The Klöber Klimastuhl chairs – from idea to world innovation
Too hot, too cold: nearly one in five people disagrees with colleagues where the room climate is concerned. Furthermore not only does the temperature affect performance, but also how comfortable you feel. But these problems are a thing of the past thanks to the Mera and Moteo task chairs with climate technology. But how did the Klöber Klimastuhl chairs actually come into existence? I interviewed Christian Roth-Schuler, head of Product Development, to find out how the idea became a final product.
Christian, thank you for taking the time for our interview. The first thing I’d be interested to find out is: what gave you the idea of developing a chair with climate functions?
As you know, we at Klöber go through life with our eyes wide open. So while I was getting out of my car with heated seats one cold December morning, the idea quite simply popped into my head. I asked myself: why has no one invented a heated office chair yet? This thought became an idea that the Klöber team then worked together to define – you might call it an interdisciplinary group project. Then things started to take shape in 2013 when we held talks with automotive manufacturers about seat climate modules.
You’ve already explained how an office chair is developed in an interview with Jörg Bernauer. The whole thing is highly complex. But what was different about the Klimastuhl? What challenges did you face?
From product brainstorming sessions and prototype construction to customer trials, we went through seven development stages with the climate technology chairs as well. The difference between the Klimastuhl and standard task chairs was the technical implementation: how could we integrate the climate components into the existing Mera chair elegantly – so they were almost invisible? And yet at the same time we had to ensure that operation was as intuitive as possible? The matter of having “in-chair electronics” was a completely new thing for us and that’s why it was such a challenge. To handle this, we added a mechatronics engineer to our development team. Orgatec visitors were able to test and evaluate the first Mera Klimastuhl prototype in 2014.
We also drew on scientific resources in order to optimise climate technology. The first quantified evidence was provided by Prof. Hoffmann’s Living Lab study at the TU Kaiserslautern. Her research investigates the physical connection between productivity and temperature in the workplace. To find out more, they recreate real-world working conditions in the “smart office space”. But the Forsa survey we conducted at the start of 2017 also gave us new and extremely interesting information.
Forsa? Isn’t that the independent market research institute? What exactly did you find out there?
Yes, that’s right. A total of 1002 office workers were questioned on the subject of office climate and the Klimastuhl in the Forsa survey. The results are really exciting: although 95% of those questioned were able to regulate the room temperature themselves, almost one in five people could not agree with colleagues when it comes to the optimum temperature for comfort. 41% of test participants did not find that the ambient room temperature met their personal comfort ideal, to the point that 11 % of people questioned even said that the room temperature in a multi-occupancy office frequently or very frequently has a negative effect on their performance and productivity. It’s even possible to identify gender-specific differences here: women are quicker to feel the cold! Both studies confirm the validity of our efforts to develop and refine a solution to these problems.
Were there any other challenges you faced whilst working on the Klimastuhl?
Of course there were. This world innovation, an office chair with climate control technology, was not only expected to exceed comfort standards, but also to be gentle on the environment. The Klimastuhl can have a positive effect on energy consumption in the workplace. I’ll give you an example: if the room temperature is lowered by just 1 degree during the heating phase, the heating costs are reduced by 6 %. The effects of the energy required for the “heating” and “ventilation” functions on the user are far more efficient. As a comparison: our heating has an output of 7-8 W, but a fan heater at your desk would be running at around 1000 W! So a year’s heating and ventilation with the Klimastuhl costs just 3.80 EUR or thereabouts!
And what applications do you think the Klimastuhl would be suitable for? Who would benefit from it?
Ultimately everyone. It would be ideal for unusual working environments where specialist solutions are needed: for instance the Klöber Klimastuhl chairs are perfect for draughty reception areas. There’s a clean-room version of Mera that’s suitable for sterile conditions where ISO 14644-1 certification is required. But the Klimastuhl is something that’s of interest to anyone because of the current theme of carbon neutrality.
What do you mean by that?
Well, all new-builds in the EU have to be energy neutral by 2021. This ruling will apply to government buildings as early as 2019. In a test environment in the Netherlands they recently analysed the usability of a selection of sustainable systems – which included lighting and climate as well as ICT systems – and the Klimastuhl is a part of this experiment. We’re looking forward to the test results.
The Mera Klimastuhl has been on the market since 2016. The Moteo Klimastuhl was launched recently. Can you let readers in on the secret and tell them what’s coming up next?
That’s right, we used the award-winning Moteo office chair so we could combine elegance and innovative technology to increase the target audience. Our biggest challenge was integrating the climate technology elegantly and efficiently. I can’t and won’t let on what we have planned for the future. Just this: you can certainly look forward to what’s in store for the year ahead.
Thank you very much for the interview, Christian.
A tip for anyone who wants to test out Klöber’s office chairs with built-in climate technology:
feel free to contact my colleague, Hagen Trischler (by telephone on +49 7551/838 140 or email firstname.lastname@example.org).