Learn About LEVEL

Learn About LEVEL 2017-08-14T14:48:23+00:00

Environmental Performance Matters

Level was created to deliver the most open and transparent means of evaluating and communicating the environmental and social impacts of furniture products in the built environment. To put it simply, Level is to commercial furniture as LEED is to buildings. Also like LEED, Level is comprehensive. It addresses criteria across corporate, facility and product impacts in a way that few other certifications do.

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LEVEL is an evaluation and certification system for environmentally-preferable and socially-responsible office furniture. The LEVEL program has three performance tiers; LEVEL 1, 2, and 3. The higher the number, the more criteria considered and met.

A Comprehensive Certification

Level works by applying basic requirements – or prerequisites – for all products in the category. From there, the system considers corporate, facility, and product impacts across categories including Materials, Energy, Health, and Social. It’s an extensive system with multiple ways to accumulate points.

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Materials

Materials

The standard deals with the issue of materials from a variety of perspectives. At a prerequisite LEVEL, all participating manufacturers must have a design for environment (DFE) program in place, followed by an assessment of a variety of component parts. The standard recognizes a variety of sustainability attributes for materials, such as climate neutrality, recycled content, efficiency of material usage, biodegradability, selection of rapidly renewable materials, life cycle assessments, and more.

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Materials

Energy & Atmosphere

Corporate sustainability policies, manufacturing facilities, and finished products are accounted for within this section. Credits are available for demonstrating an EnergyStar equivalent of 60 or higher. Measurements from “cradle to gate” and “gate to gate” for embodied energy, green house gases, lighting, and transportation impacts all provide a lens to reflect the sustainability impacts of materials as they move from their simple origins as raw material into their ultimate finished state. A LEVEL® certification provides a perspective on what it took to produce the final product.

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Materials

Human & Ecosystem Health

Few items have as great a significance or impact on total well being than human and ecosystem health. The credits within this section first require basic compliance but build dramatically from there. This standard is the only furniture standard of its kind with a publicly disclosed Chemicals of Concern list. The standard has listed over 500 chemicals that manufacturers should be aware of and rewards reporting of, and the eventual reduction or elimination of, chemicals on the list from finished products and manufacturing processes. Listed in Annex B of the standard, the Chemicals of Concern list identifies persistent, bioaccumulative reproductive toxicants, carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. Hazardous waste, air emissions and other elements that affect the greater ecosystem are accounted for in this section as well.

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Materials

Social Responsibility

Beyond health and safety, LEVEL® accounts for labor and human rights within the standard. Social responsibility, external health and safety management as well as inclusiveness are optional credits within this section. As companies continue to incorporate greater social responsibility into their corporate actions, LEVEL certification to the standard can, and does, account for those contributions.

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LEVEL Can Contribute to Sustainable Building Ratings

An Even Playing Field

Level is the independent, third-party certification for office furniture and furnishings including movable/full-height walls, systems furniture, desking systems, benching systems, case goods, storage cabinets, bookcases, file cabinets, desks, tables, screens, seating of all types, and related accessories.

The ANSI/BIFMA e3 Furniture Sustainability Standard takes into account a company’s social actions, energy usage, material selection, and human and ecosystem health impacts. The Level brand identifies that a product has been vetted by an independent third-party certifier and its numeric marking 1, 2, or 3 indicates what threshold of the standard it has achieved. BIFMA’s Level Certification Program is included in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Recommended Specifications, Standards and Ecolabels for federal furniture purchasing.

Spec Language

For A&D firms and customers that want to ensure they specify environmentally preferable furniture products, we offer two versions of standardized bid specification language, one mandating Level certified products and one expressing a preference.

Furniture and furnishings products proposed in response to this request shall be independently third-party certified as compliant with the ANSI/BIFMA e3 Furniture Sustainability Standard at Level 1 or higher.  Signed documentation of Level certification by a third-party certification body licensed to participate in the BIFMA Level program shall be provided.

Examples of acceptable documentation include signed certificates of compliance from a licensed third-party certification body, as defined at  Level certified third-party.

In the event there are not more than two manufacturers with Level certification on a required type of product at the time the responses are due, the requirement for Level certification on the affected product type(s) may be waived.

Furniture and furnishings subject to Level certification includes, but is not limited to, movable/full-height walls, systems furniture, desking systems, benching systems, case goods, storage cabinets, bookcases, file cabinets, desks, tables, screens, seating of all types, and related accessories.

It is strongly desired that the furniture and furnishings products proposed in response to this request for proposal are independently third-party certified as compliant with the ANSI/BIFMA e3 Furniture Sustainability Standard at Level 1 or higher.  Those products certified at Level 1 or higher would receive preference over non-certified product.

Are the proposed products certified at Level 1 or higher? If yes, examples of acceptable documentation include signed certificates of compliance from a licensed third-party certification body, as defined at Level certified third-party.

If the products are not certified, outline your efforts towards achieving BIFMA Level certification for the proposed products.

Furniture and furnishings subject to Level certification includes, but is not limited to, movable/full-height walls, systems furniture, desking systems, benching systems, case goods, storage cabinets, bookcases, file cabinets, desks, tables, screens, seating of all types, and related accessories.

About the Standard

Since 2006, the Joint Committee on Furniture Sustainability, a volunteer group of stakeholders from inside and outside of the industry, has undertaken the development of the first open, consensus based, sustainability standard for the furniture industry. Using the ANSI process, over 125 participants contributed to committees and sub-committees to develop the ANSI/BIFMA e3-2010 Furniture Sustainability Standard. The e3 Standard is now in its fourth edition (e3-2014e) and in continuous maintenance mode by the Joint Committee.

Order a copy of the ANSI/BIFMA e3 Furniture Sustainability Standard

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Stakeholders applied a “reasonableness test” to determine if the environmental benefit of points awarded in credits was such that certain criteria should be worth a higher point value. For example, a reasonableness test assumes that reducing energy consumption carries a greater impact than merely measuring energy consumption.

Financial support for development and maintenance of this ANSI Standard is underwritten by the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA), the owner of the standard, with in-kind support from NSF International, the Standards Development Organization (SDO).

Developed with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) oversight in mind, LEVEL® has to function in ways proprietary standards do not. The ANSI process requires full transparency, open and balanced participation in the standard’s creation, and a consensus based approach to dealing with all issues related to the standard. Additionally, LEVEL certification assures that an accredited third-party has verified a specific product’s conformance to the standard.

Inherent in the standard is an understanding that it is in a state of continual maintenance and review. This means that as part of the standard’s evolution, any emerging issues will be reviewed on an ongoing basis through the ANSI process as opposed to issues being addressed through a “batched” approach. As a result, the LEVEL sustainability standard will be undergoing constant improvements that will be fully open to public input and discourse. In the standards world, this concentration on “real time”, continuous improvement for sustainability is necessary due to the growing body of scientific knowledge on these issues as well as the urgent need for actions to benefit the planet.

The American National Standards Institute works to develop and assure the safety and health of consumers and the environment by overseeing the creation and use of norms and guidelines that directly impact business. ANSI is also actively engaged in accrediting programs that assess conformance to both quality driven and ISO 14000 (environmental) management systems.

BIFMA supports the ANSI mission of promoting and facilitating voluntary consensus standards and conformity assessment systems and ensuring their integrity. Only ANSI-Accredited Standards Developers may submit standards through the ANSI approval process. Adhering to this process demonstrates that the standards developer is committed to an open, fair and time-tested consensus process benefiting both stakeholders and the public.

The world of environmentally responsible products and manufacturing is now more clear. Commercial furniture that meets the demands of environmentally focused purchasing is now LEVEL. BIFMA has adhered to this process and its influence can be seen throughout both the standard itself and in how LEVEL is being brought to market.