Since its founding in 1981, Keilhauer has consistently pushed the envelope on sustainable manufacturing. This drive has culminated in the release of the company’s first carbon neutral product: the Swurve task chair. “We build the idea of sustainability into every single product, right from the very outset of the design brief, so it comes into every conversation,” says Mike Keilhauer, president of the North American furniture brand.
Getting there was no mean feat. Designed by Andrew Jones, the sculptural Swurve underwent a meticulous life-cycle assessment that calculated — and minimized — its total carbon footprint. “That was an important part of it,” says Keilhauer. “For us to be carbon neutral, we had to identify the process of manufacturing from cradle to grave.”
That process starts with materials. “Where are the parts made? How are they mined? You have to identify everything that goes into the product in order to make informed decisions as to what you can eliminate, reduce or recycle.” From the initial concept and early sketches through to the chair’s last day of use (and beyond), every single step is carefully considered — and then independently audited.
Swurve’s sleekly sculpted aluminum base is both an aesthetic highlight and an eco-savvy feature. As Keilhauer explains, “Aluminum is one of those perfect materials for closed-loop. You can melt it down and make a product again — it’s fully recyclable.” Overall, the chair is fabricated with 20 per cent recycled aluminum, 80 per cent recycled steel and 60 per cent recycled nylon, and features a striking mesh back option that’s entirely waste-free. What’s more, the wide range of powder-coated finishes available for the aluminum components offers an elegant, low carbon alternative to chrome.
From the operation of its production facility to packaging and transport, Keilhauer diligently works to reduce the cost to the planet at every turn: Renewable Energy Certificates cover 100 per cent of the company’s electricity use; its energy-saving production facility — which has eliminated all waste water — is furnished with highly efficient equipment; and low-carbon packaging and careful transportation planning mitigate the net carbon output.
Consciously made with repairable and replaceable parts — and supported by a 10-year warranty — Swurve is intended for long-term use, its durability and impeccable style extending the product’s lifespan and ensuring minimal waste ends up in landfill.
To calculate Swurve’s net carbon output, Keilhauer completed a third-party ISO 14044 Life Cycle Assessment encompassing materials, production, transport and end-of-life costs. Accordingly, the chair’s total embodied carbon output amounts to 116 kilograms of CO₂ equivalent — with the impact balanced by commensurate carbon offsets. But the company isn’t stopping there. Keilhauer is targeting further carbon-neutral — and even carbon-negative — products in the future.
For now, Swurve is a seminal achievement — one made possible by years of committed incremental progress. As Mike Keilhauer puts it, major innovation is driven by a multitude of smaller decisions. “You have to get into the minutiae of the product, dig deep down into the supply chain of every material,” he says, “and then make the right choices.”
This content was published by Azure on behalf of Keilhauer.
How Keilhauer created the carbon-neutral Swurve chair — and where it’s going from here.