What are the main things you need to think about when you’re buying sustainable residence hall furniture and choosing your supplier? It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the options.
We’ve supplied solid hardwood furniture to college residence halls for over 40 years. And we’ve also observed that some things stand out when you’re choosing your residence hall furniture supplier.
Based on our experience, in addition to cost and service, here are four key criteria that will influence who you’ll partner with to supply your residence hall furniture. These criteria will help you separate the good from the mediocre and find the furniture that’s right for your residence hall.
How sustainable is the furniture? That’s super important. Why?
For one thing, students are more socially and environmentally savvy than ever. And it’s hip to be green.
Whereas environmentalism used to be a fringe movement defined by activist groups like Greenpeace, it has evolved into a widely embraced system of resource management called sustainability. These days, it’s championed by blue chip companies like BMW, Adidas, Coca-Cola, L’Oréal, and H&M.
It’s completely mainstream. Here’s how the UN’s Bruntland commission defines sustainability:
Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Baked into that definition is an awareness of and a commitment to future generations.
But it doesn’t stop there. To be sustainable, we need to consider exactly how our resource use will affect the future and by definition, we want to minimize our impact on and consumption of natural resources.
Students know this and they are better informed than ever.
They want furniture that is free of toxic materials—chemicals that pollute our soil, air, water, and bodies. They want residence hall furniture that is manufactured according to the highest standards of sustainability.
And in most cases, so do you!
As someone who chooses furniture for residence halls, your first obligation is to meet the environmental policy standards of your own educational institution and then the law.
But there are more considerations and benefits when it comes to sustainability.
For one, sustainably manufactured furniture can help you earn LEED certifications for your dorms and bolster your commitment to safeguarding the biosphere.
It’s also no secret that schools who have made strong public commitments to sustainability attract more students. For example UC Irvine, arguably the most sustainable school in America, has enjoyed a surge in applications and enrollment since it started winning high profile awards for its innovative green practices.
The number of applicants for the fall 2016 academic quarter increased nearly 10 percent compared to the prior year — making UCI the fastest-growing UC campus.
And sustainability is also why Irvine chooses companies like DCI to supply their residence hall furniture.
At DCI, we’ve worked for 40 years to develop the highest environmental standards. We use locally harvested hardwood—a renewable resource—from sustainably managed forests in the Northeast United States.
This wood is harvested within 120 miles of our sawmill where we use every part of the timber. Nothing ever goes to waste. In fact, we maintain a zero waste policy—the only one in our industry.
These standards helped qualify us to win the coveted FSC-Chain-of-Custody certification, valid through 2019. Additionally, we harness all of our manufacturing byproduct (sawdust) and use it to fuel our boilers which power our kilns and our factory.
In fact, our sustainable manufacturing processes are so unique that many of our clients tour our factory to see our sustainability principles in action. In some cases, the Universities are so proud of the green pedigree of their furniture that they share the story with their students about how the residence hall furniture is made.
Another question you should ask might be obvious. How long can you expect your furniture to last? How can you gauge the quality and durability?
First, you need to make sure that you get a guarantee. At DCI, we believe so deeply in our furniture that we guarantee it to last at least 25 years. It’s hard to find a better guarantee for residence hall furniture.
But we don’t stop there. Sometimes we buy back your furniture. In this Case Study, we highlight our upcycling work with The University of New Hampshire.
Here’s the short version of that story. We bought back furniture we installed in UNH residence halls over 25 years ago. Then we broke it down and repurposed the wood as internal components in their new furniture. It was a beautiful upcycling collaboration.
Old World Craftsmanship
Unlike a lot of contemporary furniture makers, we approach furniture manufacturing with an ethic of old-world craftsmanship. Just like the old days, your first child might come into this world, grow up, go to college, and get married before our furniture gives out.
In contrast, many furniture companies give you a 10-15 year warranty. Why is that and what’s the difference?
One of the benefits of furniture made from solid hardwood is that it lasts a long time.
That’s not true for every core material. Furniture made from wood composites and plastic laminate (think IKEA) are vulnerable to moisture. They have poor screw retention.
And although the superficial plastic surfaces may last on laminate furniture, the core materials rarely do. That’s why the warranty for this kind of furniture is so short compared to solid hardwood.
Let’s be honest. The upshot is that a lot of residence halls end up with “disposable furniture”.
In a college residence hall, you need furniture that can stand up to rugged use. As you well know, college students are not always the most gentle lot. Therefore durability, strength, and reliable craftsmanship are important.
In the end, you can’t match the quality of old-world style solid hardwood furniture. In fact, you can still find original DCI furniture that is 40 years old in Boston’s famous Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
That’s the kind quality that we stand behind.
And let me say, just in case this point isn’t already obvious to you. Solid hardwood furniture is a better investment. Over time it saves you money because it lasts so much longer than the alternatives.
In the lifespan of one solid hardwood set, you can easily buy two whole rounds of furniture made from wood composites and laminates. From that perspective, there’s no comparison between wood and the competition.
One of the great things about wood is that it’s timeless. It never goes out of vogue.
And now, because sustainability has moved into the mainstream, solid hardwood has become more fashionable. Renewable resources are the rage.
The other great thing about solid hardwood is that it’s malleable and forgiving, which allows for a great measure of styling and customization to compliment your existing design standards.
Close partnership with your furniture manufacturer is an important part of choosing the furniture for your residence hall. You need to feel that you have flexibility in designing a solution that matches all your aesthetic and functional needs.
At DCI, we work closely with all of our clients to design the best solution.
What colors and fittings do you want? Do you need to optimize space to increase occupancy? Do you want to upgrade the design standard across your campus?
All of our furniture is highly customizable so we can serve your specific needs. This is not a one-size fits all, out-of-the box solution (although it can be if you want).
We can adapt to your specific set of needs and you can enjoy tremendous flexibility through our innovative manufacturing processes. We enjoy working closely with every client to design your unique solution.
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To set up an order today or to talk with one of our representatives, you can write to us here or call: (800) 552-8286.
You can also 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.