Furnished with care

From ergonomic chairs to heavy-duty kitchens and sustainable lighting, Simon Fry rounds up the latest furniture news in education

Just as a uniform does more than keep children warm, so too their learning environment’s furniture can do more than just provide seating and work surfaces. Well-designed products boost attention and performance while attractive, durable kitchens enhance university life. Functionality and eco-friendliness are found indoors and outside.

Ellis Furniture has provided schools and learning institutes with the Estudio, Novus and Scholar ranges for many years and has a loyal customer base with longstanding and returning customers. The British-made Estudio range has been robustly constructed and designed to suit all storage needs from early learning applications to primary schools to sixth-form colleges. The British-made Novus range is bold and striking and is available in a choice of unit colours including classic beech, contemporary white and warm oak. The range’s most attractive features include 18mm thick carcase material and 170-degree fully opening hinges and it is made with a ridged construction and double-dowelled glue for added strength and stability.

The Ellis Furniture Scholar range is the company’s most versatile classroom range yet and is designed to meet all storage needs. Manufactured in a choice of finishes, the construction is commensurate with heavy-duty contract use. Scholar units are manufactured from 18mm melamine-faced chipboard and a 3mm solid lipping for added contrast. The range also benefits from solid timber-faced bottom, back and front horizontal rails.

Ellis Furniture provides contract heavy-duty kitchens for universities across the UK and is a great solution for shared kitchens, providing the most durable kitchen range available on the market. Ellis Furniture has recently updated the shared kitchens at Leeds Beckett University, the University of Derby and Durham University. Each refurbishment has been given a timeless, sleek and contemporary feel, yet is designed to last a lifetime.

It’s also in-with-the-new at Hampshire’s Barton Peveril Sixth Form College where KI’s Intellect Wave chairs have been installed in the college’s new, eco-friendly, £4.2 million Nobel Building, featuring solar panels and a rainwater harvesting system.

The estates and IT staff have installed more than 1,200 items of furniture as well as adding 200 new PCs to the network. KI were briefed to supply a high volume of Intellect Wave chairs for this showcase area of the campus. Carol Geddes of Barton Peveril said: “The Intellect Wave chairs were chosen to complement the light, airy setting of the student study areas in our new teaching building. Practical and comfortable, they are in constant use throughout the college day and fit neatly under desks when unoccupied.”

Julie Perry, head of project partner Prism Office Interiors, added: “Barton Peveril College were keen to ensure the durability and design of the student furniture selected fulfilled all the criteria required for the Nobel Building. Following an extensive audit of various samples of ICT chairs the Intellect Wave IT chair was selected because it basically ticked all the boxes – comfort, design, and durability and is very competitively priced. The Intellect Wave chair has been well received by the students hence the reason for all the repeat orders!’

Ergonomic furniture experts Aalborg produce furniture incorporating input from specialists who understand specific school needs to satisfy numerous objectives. The ergonomist needs to know of the constraints affecting relationships between seats and desks; the industrial designer must relate the needs for good posture with elegant design and suitable ‘green’ material solutions while the engineer can best determine issues of strength and resistance to damage with cost of construction.

The result of this collaboration is furniture which, thanks to a number of features, reduces back and neck pain in pupils, which in turn aids concentration and helps boosts grades. KI’s chairs and saddle stools allow for the provision of higher and relaxed postures for all ages and are resistant to damage by pupils (and will not damage the floor on which they stand). Their desk and workstation surfaces are tilt-adjustable, benefiting reading and writing, especially for primary-school pupils. Replaceable surfaces save time and cost in the event of vandalism while bag hooks reduce clutter and all furniture is designed to store compactly. Easy reconfiguration within the classroom provides for flexibility of teaching, while Aalborg has received feedback from schools appreciative of their consideration of environmental issues and their understanding of the important relationship between posture and learning.

Green concerns are expressed regularly by schools, according to Jonathan Goss, managing director of street furniture manufacturer Townscape. “Two phrases recur when we speak to schools and education facilities about outdoor furniture – ‘cost-effective’ and ‘sustainability’. We’ve all become more environmentally conscious and this trend can be seen in street furniture specifications and procurement. A good example of using responsibly-sourced timber is Bristol’s Air Balloon Hill Primary School, which has undergone a £5.2 million extension. Tasked to develop a sustainable and cost-effective canopy solution linking the school’s old and new buildings, we created two bespoke 35m canopy shelters from piqua hardwood, which is Forest Stewardship Council certified, guaranteeing the trees harvested are replaced or allowed to regenerate naturally.”

Some of Townscape’s new technology lights enlightenedly. “Our new Solispost bollard is one of our innovative products combining sustainability and money-saving. It’s a solar bollard, ideal for educational facilities wishing to keep areas on campus illuminated without spiraling electricity bills. The technology can adapt to an area’s specific needs; for example, solar-powered illuminated bollards can provide continuous lighting after dark at a low level and a higher illumination level is activated automatically when a person approaches.”

Schools, colleges and universities seeking new furniture will find many solutions open to them, some incorporating technology worthy of study in itself. 

Ellis W: www.ellisfurniture.co.uk

KI (Krueger International, Inc) W: www.kieurope.com

Allborg W: www.aalborgdk.com

Townscape W: www.townscapeproducts.co.uk