Haworth Division Is Taking LEED

    HOLLAND — A new division that combines two firms acquired in recent years is designed to better position Haworth Inc.’s push into providing the architectural elements of an office.

    Haworth North America has combined SMED International — based in Calgary, Canada — and InterfaceAR of Grand Rapids into a single business unit.

    The division’s formation this month unites products from both SMED International and Interface AR, as well as from Haworth, into a single brand.

    The move is one of the steps implementing Haworth’s new strategy of providing customers much more in the office than furnishings.

    Robert Krasa, Haworth’s president and CEO, has described the strategy as transitioning Haworth from a maker of “work stations” to a maker of “work spaces.” In announcing the new strategy this spring, Krasa called the possibilities for Haworth “thrilling and vast,” with success based on “collaboration, experimentation and learning with architects and designers.”

    We look at this as an exciting step forward in the realization of our strategic goal to make Haworth the industry leader in adaptable workspaces,” Krasa said.

    “Our new sector signals the emergence of a re-invented and focused organization with an energized workforce behind it,” he added.

    “We have the broadest range of products to deliver adaptable world-class workspace solutions. We have great things to look forward to.”

    SMED International produces moveable office walls and other modular office components that Haworth acquired in 2000 for $200 million.

    At the time of the acquisition, SMED International — then a public company — was fending off a hostile takeover by its Canadian rival, Inscape Office Specialty.

    Haworth ultimately outbid Inscape for SMED International. At the time of the acquisition, SMED International had annual sales of about $171 million, did business in 40 countries — though 80 percent of its activity is in the United States — and employed 2,200 people.

    Moveable walls have been gaining favor of late with the fast-growing adoption of sustainable business practices and LEED building principles because they result in less waste and deconstruction when an office is reconfigured.

    In Grand Rapids, InterfaceAR makes raised access flooring for use in commercial buildings that carries data and power utilities throughout the office and that houses heating, cooling and ventilation systems.

    The products that both companies produce provide office users and facility managers far greater flexibility when changing the layout of an office.

    The new North American division at Haworth — which employs some 4,500 people in the United States and Canada — integrates architectural products such as moveable walls, raised flooring, cabling and wiring systems, and lighting into the single brand name of Haworth Architectural Solutions.

    “We believe that providing well-designed and adaptable workspaces can be most effectively carried out by a single, integrated organization,” Krasa said.

    “The changes we are making put the right people, processes and products in place to advance our leadership in this important and growing market.”

    To underscore the importance of the new strategy, Haworth dedicated its showroom at the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago — host of last week’s NeoCon trade show — to products geared toward LEED and sustainable practices.

    Haworth reports that it also plans to redo showrooms in Los Angeles and at the corporate headquarters — the Haworth Center — in Holland.

    The corporate headquarters will serve as a setting for innovation, Chairman Richard Haworth said.

    The company already has proposals from researchers to use the headquarters to conduct research into areas such as work styles, productivity, acoustics, sustainable design and business reinvention.           

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