WHAT IS BIFMA AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO ME?
June 8, 2020
So, what is BIFMA and how is it relevant to me as a customer? This is a great question and one that we are asked about frequently. Lets first explain what BIFMA is and discuss how this organization is a big benefit for you.
BIFMA is the Business + Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association which is a not-for-profit trade association founded in 1973 for manufacturers of office and institutional furniture. In BIFMA’s own words its “Our industry’s service to our customers – providing healthy, comfortable, and productive workspaces – rests on an infrastructure of engineering and materials standards. These standards, founded on centuries of craft and enhanced by ever-advancing science, embody the best of our knowledge on safety, ergonomics, and sustainability.” So, in a nutshell, BIFMA is the organization that guides the office furniture manufacturers in terms of dimension, materials, safety, sustainability and quality so you have peace of mind that the big investments you are making in these products are compliant in all of these aspects.
Its easy to understand the safety and quality aspect of compliance. You expect furniture that is BIFMA certified will be durable and perform without compromise but what about dimensional compliance. This is something that most buyers are not necessarily thinking about but that is equally important as quality and safety. BIFMA provides universal dimensional standards to manufacturers so they are designing products like chairs, desks and sit-to-stand tables, for example, that are similar in size from one manufacturer to another. These dimensions come from a comprehensive database of body sizes (anthropometrics) that represents a cross section of an international population of both male and female subjects and most of us fall somewhere in between the 5th to 95th percentile of the world population relative to our body dimensions (height, leg length, arm length, etc). BIFMA’s goal is to ensure that the furniture we sit in and use is universally sized with the appropriate adjustability to “fit” most of us.
Imagine a world without this compliance. The furniture we are familiar with could be in all different shapes and sizes leaving you to guess what will and will not work. It would be the Wild West of furniture manufacturing. Having standards ensures that you are accommodating the broad ranges of body sizes of your organization so everyone is comfortable with reduced risk of fatigue and you know you are getting your money’s worth of quality, ergonomics and performance.
Is every office furniture manufacturer BIFMA compliant? No, this is a voluntary compliance standard and the companies who abide by this are industry members of BIFMA so its of critical importance that you know what you are purchasing as it all may look the same. Member manufactures who comply will have this documented either on their website or on the specific product pages of the furniture pieces you are interested in. If you don’t see it, ask for a certificate of compliance. Also, there are dozens of different standards and each is a little different. You can learn more about these standards on BIFMA’s website: https://www.bifma.org/page/standardsoverview
This can seem a little daunting especially if you are designing a project where you are considering a wide range of furniture product applications and especially if you are pursuing WELL or LEED certification for your project. Be Well Ergo can assist you with this process. We have a deep understanding and practical experience with office furniture and can help you navigate the selection process by assessing the products you are considering and verifying their compliance. Be Well Ergo is not affiliated with any specific manufacturers so we can focus on your goals and help you select product that is right for you. To learn more about BIFMA visit their website: https://www.bifma.org/page/about and if you need additional guidance, contact us at Be Well Ergo.