Most visitors to France's Bourgogne region around Macon may tour the wineries, stock up on Pouilly-Fuissé or view the historical town centre. In contrast furniturelink's itinerary in October 2007 included a factory tour of Simire, a major producer of vibrantly coloured tables and chairs furnishing many of France's schools.
Founded in 1946 to produce wooden radio cabinets, Simire morphed into a school furniture manufacturer with the onset of the transistor. Today, the plant employs around 200 workers and produces an average of 1,500 tables and 2,000 chairs per day from laminated particle board, laminated wood veneer and steel tubing (at a rate of 30 km of tubing per day).
The light industrial manufacturer takes particular pride in its proprietary high-pressure polyurethane edging system that allows particle board table tops to withstand the rigours of high-impact school use and moist atmospheres - which keeps Simire's tables out of the landfill considerably longer than those with a standard tape-edge.
Simire tube-bending workshop
Simire began implementing eco-friendly policies in 2003, receiving PEFC certification for its plant in 2005 and certification of its particle board produced by twin company Belipa.
Meeting with furniturelink, Nicolas Decroix, Simire's head of research development, described the preliminary stages of the company's new eco-friendly product line - cafeteria furniture. This project involved Decroix's staff of four, contract furniture designer Maud Le Duff, eco-consultant Paule Guérin and Sodexho, a globalized food and facilities management company with operations in 80 countries and over 340,000 employees. On behalf of the Paris-based furniture association VIA (see issue #085), Philippe Jarniat administered funding provided by Eco Design Bois Bourgogne, which included the hiring of Le Duff and Guérin.
Lounge-style cafeteria furniture designed by Maud Le Duff
Sodexho's decision to move toward serving healthier food in its school cafeteria operations, permitting students to mix and match meal elements in popular "salad bar" settings, required a revamp of furnishings to enhance this new approach. To this end the various participants met early in the project to establish a design brief and agreed on three basic designs - a contemporary low-seating lounge style (above), a range of high bar stools and tables, and the more traditional table height and seat range (below). Le Duff, a graduate of ENSAD (École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs) in Paris, also proposed and designed complementary pieces, including servers' mobile trolleys, partitions and three distinctive colour schemes for the furnishings.
"Traditional" cafeteria furniture designed by Maud Le Duff
With Guérin's eco-design input, the project's table tops use EI (low urea-formaldehyde) particle board, PEFC solid wood and veneer (see comments in issue #085), with finishes for panels and metal in low-VOC powder coatings.
According to Jarniat, Simire had been preoccupied in the past with its clients' requirements rather than the needs of users - an approach that Jarnait termed "in opposition to innovation." With the cafeteria project, Simire's eco-future includes plans to produce all three models in prototype for exhibit at the Paris furniture show in January 2008 and full production by June 2008 . . . just in time for the summer tours.
© furniturelink 2007, (top image and text) other images © Simire