Works for us (September 01, 2009)

What will they think of next? In this instance, the “they” I refer to are the good people at Herman Miller, who, at NeoCon this past June, introduced Embody, trumpeted as “the first work chair to support both mind and body” (see my NeoCon report, “On the plus side,” on page 43). Impressive. But can this chair really, as Herman Miller claims, improve blood flow; facilitate the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide within cells; and open up the chest cavity, letting the lungs take in more air and send more oxygen to the brain? Where’s the proof?

Whatever it does and doesn’t do, Embody — with its “instinctive” back that automatically conforms to the user’s every movement — is exceedingly comfortable. What’s more, it’s made from nontoxic and sustainable materials (with 42 per cent recycled content) and is 95 per cent recyclable. Hyperbole aside, Embody is representative of the contract furnishing field’s ongoing commitment to workplace health and to the health of the planet.

Increasingly, firms of all stripes are demonstrating a similar commitment in regard to their own workplaces. As a result, the office is becoming a much healthier, happier, more human place to be. In this issue we feature three such offices.

First up is the world headquarters of engineering giant MMM Group (“Mission statement,” page 26), designed by Modo after a full graphics and branding strategy. Aiming for LEED Gold (certification is still pending), this six-storey, 137,000-square-foot, $20-million project is as sophisticated as it is sustainable.

Next is Van Elslander Carter Architects’ makeover of an outdated office for Ford Models (“Style and substance,” page 33). As befits a modelling agency, the low-budget, environmentally conscious result is sexy, stylish and beautifully lit.

Finally, we come to the Innovolve Group’s Sustainable Studio, designed by HOK (“Walking the walk,” page 38). An incubator of green ideas, the comfortable, light-filled studio is intelligently, affordably, authentically green. CI

Michael Totzke [email protected]