Global furniture manufacturer Steelcase has developed a broad sustainability program with economic, social and environmental targets. A special steering committee provides direction on achieving these targets, which include a commitment to a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas and VOC emissions, water use and waste by the end of 2020. Social sustainability goals include increased corporate volunteerism, philanthropy, and the promotion of employee diversity and inclusion. These goals are supported by the company’s ongoing implementation and development of a wide variety of metrics and policies that include sustainable procurement and end-of-use strategies, a code of conduct for the company’s global suppliers regarding human rights, labour practices, environmental impact and community involvement, and a robust investment in renewable energy.
Located on the 24th floor of a Downtown Toronto office building, the Steelcase WorkLife showroom was designed to embody a deep commitment to sustainability. The 920m2 space is the new hub for the company’s Canadian operations, and replaces a much larger suburban predecessor. The decision to locate Steelcase in the city centre, along with a design strategy that blends showroom and workplace, has significant benefits. The negative environmental impact of the company’s previous suburban location has been substantially mitigated. Now situated much closer to its clientele and employees and occupying half the area it used to, Steelcase has drastically reduced its environmental footprint in Toronto.
Capitalizing on the unusual height and dimensions of the space, innovative design gestures establish a dramatic new presence for the company. WorkLife is designed as an open office rather than a traditional showroom, a revolutionary strategy that reduces space needs significantly: sales team members operate from the very same workstations shown to clients as demonstration models. As a result, all but 180m2 of back-of-house space is shared by staff and clients in an immersive experience that encourages interaction and fosters creativity.
Steelcase places great emphasis on well-being, manifest in both their products and workspaces. The company dedicates significant resources to research in this area, and the WorkLife showroom reflects these findings. In addition to the furniture being ergonomically tailored to users’ specific needs, the space itself promotes wellness. The environment is designed with occupant health and comfort in mind, and with a broader understanding of energy and resource efficiency.
Lighting power density reduction relative to reference building under ASHRAE 90.1  = 15%
Potable water consumption from municipal sources = 3,389L/occupant/year
Reduction in water consumption relative to LEED reference standard = 35%
Reclaimed and recycled materials [by value] = 27%
Regional materials as defined by LEED [by value] = 65%
Construction material waste diverted from landfill = 71%
OWNER/DEVELOPER Steelcase Inc.
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Blackwell
ELECTRICAL ENGINEER Smith + Andersen
MECHANICAL ENGINEER Smith + Andersen
GENERAL CONTRACTOR Marant
PHOTOS Ben Rahn/A-Frame
LESLIE JEN, BA [ADV], JD, B.ARCH, FRAIC, IS MARKETING DIRECTOR AT SUPERKÜL AND FORMER ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF CANADIAN ARCHITECT MAGAZINE.