A Green Manufacturing Process For Residence Hall Furniture
Are you looking for residence-hall furniture that meets the highest sustainability standards? You might ask yourself, what does a “green” manufacturing process even look like for residence hall furniture and why is it important?
Over the last two decades, our industry has made strides in not only meeting environmental standards, but exceeding them. Our team at DCI has spent 40 years developing a manufacturing process that produces zero-waste.
We are the only company in our industry to achieve this milestone. And it's possible because we make our furniture out of solid hardwood, which is easily the most sustainable raw material for building residence hall furniture.
Developing green manufacturing processes like our zero waste policy keep us well ahead of environmental standards. We feel that it's not enough to only follow the rules. We also want to set a high standard that takes into account the health of the entire biosphere.
So when you’re evaluating prospective residence hall furniture wholesalers and manufacturers, what are the standards? What should you look for in terms of sustainability?
DCI sets the industry standard for sustainability, so to answer these questions, let’s take a quick tour through some elements of our green manufacturing process. This is a quick breakdown of some key categories you should investigate to ensure your residence hall isn’t an environmental and health liability but rather an inspiring example of sustainable values.
- Non-Toxic Finish
- Zero Waste
- Energy Conservation
- Kiln Drying
- Finish Milling
- Packing Logistics
1. Non-Toxic Finish
When it comes to wood finish, you need to ensure that when you buy wood furniture, the finishing process doesn’t emit VOC’s (volatile organic compounds).
As the EPA describes it, VOC’s are chemicals emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. They include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short and long-term adverse health effects. For example, the elimination of Urea Formaldehyde from glue in solid wood panels.
At DCI, our finishing process emits no VOC’s. In fact, our finishing process exceeds EPA Standards.
In contrast, this study on volatile organic compounds in furniture published by the NIH looked at rubberwood, MDF, and laminates—some of the most popular raw materials used in residence hall furniture—and showed that they still emit high levels of VOCs.
Wood-based panels, wood-based composites, laminated office furniture, laminate flooring, and engineer flooring are the common form of furniture products made by MDF, HDF, and PB. The results showed that a large number of VOCs can be emitted from the furniture made of such materials.
VOCs are a serious health hazard and a known carcinogen. In terms of the health of your students and residents, you need to take this research seriously and follow up. You can also avoid this health issue altogether and choose residence hall furniture made from solid hardwood.
2. Zero Wood Waste
DCI’s vertical integration and high yield rough mill allow us to maximize the use of all of our wood. We use leftover hardwood to build our internal furniture components rather than buying Poplar or other species.
If we can’t use the wood in furniture construction, then we recycle it back into our process to make steam energy that powers our factory.
This zero-waste approach to solid wood furniture manufacturing is unique to DCI. It ensures that we aren't filling landfills with the kind of waste that comes from building furniture from engineered wood composites that can't be recycled, like MDF and laminated furniture.
In fact, according to Life Cycle Analysis, MDF and laminated furniture are the worst because they dont break down and potentially sit in landfills for a thousand years.
3. Energy Conservation
We also have an unusual approach to waste. The truth is, we don’t really believe in waste. In accordance with the principles of sustainability, we use all of the “waste by-products” of our manufacturing processes to make steam and/or electricity for our factory.
We use the steam to dry lumber in our kilns and to heat our factory. When our wood boiler is in use, the factory doesn’t consume any gas or oil (even during cold New Hampshire winters).
By using a wood boiler to run our kilns and heat our factory and offices, we are saving an average of 68 gallons of oil an hour or over 200,000 gallons of oil per year.
4. Sustainable Milling Practice
Our manufacturing process begins with the purchase of logs or rough-cut lumber. We buy lumber from state-regulated forests compliant with current environmental regulations and our stringent FSC C-0-C Certification.
We send the logs--primarily ash, oak, and maple--to our sawmill to be processed into rough cut lumber. The lumber is graded by species, thickness, and length according to standards set by the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA).
And to minimize our carbon footprint from transportation and to keep our business local, we only buy logs and rough-cut lumber harvested within 125 miles of our sawmill.
5. Energy Efficient Kiln Drying
We deliver our rough cut lumber to the main plant where it’s stored until we need it. When it’s time to dry the wood, we place it in the DCI kilns. The kilns are heated with steam, generated from our wood-fired boilers.
One hundred percent of the wood used in these boilers is either a byproduct of our sawmill or plant operations. This makes environmental and business sense and frees us from relying on fossil fuels. We think of it as a virtuous cycle of sustainability.
6. Re-Use At The Rough Mill
After the drying process, the lumber enters our rough mill, where it’s planed, cut, glued, and pressed into panels to make furniture.
We grade and separate lumber that doesn’t meet our quality control standards for use on exterior panels and then we use it for internal support pieces. DCI is unique in this respect.
Whereas our competitors may need to purchase softer woods like pine and poplar for use as internal supports, it is here DCI has a built-in competitive advantage when selecting lumber for internal rails. We use quality solid hardwood.
This in part explains why our furniture lasts, on average, 30 years from the time of installation. It's also why we offer a 25-year warranty on all of our furniture.
7. Finish Milling
From the rough mill, we send solid wood panels to the finish mill to become specific parts. The finish mill processes are carefully scrutinized and our manufacturing steps are subject to strict quality control.
After passing all quality checks, the finished parts are ready for urethane application. DCI uses state of the art ultraviolet cured urethane finishing. This is the same material and application method used on pre-finished hardwood flooring.
Compared to other finishes, it’s more resistant to damage from abrasion and chemical exposure, as well as to the effects of temperature and humidity. This finish is also applied to the interior of all cabinets to provide the highest dimensional stability.
At this point in the manufacturing process, fully finished components enter final assembly at our Lisbon plant or they’re shipped to one of DCI’s regional assembly facilities in North Carolina or California.
Upon final assembly, the parts and panels are put together under pressure and glue is applied to the mortise and tenon or dowel joints. The cabinet is clamped to ensure that all joints are tight and the cabinet is completely square before screws are driven into each joint.
This is far superior to dry construction and methods which don’t use mortise and tenon or dowel joinery to join the rails to the end panels. Consequently, this process yields a product that functions smoothly for years.
One problem with other construction methods is that over time, the furniture begins to give users nagging problems like drawers that stick and doors that don’t shut evenly.
10. Factory Lighting
We recently converted the lighting in our factory to low energy LED bulbs. The LED motion-sensor fixtures switch off automatically when no one is present.
11. Packing Material
Our packaging material is made from 100% recycled cardboard. When orders permit, we deploy reusable blanket-wrap shipments.
Load optimization software is used to ensure shipments are loaded to full capacity. Reducing our carbon footprint within our logistics operations is best accomplished by shipping our product by rail.
A fully loaded container of DCI furniture weighs 10 tons. If the distance is 3,000 miles by rail, we are only using 60 gallons of diesel fuel to move one of our containers across the country. This calculation is based on information provided by CSX Rail Transportation.
Green Manufacturing And You
So this was a short tour through some key factors you should look out for when you're evaluating the sustainability credentials of your residence hall furniture supplier.
And remember, some of these points are more important than others because they directly affect the health of your residents.
As you may have noticed, we're excited to share this information with you because it aligns with our own values and beliefs. We continuously strive to make our business more sustainable and find that there's always room to improve.
Do you have any question about green manufacturing? Do you agree that green manufacturing is an essential goal for our industry? If you do, please share your thoughts and questions below and we'll get right back to you.
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To set up an order today or to talk with one of our representative, you write to us here or call: (800) 552-8286.
You can learn more about our industry-leading FSC CoC certification, our MAS certification, and our green materials sourcing, sustainable manufacturing, and our unique zero waste Vertical Integration Process (VIP).
Download the DCI Sustainability Pledge here.
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