeded in creating a space that would set the stage for a welcoming, healthy educational experience. “It’s wonderful to see how many students are coming to the building as a refuge, which was not the case before. They really value this space. It really has transcended what we expected,” said Johnson. 

Tailor-Made Solutions for Green Goals

Through our personalized design process, Infinity from KI, we collaborate with customers to modify existing furniture designs or create entirely new ones tailored to their unique needs. That can make a big difference for schools and universities with specific sustainability goals.

Clemson University in South Carolina has been committed to sustainability for decades. As they renovate buildings, school leaders are working toward a goal to make the university carbon-neutral by 2030. For the new home of Clemson’s forestry and environmental conservation program, the university team is exploring the installation of a solar panel canopy to offset energy use.

Clemson partnered with KI to furnish renovated and brand-new buildings for its College of Business, Humanities Hall, and general education Daniel Hall. During the construction of their College of Business, Clemson removed 45 trees and repurposed them into 13,000 feet of harvested board wood. In addition to planting 75 new trees, the university engaged Infinity from KI to mount the custom wood tabletops on our Pillar and Athens table bases, creating beautiful, reclaimed wood tables that now fill the business building’s popular café area.

Architectural walls throughout the buildings allow Clemson to reconfigure the spaces as needed in the years to come, without tearing down drywall or creating additional waste.

Sustainable from the Start

In addition to supporting our customers' sustainability goals, KI is committed to reducing waste and energy use at every step of our manufacturing process.

We conduct thorough life-cycle assessments and extensive safety and performance testing for each product. Unlike many manufacturers that outsource testing, we have an ISO-certified testing facility at our manufacturing headquarters in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Beyond assuring our products are safe, this allows us to design and manufacture furniture with competitive warranties and unmatched durability. This reduces the need for parts replacement and waste in the long run, while also maximizing value for our customers.

With all our manufacturing centers in North America, we also focus on sourcing materials domestically to reduce the number of touchpoints in our supply chain. By streamlining our supply chain, we're able to reduce furniture lead times for our customers while also reducing our water consumption and carbon footprint overall.

KI: Your Trusted Partner for Eco-Friendly Furniture

At KI, we support education facilities in their commitment to environmental responsibility by offering standard and tailor-made furniture solutions that promote longevity and well-being, while simultaneously reducing waste and energy use in our own manufacturing processes.

If you're seeking to incorporate sustainable furniture into your next interior design project, check out our new eco-friendly furniture filter that allows you to browse our product portfolio by various sustainability programs, environmental certifications, and green design standards, such as BIFMA, LEED, WELL, and more.

Find Eco-Friendly Furniture

For more information on how KI can help your school achieve a cleaner and greener future, contact your local KI representative.

by Marcus Batista  K-12 Education Specialist

Marcus has worked in the experiential design community and also has six years of experience as a K-12 teacher and operations leader. Based in the Los Angeles area, Marcus supports the KI team on the West Coast. He earned degrees in media studies and childhood education from CUNY Hunter College.


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