Life Cycle Assessment of Furniture

Project

 Collage (c) Jan Wenker
Collage (© Jan Wenker)

The provision of LCA data for furniture

Furniture buyers could be more environmentally conscious, if there is better information on environmental impacts available. In future customers can decide knowledge-based because scientists at the Thünen-Institute are working on a systematic life cycle assessment approach for furniture. Also the manufacturers can make sound operational decisions based on the life cycle assessment information.

Background and Objective

The industrial furniture production is an important part of the timber industry. It consumes considerable quantities of wood and wood based panels. Therefore, it is important to carry out LCAs for products in this sector. There is a corresponding need for LCA data for furniture, because they are actually available only to a very limited extent. In this project we want to develop a method for the systematic life cycle assessment of furniture and then generate LCA data for representative average furniture.

Approach

The focus of our project is to develop a methodological framework for the systematic life cycle assessment of products for the furniture industry. The results will show average representative furniture within furniture factories. We therefore assign the environmental impact of manufacturing processes along the production chain to the numerous products of the furniture industry in a sound way.

Data and Methods

We assess the environmental impact of the industrial furniture production based on the international standards ISO 14040/14044 and EN 15804. The necessary life cycle inventory provides all relevant information on the materials used, the process chain, the waste arisings as well as the resulting emissions (material flow and energy flow analysis). Primary data is provided by member companies of the divisions within the Association of the German Furniture Industry (VDM). From the results of the inventory analysis, we derive in the context of the impact assessment potential environmental impacts caused by the production of furniture.

Our Research Questions

How can we do a systematic life cycle assessment of products within the furniture industry in a sound way? What are the environmental impacts of the industrial production of furniture?

Results

The expected results, LCA data for representative average furniture, can be used at three levels:

1. companies in the furniture industry are able to analyze and optimize the manufacturing process from an ecological point of view thanks to LCA data.

2. As the furniture industry also produces directly to consumers, the environmental impact of furniture could be an important decision-making information for the customers.

3. LCA data for average furniture can provide valuable information on the contribution of the furniture sector to the carbon storage in the context of national greenhouse gas reporting.

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