When Herman Miller was looking to produce a mid-range office chair, they challenged Yves Behar to design a beautiful ergonomic chair that respected the environment. During the design process, he had what Oprah would call an "aha!" moment. He wondered if the engineering principles of a suspension bridge could be applied to the chair. As it turned out, they could.
Not only could these principles be applied to a chair, but using these principles to create a suspension tower that supported an unframed back reduced materials, weight, and environmental impact. The fleeting thoughts of Yves Behar turned into the groundbreaking design of Herman Miller's newest office chair.
The flexible elastomers used in the back of the Herman Miller Sayl Chair by Yves Behar can be stretched in a way that provides the greatest tension at points where most support is needed and allows the least in other areas to allow an expansive range of motion. The Sayl Chair allows the sitter to move without restriction while remaining comfortable and supported. Why isn't Sayl named "bridge" then? When looking at the chair from the side, there is a strong resemblance to a full mainsail. The name reflects the various sailing vessels that pass underneath the Golden Gate Bridge that inspired the original design for the chair. So why name it "Sayl Chair" and not "Sail Chair?" Replacing the "I" with a "Y" was Behar's way of nodding to his innovative "Y" Tower in the back of the chair. He thought out every part of the Sayl Chair and created a better and more intelligent chair that has risen to the top of the mid-range class of work and office chairs.
Herman Miller, Inc. is dedicated to minding the Earth. In 1953 the founder of Herman Miller, D.J. De Pree, declared that the company would be a good steward of the environment. Since that day, Herman Miller products — and therefore the Sayl Chair — have been produced using environmentally friendly techniques. All furniture pieces created by Herman Miller, including Sayl, are produced in a way that will leave the smallest carbon footprint possible. Herman Miller believes that the future and lasting quality of the human race are dependent on both economic vitality and a healthy, sustainable natural environment.
Herman Miller sees these as inextricably linked goals. The future of mankind is dependent on meeting the needs of a growing population while continually enhancing the ecosystem that supports all life. The creators of the Sayl Chair continue to keep their pledge to strive to be an eco friendly company. Herman Miller has set many new goals for themselves to be accomplished by the year 2020. These goals include zero landfill, zero hazardous waste generation, zero air emissions, minimal water use, 100 percent green energy use, company buildings that are constructed to a LEED Silver certification (minimum), and 100 percent of sales from DFE approved products. Herman Miller admits that, as an international company with multiple manufacturing plants and office sites, maintaining their environmental standards can be a challenging task. How do they do it? In addition to creating their furniture, the company has created an Environmental Quality Action Team.
The Environmental Quality Action Team is a cross-functional committee of Herman Miller employees that sets Herman Miller's environmental direction and measures its results. The Environmental Quality Action Team was founded in 1989. In 1991, the team created Herman Miller's first formal environmental policy statement, which established their first-ever environmental goal. That goal was zero landfill usage. Herman Miller tracks and reports on eight environmental strategies monthly. After a review of the environmental policies established at Herman Miller, the team created several support teams to help them carry out day-to-day tasks. They include:
Communications Team, responsible for making Herman Miller's environmental needs clear to internal and external groups.
Design for the Environment Team, responsible for developing environmentally sensitive design standards for new products within the company. The DFE Team collaborated with Yves Behar when he was designing the Sayl Chair.
Environmental Affairs Team, responsible for the company's compliance with external regulations. They also coordinate and assist other company-wide initiatives. This team would make sure that the Sayl Chair complied with all external environmental regulations.
Green Buildings Team, responsible for constructing environmentally sound facilities at Herman Miller.
ISO 14001 Team, responsible for maintaining continuous improvement of the Environmental Management System's 2020 goals for Herman Miller.
Environmental Low Impact Processing Group, made up of a series of teams. With a team at each corporate site, this group is responsible for reducing the impact of manufacturing and office waste in their specific areas. The ideas generated by this group helped in Sayl's environmentally friendly production.
Indoor Air Team, created to supervise and advance the off-gassing of Herman Miller's products.
Energy Reduction Team, committed to the reduction of the amount of energy necessary to produce Herman Miller's products. The Sayl Chair by Yves Behar was produced using the techniques cultivated by the Energy Reduction Team.
Packaging/Transport Team, devoted to discovering ways to reduce the amount of packaging needed for incoming and outgoing products. The Sayl Chair is packaged using the least amount of product possible, which was made possible through the efforts of this team.
Herman Miller Sayl Chairs are produced, displayed, and packaged in green buildings. Herman Miller's green buildings and the ideas behind them can be traced back to Herman Miller's founder, D.J. De Pree. De Pree mandated specific guidelines that would be used on all new Herman Miller buildings years ago that are still in effect today. Herman Miller has many LEED certified buildings and has even won a LEED Pioneer Award for their Greenhouse in Holland, Michigan. The buildings that are LEED certified for new construction and major renovations are Main Site C1 in Zeeland, Michigan, MarketPlace (also in Zeeland, Michigan), and VillageGreen Building in Chippenham, England.
Buildings that are LEED certified for commercial interiors are Convia in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, Design Yard Front Door in Holland, Michigan, Main Site BG in Zeeland, Michigan, Main Site B-West in Zeeland, Michigan, Main Site IT North in Zeeland, Michigan, Dallas Showroom in Dallas, Texas, Los Angeles Showroom, in Los Angeles, California, New York Showroom in New York, New York, Washington, D.C. Showroom in Washington, D.C., and Toronto Showroom in Toronto, Canada. The VillageGreen Building in Chippenham, England is also a BREEAM rated Herman Miller building. In addition to these LEED certified buildings, all of Herman Miller's West Michigan manufacturing sites, its Midwest Distribution Center, and the Design Yard are ISO 14001 certified.
All Herman Miller products, including the Sayl Chair by Yves Behar, are designed to continue Herman Miller's journey towards sustainability. These products are designed with a consideration for the environment and the environmental impact that they will have. Herman Miller's products are designed with a long-term emphasis on durability, innovation, and quality. These long-term goals demonstrate how Herman Miller's designs have positively affected the environment for decades. Essentially, never having to get rid of your furniture means you never have to put it in a landfill. You will be able to use your Sayl Chair for decades.
The focus of Herman Miller's environmental department has slowly shifted towards creating materials and features in their new product designs that are not only durable but also environmentally friendly in and of themselves. The DFE Team mentioned above has pioneered this movement. The Sayl Chair is one of many Herman Miller chairs that use these new materials. All future Herman Miller products will be evaluated based on the rigorous standards of the McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry protocol. Herman Miller's goal is to ensure that all new Herman Miller products will help form pleasant working environments, while also respecting and conserving mankind's natural environment.
Herman Miller claims that they are not in the business of winning awards, but this hasn't stopped them from doing so. In 2010 alone, Herman Miller won ten different awards and recognitions for their environmental work.
Herman Miller was included in NASDAQ OMX CRD Global Sustainability Index. The company was among NASDAQ's top 100 global companies achieving environmental sustainability.
Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery named Herman Miller the recipient of the 2010 WasteWise Gold Achievement Award for Herman Miller's Green Purchasing.
Herman Miller was one of 16 winners chosen in the Detroit Free Press' Michigan Green Leaders from a list of more than 300 nominees.
Herman Miller's GreenHouse was recognized as The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's top environmental performer. Herman Miller was given the Clean Corporate Citizen longevity award. This award recognized that Herman Miller's GreenHouse has maintained this C3 designation for five years.
Herman Miller earned a LEED-CI Platinum certification for its Los Angeles Showroom.
Herman Miller was awarded honorable mention for product stewardship by the Environmental Protection Agency's WasteWise Program.
Herman Miller was selected as a Green Champion by Business Review West Michigan. This recognition was hailed from the publication's inaugural Green Awards, which honors companies as well as individuals who exemplify the spirit of sustainability and push the boundaries of green business.
Herman Miller achieved its seventh consecutive placement on the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index.
Setu chairs and Intent furniture received the MBDC Silver Cradle to Cradle certification
Herman Miller accepted its first Neighborhood Environmental Partners (NEP) award from the Michigan Department of Environmental Equality. The Neighborhood Environmental Partners award recognizes facilities or buildings and their community partners who have worked with each other to improve the environment in their own communities while also implementing ongoing environmental products.
The Herman Miller Sayl Chair was created using fewer materials in an innovative way to make the chair accessible to a large group of people. Fewer parts and fewer materials ultimately meant that the chair could be more affordable and leave a smaller carbon footprint than its competitors. The chair is as inventive as it is affordable. Yves Behar has always been a big proponent of the environment, with most of his designs being environmentally responsible. The eco-dematerialized design results in a lightweight chair that is 93 percent recyclable. Structural components of the chair are hollowed out, reducing its weight and volume.
The ArcSpam, arm structure, and its tilting mechanism are combined into a singe strong component that also adds to the reduction of the Sayl Chair's weight, bringing it down to a remarkably light thirty-seven pounds. The Sayl Chair disproves any notion that an affordable chair equates with an offhand design and minimal ergonomics. Yves Behar's goal in designing this chair was to make a high-quality, attractive, comfortable chair that lived up to the Herman Miller standards. It did not disappoint.
Just recently, the Sayl Chair was nominated for the Green Design Award. Treehugger nominated it for 2011's Best of Green design awards. Herman Miller stated that they were thrilled to be included in the list, and encouraged consumers to vote for Sayl. Herman Miller has also recently added the Sayl Chair to their list of most environmentally friendly products made by the company.
Yves Behar's ideas are bent toward creating designs that are made well and treat the Earth well. His dedication to creating designs that will, at the very least, not harm the Earth is truly impressive. When asked where he goes for inspiration, he answered that his inspiration comes from everywhere, but always goes back to the Earth. Behar is inspired by everything he sees and feels, and dedicates a great deal of his time to working on non-profit projects that allow him to give back to nature and the world in his own way.
Behar subscribes to the belief that the things you do in life will come full circle in the end. He is a great believer in giving back what has been given to you and works closely with non-profit companies One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) and See Better to Learn Better on a regular basis. OLPC is dedicating to helping children learn who would not be able to otherwise. OLPC offers laptops to children who would probably have never even seen a textbook. Behar is a true humanist and is genuinely dedicated to his philanthropy.
As an eco friendly designer, Behar is constantly putting the environment before any other pursuits of his design company. When designing the Sayl Chair for Herman Miller, Behar's first order of business was dematerializing the chair and finding which parts were necessities and which could be left out. What's truly amazing about him is his ability to combine eco friendly design with innovative ideas. Making products that are good for the environment does not mean compromising on other aspects of his work.
Making products that are high quality and eco friendly also doesn't have to mean that they cost a fortune. The chair Behar designed for Herman Miller came in at an astonishingly low $399 (now just a bit over $400), and the XO laptop costs a ridiculously low $100. The Sayl Chair is 93 percent recyclable. Not only is it recyclable, but it's also extremely light and at the top of the class when it comes to ergonomics and aesthetics. Behar has taken his innovative, eco friendly design ideas on the road, speaking at design and green conferences all over the world. Yves Behar gave the keynote speech at the 2010 Greener Gadgets Conference.