(e-col-o-gy) – noun: The branch of biology dealing with the relations and
interactions between organisms and their environment, including other organisms.
Whether we call it conservation, preservation, being efficient, or refer to it as ecology, reducing our negative impact on the world is crucially important. This ethic does not blur as we cross the thresholds between our personal and professional lives. It is our constant call to duty. At core it is our responsibility to be good stewards of the resources (gifts) we enjoy. This philosophy is private, quiet, and enormously powerful. Well administered, it is deeply enriching. Ecology, conservation, is the venue from which we have the opportunity to make perhaps our greatest legacy contributions. When the good stuff is gone, it is gone such that future generations, important generation members, will be unable to experience or enjoy the richness as we know it. When resources are safeguarded and retained, those remain to be enjoyed and celebrated. This is fairly simple to grasp. Our responsibility is to preserve and retain resources so as not to diminish the world or the lives of those who will follow us. To accomplish this we must become informed, wise, and make the inconvenient and sometimes expensive sacrifices necessary. We are given a lot, so we are duty bound to reciprocate.
How does Working Spaces integrate this ecology ethic into our daily operations?
There are many ways. Additionally, there are possible yields we have yet to net, ideas that simply have not yet occurred to us. If observers of our operations see and identify ways we can reduce Working Spaces’ environmental impact, please email those to us through our ‘suggestions’ tab of our web site. We desire to be awakened to new possibilities. Those that are viable will be acted upon. We are on the road. Today Working Spaces’ operations are significantly lower in environmental impact than we were 15 years ago. 25 years from today we will be even more efficient, as new ideas, technologies, and methodologies are discovered and folded into our operations.
Today, how does Working Spaces minimize its operational environmental impact and improve our natural community?
Our ratio of administrative office space per employee is aggressive, at 178 square feet per person. In addition to numerous cultural advantages, this optimizes our energy consumption.
We conduct the bulk of our communication through email. We create and deliver proposals, literature and invoices electronically. The vast majority of our ‘talk’ including information and record exchanges with clients, suppliers, team members, taxing authorities, and professionals supporting our enterprises is done electronically. Internally, rather than distributing paper, we collaborate with our staff colleagues via email. We print responsibly. Since the records exist from electronic communication on our servers, we have confidence we can locate and call up the information as it is needed. Thus our reliance upon printed information is significantly reduced.
We consume as lightly as possible, and we recycle substantially all of our office waste such as electronic appliances, paper, packing materials, beverage containers, et cetera. We recently outlawed bottled water in our employee break rooms. We have determined it inefficient to receive drinking water in individual bottles. The oil and energy consumed to produce the containers and packaging, the redundant bottled water delivery energy use as compared to tap water, the waste stream contribution of bottled water packaging, caps, and containers, and the excess energy consumption required to recover and recycle those materials is wasteful and inefficient. Consuming individual bottled water is like eating fatty foods only to require increased exercise to offset. According to The Cascade Water Alliance, the aquifers supporting our Puget Sound population through our tap water distribution are among the most pristine in the world. The massive EPA regulations governing tap water dwarf the comparably few FDA regulations governing bottled water, consequently, our staff enjoys the health benefits of filtered tap water. We understand that in many instances the product packaged inside the bottled water containers is the identical tap water that flows from our faucets, significantly increased in price. We believe the capital resources we preserve by non-consumption of bottled water can be better allocated and contribute greater return on investment in our community.
Each quarter supporting our client projects, we eliminate tonnage of waste into the ecosystem.
We comprehensively inventory client furnishings and show them how to optimize and maximize redeployment of those into their project environments. We make certain that we do not sell new items clients already have existing that they can retain and reuse. By capturing and pressing into service those furniture assets with life remaining, we reduce energy consumption and resource depletion embodied in furniture manufacture, packaging, and transport.
Alongside of our robust new office furniture and workstation enterprises, we operate what is among the largest, most diverse pre-owned business furniture and workstation distribution on the west coast. Where does pre-owned business furniture come from? Does Working Spaces procure pre-owned business furniture or workstations speculatively for resale? Yes is the answer, though rarely. The bulk of the pre-owned business furniture handled in our operations results from trades of furniture, incoming versus outgoing, on client projects. The adage ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ applies here. Due to cycles of growth and contraction, frequently, quality business furniture and workstations are displaced. Almost always, these lightly deployed assets retain significant use life and value. Newly launching, frugal, and or environmentally sensitive business enterprises see significant value in outfitting their business furniture and workstation needs with pre-owned furniture assets. The capital saved by fulfillment of needs with pre-owned business furnishings is a significant and important preservation of resources. ‘Blending’ is a method we deploy to press pre-owned business furniture or workstation materials back into service. Frequently we outfit client facilities with blended solutions of new business furniture or workstation components augmented with ‘invisible’ pre-owned materials such as worksurface support materials, electrical components, task lights, task chairs, table bases, drawer pedestals, et cetera. Technically, we fit these pre-owned materials into project furniture specifications, augmented with the new materials required to complete the project build, so as to ensure proper structure and aesthetics. Redistribution of pre-owned business furniture and workstation components knocks down the energy consumption and resource depletion embodied in furniture manufacture, packaging, and transport. Reclamation and redeployment of pre-owned business furniture and workstation materials also reduces the waste stream contribution, and energy required in recycling. This is huge. Down-in-the-heel prospects and clients are not the bulk consumers of pre-owned business furnishings from Working Spaces. To the contrary, our most successful clients see significant economic and environmental benefits to fulfilling projects with pre-owned furniture assets, and are the greatest supporters of these programs.
Technology Services is our newest, fastest growing business enterprise. Among other services, through this enterprise we fulfill distribution of voice and data cable within business environments. Often our work scope on projects requires removal and evacuation of existing cable. This obsolete cable includes valuable metals. We stockpile and recycle this reclaimed cable. The results of doing so are a reduction of new metal production and energy use in manufacturing. When viable, we encourage clients to embrace wireless technology, further reducing cable and metal consumption.
In our Finishes and Flooring enterprises, we are optimizing the waste stream, much the way we do in our Furniture and Technology Services enterprises. As part of our project support scope, we are charged to demolish and evacuate carpet tiles from construction-churning client floor plates as they remodel and upgrade. Often the carpet tile being evacuated retains use life. In these instances we clean the carpet tile in place before evacuation, carefully pull and recycle the cut and ruined tiles, and meticulously pull, stack and retrieve the complete used carpet tiles, returning them to our warehouse inventory for redistribution. This enables second use clients to carpet environments with superior quality carpet tile at a cost basis lower than the lowest quality new carpet price structure, and enables those recipients to preserve their capital resources. This practice knocks down the volume of new carpet manufacture and production, and also knocks down the volume of pre-owned carpet tile flowing into the waste and recycle stream. This favorably reduces energy use in production, transportation and recycling. We once shipped 3 containers of pre-owned carpet tile to a Caribbean nation from a sale executed on eBay. Believe it or not, this really works. Imagine the weight and oil content of a single pallet of carpet tile. Then compound that across 3 or floors of an office building, reclaimed and repurposed. This practice is quiet and humble, but at the same time innovative and significant.
In our new business furniture and workstation enterprises, we work diligently to fulfill client projects with furnishings manufactured close to their ultimate use destination. As an example, we are proud to be a Watson furniture distributor. Watson is a pre-eminent Puget Sound area manufacturer who offers exceptional product and superb value. Watson is a leader in environmentally smart material integration and manufacturing processes. Working Spaces partners with and encourages manufacturers to ‘bulk ship’ furnishings so they are protected from transport damage, yet require the minimum amount of packing materials possible. We ship all candidate projects factory direct to project site to ensure maximum operational efficiencies, and accordingly minimize redundant fuel consumption. We pass through these netted economies to our clients to preserve their capital resources. At project fulfillment, we capture and recycle all furniture packing materials.
Regrettably, waste is indeed a part of our enterprises. Dated, damaged, and obsolete business furniture, cable, workstations and flooring materials are a reality. We maximize recovery of materials from this waste stream, batch it, and we recycle all materials that we possibly can. We do not do this because it is easy or lucrative. In spite of the logistic hardships and cost increases, we recycle and invest in this way because it is of crucial importance to preserve resources. We recognize the important unseen return on investment of these practices is vital to our community and to the world. Straight up, we can live with a skinnier bottom line accordingly.
Finally, Working Spaces gives back through significant annual contribution to Ducks Unlimited. This fine conservation organization is responsible to secure and preserve wildlands to enable the safe propagation and population growth of our wild flora and fauna across North America. It is our hope that these wildlands will be enjoyed by everyone everywhere forever. Wildlands will not remain and be stable unless capital is provided for their preservation, protection, and in many instances today, creation.
At Working Spaces we are pleased and honored to face the challenge to capture ‘every blade of grass.’ Going forward, we will continue working to accomplish exactly that. Preservation of the pristine wilderness and enjoyment of those spaces by the children of our communities is, to us, a worthy objective.
Is the demise of the use of cubicles in offices a myth?
There are several urban myths including: the check’s in the mail, the paperless office, and Bill Clinton’s infamous proclamation. Another is the demise of cubicles in offices. In the ‘dot com new economy,’ Generation X workers loved to hate panel systems and often rejected them for use in their facilities. The dubious end results were table systems in open office with cable and make-shift electrical systems littering those office floors. After dot com business models crashed, this ideology crashed along with it, though cube loathing does still exist today. Panel systems, workstations, are wildly popular and widely used in business applications for numerous reasons, and cubicles are good for the environment. A point in fact is the original panel system was honored as one of the best industrial designs of the 20th century. Another is that its inventor, Bob Propst, is buried here in the Puget Sound area, as is Jimi Hendrix. Cubicles do much more than simply provide subject material wonderfully exploited in the genius comic strip Dilbert.
What are the functions and attributes that make cubicles so deeply entrenched in our American business culture?
First, cubicles are comprised of a bunch of parts. This in its own right is attractive and interesting. People love to create and erect and panel systems are a platform that enable people to do so. The features, fabrics, finishes, materials and component vocabulary of panel systems provide people unique opportunity for expression. This creative utility is among panel systems’ most appealing attributes. Panel systems establish interior communities and topography and organization. Panel systems contribute to order. Panel systems establish personal space and territory. Panel systems support privacy, collaboration, delivery of utilities to office appliances. Panel systems provide individual workers structure, remote homes and familiar neighborhoods. These neighborhoods can be expensive and exclusive or second-hand and shoddy; corporate culture, funding, taste and priority are the determinants. Panel systems are available in diverse shapes, sizes, colors, conditions, price ranges and quality grades. The panel systems we erect in our facilities are commentaries on who we are, how we think about our clients and suppliers, ourselves and our colleagues, where we have been and where we intend to go. Panel systems help take us there and often accompany us on our journeys. Panel systems scale with us. We can start small with them and as our enterprises grow and prosper, we add more cubicles to support our growing members.
How do cubicles help the environment?
The life expectancy of quality workstations is beyond 20 years. Most office leases run 5 to 7 years, so workstations live the duration of 3 to 5 locations. Panel systems are designed and engineered to be built, disassembled, moved, rebuilt, reconfigured, expanded, warehoused, trucked, shrunk, stretched, chopped – in short, adapted to our ever changing needs, and most importantly, not deteriorate in the process. This is nothing short of amazing. People can launch businesses with 4 or 5 staff and scale them nationwide, worldwide even, and fulfill substantially all the population’s furniture needs with standard, matching workstations. Many do exactly this. As these growing and contracting and evolving business move into and out of buildings, their panel systems can be re-fitted to new environments, demolished, transported, augmented, and built to the needs at the new location. This is powerful efficiency. Contrasted to the massive waste of conventional office construction, cubicles (workstations) are significantly lower impact on the environment. When a ‘rabbit warren’ floor plate of offices or a ‘pony wall’ environment of conventional dry-wall construction cube enclosures is depopulated and demolished in preparation for a new incoming tenant, the construction waste and expended energy is tremendous. Conversely, when workstations are demolished from an environment, this waste is side-stepped. Workstations can either accompany their original owners to the new destination, or be repurposed to a secondary user’s office environment. This keeps energy use down and reduces waste flow into recycling and landfills. As a result of these environmental benefits, functional and aesthetic attributes, and financial efficiencies of cubes, we predict they will continue to successfully support American business well beyond retirement of the Generation X workforce.