Monday, January 31, 2011

Steelcase to recall up to 165,000 Swivel Chairs

Ouch... The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in cooperation with Steelcase Inc. have issued a recall for 165,000 Cachet Swivel Chairs sold between May of 2002 and October of 2009.

The chair which sells for up to $600.00, has a bad "front seat support...(which) can crack and fail, posing a fall hazard to consumers". Steelcase has agreed to replace the chair for individual consumers, and to repair the chair for commercial customers who purchased in quantity.

The Monday Morning Quarterback (a contract furniture industry trade publication), has reported that the estimated cost of the recall to Steelcase is upwards of $4.7 million.

If you purchased a Cachet chair subject to recall, you can click (HERE) to learn how to get your chair replaced or repaired.

Monday, January 24, 2011

When does a bubble begin?

When do appreciating assets become a bubble? In San Francisco, activity and interest for "alternate" office space in the South of Market Area (SOMA), is now higher than class-A space in the downtown Financial District. This recent imbalance in interest has been driven by tech firms such as Zynga, Google, and Twitter (to name a few), who have sucked up hundreds of thousands of square feet of SOMA space.

250 Brannan Street, San Francisco
The result has been an increase in SOMA building valuations, highlighted by the recent sale of 250 Brannan Street for $33 Million. As reported in the San Francisco Business Times last week, the sale price represents a 12% increase over the last sale of the building in 2007. 

So are we in the midst of the next "bubble"....

Friday, January 21, 2011

ABI Jumps in December

The Architectural Billing Index (ABI) jumped nearly two points in the latest report from the American Institute of Architects. The ABI rose from 52.0 in November to 54.2 in December (any score of 50 or greater represents an increase in billings). The November rating was the previous highest score since 2007.

The ABI is a leading economic indicator of construction activity, reflecting a general nine to twelve month lag between architectural billings and construction spending.

December Regional Averages:
  • Northeast: 55.3
  • South: 54.8
  • Midwest: 52.9
  • West: 48.4

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Feds Must Lease Space in Energy Effecient Buildings

A new law went into effect in late December 2010, mandating that (with few exceptions) federal agencies may only occupy space in buildings that carry the U.S. EPA's ENERGY STAR label.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 formally went into effect on December 19, 2010. The General Services Agency (GSA), which handles leasing and property matters on behalf of the Federal Government, began integrating the new leasing requirements into negotiations and leases as of September of 2010.

A famous saying is "don't fight the Fed". This is generally attributed to fiscal policy, but the Federal government is the nation's largest commercial tenant, leasing more than 370 million square feet of space in 2008 alone. When the Fed says we only lease in ENERGY STAR buildings, commercial property owners and managers listen.

Sustainability is no longer a trend, it is now a policy.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Consolidation in Office Furniture Industry Continues into 2011

Capacity reduction appears to be the theme for 2011 as major players in the manufacturing and distribution side of the office furniture industry continue to "right-size" their organizations.

Published reports this week detail that Steelcase Inc. plans to close three manufacturing facilities in North America (two in the mid-west and one in Canada), resulting in approximately 750 layoffs. There is speculation that some of the jobs (including the manufacturer of the high end Leap chair), could be moving south to Steelcase plants in Mexico.

Last week United Stationers, an office furniture and office supply wholesale distributor, announced a series of "Workforce Realignment Actions". These "actions" include a "voluntary early retirement program", and a "focused realignment in certain areas of the company". No further details were provided, however "Workforce Realignment Actions" seems like a nice euphemism for layoffs.

From the sidelines it seems a bit late in the cycle to be making these types of major operational changes...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Allsteel's Stride Recognized for Good Design (Again)

Allsteel Inc. continues to be recognized for their innovative design, earning two 2010 GOOD Design awards from the Chicago Athenaeum and The European Center for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies, for expansions to their Stride Workstation platform.

Awards were earned for its Stride Benching System

and for Stride's unique Sit to Stand application, which can be integrated into any of Allsteel's workstations:

I still find that a lot of my clients equate today's open plan workstations to Dilbert's cube. Those days are long gone, and the spaces being designed today look nothing like the cube farms of yesterday.

If you haven't seen current workstations (2007 and newer), click (HERE) to check out the Stride website and to see what good design is all about.

Monday, January 10, 2011

More Sustainable Standards for Furniture

First came LEED certification, next came the CALGREEN requirements (for those of us in California), now we can all breathe a sigh of relief because ANSI (American National Standards Institute) has approved and released the ANSI/BIFMA e3-2010 Furniture Sustainability Standard.

The e3 standard defines the technical requirements of the Level product certification program. The Level program is actually a useful tool, in that it provides the industry a standard benchmark to evaluate whether or not office furniture is manufactured in a sustainable manner using sustainable materials. This separates the truly sustainable products and organizations from the posers.

If past history is guide, the larger manufacturers will conform to the Level product requirements, and the smaller manufacturers (and specifically import manufacturers) will not.