Healthy Furniture Initiative and New Design Standards

June 3, 2019

Yale’s campus will be a little greener thanks to a new initiative addressing chemicals of concern in university-purchased furniture. Yale’s Sustainable Design Standards now specify eliminating certain chemicals considered hazardous.

A cross-departmental committee with representatives from Facilities Planning and Project Management, Procurement, Environmental Health and Safety, Office of the Fire Marshal, Sustainability, Yale School of Public Health, and Change Management convened late last year to learn about the negative health impacts of certain “chemicals of concern” often found in furniture materials or components.

Chemicals such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), antimicrobials, per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) used as stain and water-resistant treatments, and flame-resistant chemicals are frequently found in furniture, often in the foam or upholstery. These chemicals have been linked to serious health problems, including cancer.

Recent updates, to the CT fire code and the prevalence of sprinklers across campus, now make it possible to reduce the necessity of fire retardants in almost all applications across campus. Through this collaborative cross-departmental effort, furniture purchased for new projects will reflect updated specifications to help protect the health of building occupants, as well as furniture manufacturers and the environment.

Yale is committed to building a more sustainable world. By doing what we do best—integrating science, the humanities, and our community—Yale creates, tests and adopts innovative solutions to the environmental and social challenges we all face.