COFF includes all forms of interior furniture and fittings commonly comprising the commercial office environment – in addition to office chairs and desks; this includes partitioning, carpets, kitchen fit-out and Information Communications Technology (ICT: computers, printers etc).
Office furniture and fittings may impact negatively on the environment throughout their lifecycle. The University of Michigan, Centre for Sustainable Systems has identified that office furniture and fittings impact the environment through five phases of its lifecycle:
Raw material mining/extraction and material processing – Initial production of the materials used in construction (steel, aluminium, plastics etc)
Manufacture of production materials – Manufacture of steel tubing, fabrics, wooden panels and plastics
Fabrication – Energy used in fabricating products associated generation of waste
Use – Energy use associate with use of COFF in the workplace
End of life – Low rates of recycling leading to land-fill use.
Low rates of recycling occur due to the costs associated with removal and disassembly, the difficulties involved in separating conjoined material types and corporate desire for new fit-out over the re-use of existing furniture and fittings. This leads to corporate requirements for new furniture and fittings thus creating a repeating cycle of environmental impact including the generation of significant landfill.