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Award Winning Workspace Built On Research Into How People Work

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

19 August 2008 - Lower Hutt's Formway Furniture has signed a license deal with a major United States company for a revolutionary new workplace system and is planning for demand to spiral following prestigious international awards for the product.

Formway's General Manager Marketing, Ed Burak, says leading US company Kimball Office is confident of securing a significant share of the growing 'open office' market with the product this year. The new workplace system is being launched in New Zealand this month.

HUM is the latest innovation from the company that developed the LIFE chair, winner of 11 international awards, including being voted the world's best ergonomic chair, and is now sold in more than 50 countries.

Formway's latest design breakthrough in office furniture has been in development for four years. 'HUM.Minds at Work', the result of a multi-disciplined study into how people work and what they need to perform at their best, has captured the top award in the Workplace Productivity category in Building magazine's annual Product Innovation Awards.

HUM also won Interior Design magazines 'Greenstars of NeoCon' Award for environmental excellence, and received glowing reviews at its international debut at the NeoCon trade show in Chicago in June.

Mr Burak says HUM is the result of Formway setting out in 2004 to design a better work environment that mirrors the way minds work. The company talked to people at every level in workplaces around the world about their attitudes, habits and workplace culture. Formway also brought in outside expertise in new areas of science for the company such as attentiveness, cognitive psychology, cognitive ergonomics and workplace collaboration.

"HUM is the result of overlaying the learning from scientists with customer research into what helped and what frustrated them about their furniture, and how they use and adapt to space to match their very individual ways of working. What we have designed is based on knowledge - it works because it responds to people's latent needs and thinking."

Burak says the design team discovered that a working day for most people, regardless of their occupation, is a continuum between working on their own and collaborative team tasks.

HUM reflects that dynamic through features such as neutral, 'meet me' spaces between desks and 'see me' screens that show staff when a colleague is busy working and when they are free for a quick exchange. It includes systems for workers to prioritise tasks into what needs to be done now, soon or later.

The workstation is an unorthodox shape, providing an area of personal space and an adjacent outward curve on the front edge so a few people can gather round a computer screen and all have equal access.

HUM also reflects Formway's commitment to sustainability with significant (up to 60%) recycled content, use of sustainable materials and backed with a 10 year warranty. HUM exceeds international Green Building Council requirements for sustainable office furniture.

"This is not another iteration of the office desk but a paradigm shift in workplace furniture created out of four years of research and design," says Burak.

The Design Studio built a 'living lab' where the team constantly produced prototypes, brought people in to test them and refined the design. Industry experts were also invited to review the work throughout the design development stage.

HUM was developed with significant investment from TechNZ, the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology's business investment programme. The new product is strongly protected with multiple international patents and design registrations.

Formway is privately owned and employs 200 people in New Zealand and Australia. The company has a long history of producing award winning furniture starting with the ZAF chair which won the Prince Phillip Award for excellence in product design in 1989. It has manufacturing operations in New Zealand and Australia and also licenses its products globally.

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