Volume 1, August 2011

Fast Facts: Refurbished Cubicles: a Green Choice.

The use of cubicles in office space can allow more people to work comfortably in a smaller space — 75 square feet, at last count, for the average American office cubicle user. Using less floor space automatically reduces the resources required for each individual worker, since energy use increases in larger spaces. The lack of walls reduces energy use further, since all the workers in the larger space can share light and heat or air conditioning. Consider the raw materials needed for those walls in the first place, and cubicles are clearly a greener choice.


If you’re thinking of using cubicles in your office for the sake of reducing your carbon footprint, you should take the next logical step and go with used cubicles. Certainly, any time you can reuse rather than buying new, you’re conserving resources. If you can make use of something that would otherwise have to be disposed of, you’ve doubled the benefits: fewer natural resources consumed, and less waste ending up in the landfill.


For cubicles, though, there’s an extra layer, because good quality cubicles are made of steel. Mark Miller, COO of EthoSource, a used furniture company in the Northeast, says that his company chooses Herman Miller cubicles for their refurbished cubicles. “Those things are built like tanks, “says Miller. “They last forever.”


The strength of the steel is matched by the environmental impact of producing new steel:

  • Steel manufacturing is always one of the highest energy consumers in countries with a steel industry. In the United States, even with our much smaller steel industry, steel still represents a full 8% of the energy consumption in the manufacturing sector.

  • Steel requires iron ore and often scrap metal for recycled steel. While recycling is of course a good thing, recycling scrap metal to produce steel involves extensive processing and creates greenhouse gases – both through the process of producing steel in furnaces and the high energy use required to do so.

  • Some of the scrap steel is used up in the production of recycled steel. A single steel cubicle reclaimed for scrap metal will not produce enough new steel to make a new steel cubicle. Considering the loss of raw materials in the process, emissions, and energy use, reuse of steel is unquestionably a more earth friendly choice than recycling.


Fortunately, recovering a used cubicle creates a cubicle that is essentially new: the only parts of the cubicle that are visible to the users are in fact new.


With the substantial savings that used cubicles offer, there is no reason to hesitate to make the green choice when it comes to cubicles.


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2011 Joel & Granot Real Estate, LLC
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Commercial Real Estate Services, Atlanta, GA