Good practice

Innovative procurement strategy to embed circularity in office refurbishment

Innovative procurement strategy to embed circularity in office refurbishment
© photographyfirm, #138194063, 2018, source:
Materials, Waste, Carbon
Office and administration
Resource savings: Waste:
486 items of furniture have been re-used or remanufactured, diverting approximately 7.8 tonnes from landfill. 1 213 m2 of floor space was carpeted, with re-used carpet tiles accounting for 530 m2 (44 % of total floor space), reducing waste-to-landfill or incineration of 2.39 tonnes.
Co2 emission reduction:
Furniture reuse and remanufacture has saved 29.1tonnes CO2e and carpet tile reuse has saved 4.5tonnes CO2e.
Premises and operation areas:
Office building
Size of company:
Large (more than 250)
Advancement in applying resource efficiency measures:

Flexible working environment, flexible furnishing

  • City council explores innovative ways to re-use and refurbish existing furniture to create a new office environment
  • Novel approach to procuring furnishing and flooring used
  • Tender specifications outlined ambitious requirements for existing furniture and flooring to be re-used, refurbished and incorporated into the new layout

In 2017, the City and County of Swansea Council (CCoS) embarked upon an agile working programme that will eventually move 1 400 employees from traditional individual offices and desk allocation to a flexible working environment. The council recognised the need to transition towards workplace practices that suit a more agile workforce in the new building. A timeline was developed to conduct an initial pilot (Phase 1) – based on a specific working area – to showcase the approach and help to create internal buy-in for the new workspace format. This was then followed by a roll-out across one floor of the Civic Centre (Phase 2) and then across the whole building (Phase 3).

The council wanted to expand their existing options for disposing of surplus and redundant furniture which prioritises partner organisations (e.g. schools), all other council organisations, other CCoS departments, neighbouring authorities and colleges, local charities, and re-use through ‘Recycle Shop’ in Swansea.

The tenders specified a minimum requirement of 80 % of the furniture “to be either upcycled or recycled and include items from the existing office furniture held by CCoS”. The remaining 20 % of furniture could be “new or recycled items as long as they contributed to the modern feel of the office environment and supported the new agile working environment”.

Across all three phases, a total of 486 items of furniture were re-used or remanufactured. This includes: 199 desks, 214 office chairs, 41 storage units, two tables, three meeting pods, and 25 other items.

Re-using and remanufacturing the above items diverted approximately 7.8 tonnes from landfill. This also achieved a total CO2e saving of 29.1 tonnes:

  • Savings from desks and tables is approximately 13.9 tonnes CO2e
  • Savings from office chairs is approximately 12.6 tonnes CO2e
  • Savings from storage units and other items is approximately 2.6 tonnes CO2e

Each remanufactured office chair used in the project has an estimated associated 20 kg of carbon dioxide emissions. This equates to a 61 % reduction when compared to emissions from equivalent new chairs (see reference footnote1). Water consumption associated with the remanufacturing of the chairs (1 424 litres) also compares favourably when compared to new chairs (5 114 litres). This equates to a 72 % saving in water consumption.

Desks were re-engineered and remanufactured into a beam desk system using legacy stock from CCoS. Ministry of Furniture calculated that dismantling 70 desks for re-use on site enabled them to reduce lorry movements by 77 % (from 13 to three vehicle loads).

Landscape furniture and soft seating were sourced and refurbished from nearly-new and ex-showroom stock, helping to achieve cost savings. Re-use contracts have enabled the Ministry of Furniture to create four new FTE positions and three temporary roles for people furthest from the job market.

In terms of flooring, Greenstream was appointed to replace existing carpets – which were in poor condition after long-term extended use – for recycling and re-use. Across all three phases, a total floor space of 12 13 m2 was carpeted. Re-used carpet tiles accounted for 530 m2, equivalent to 44 % of the total floor space. Re-using 530 m2 of carpet tiles enabled CCoS to reduce waste-to-landfill or incineration by 2.39 tonnes (see references footnote 2). This also achieved a CO2e saving of 4.5 tonnes.

The contract with CCoS has helped Greenstream to secure the employment and apprenticeship training of two previously long-term unemployed individuals.

Key results

Sustainable procurement in the public sector should prioritise and demonstrate transparency, fairness, non-discrimination, competition, accountability, and verification. This aligns closely with the Welsh Government’s ‘Well-being Goals’ of contributing towards a more equal, resilient and globally responsible Wales.

The council has an existing responsible disposal policy for furniture. However, the office refit provided an opportunity to achieve wider Well-being Goals by creating employment and skills opportunities for supported businesses in Wales through furniture refurbishment. The circular procurement approach also helped to close product and material loops, reducing waste to landfill and supporting the re-use and remanufacturing economy.

More broadly, the measures have delivered the following benefits:

  • Agile working practices have reduced the need for space by approximately 25 %. This has enabled surplus space to be rented to other tenants, creating a new revenue stream for CCoS.
  • Originally, 122 staff worked from 150 desks. Now, 368 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees work from 212 desks, doubling the desk utilisation rate from 0.81 to 1.74.
  • Some 486 items of furniture have been re-used or remanufactured. This has diverted approximately 7.8 tonnes from landfill and has resulted in a total CO2e saving of 29.1 tonnes.
  • A total of 1 213 m2 of floorspace was carpeted, with re-used carpet tiles accounting for 530 m2 (44 % of total floor space). This has reduced waste-to-landfill or incineration by 2.39 tonnes and resulted in a CO2e saving of 4.5 tonnes
  • Sourcing remanufactured furniture and re-used carpet has enabled the procurement to create six new FTE positions and three temporary roles

The Well-being of Future Generations goals are core to Swansea Council’s asset management. Upcycling and recycling furniture in partnership with local social enterprises has helped demonstrate our corporate objectives in a visible and tangible way as we modernise the way we work through a more agile working environment.” -- Rebecca Jones, Civic Buildings and Accommodation Manager, Corporate Building & Property Services, Swansea City Council

“The Estates team at Swansea Council have shown real leadership in seeking out solutions for their office refurbishment that deliver the Well-being of Future Generations goals. As well as re-using furniture and flooring, and reducing waste, they have also engaged with social enterprises at scale that demonstrates the potential for other public sector bodies to deliver similar benefits.” -- Ellen Petts, MD, Greenstream Flooring CIC

Our work with Swansea Council has been rewarding and pioneering. In going for a remanufactured and used approved solution to the Civic projects, Swansea Council have demonstrated their commitment to the circular economy, whilst at the same time supporting Ministry of Furniture – a Welsh business with social aims. We’re proud and delighted to be associated with them.” -- Simon Jones Business Manager, Ministry of Furniture


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