This question about calculating loads on parts of a desk made me finally ask my first question on SE.

What generally applicable standards are there for office furniture (desks, let's say), that define the loads that they must be able to survive?

In aerospace, the regulations ask for all structural parts to comply with all foreseeable loads in the complete operational scenarios during the entire life of the aircraft (static loads, dynamic loads, fatigue loads, etc); and 1.25 or 1.5 times that load is the ultimate load that each structure must be able to bear (even if for a few seconds).

I'd like to know open source materials, and real life experiences if available.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I doubt you'll find a codified set of loads for office desks. Usually furniture is designed to be aesthetically pleasing, which usually means the components are visually thick and therefore fairly robust. $\endgroup$
    – grfrazee
    Jul 16, 2015 at 12:17
  • $\begingroup$ @grfrazee, i think so. but still, I was wondering about this topic for quite a while. For example, We have office chairs with wheels and the wheels break all the time. I can't imagine why and how marketplace-evolution allows this manufacturer to keep their business. $\endgroup$ Jul 16, 2015 at 12:36
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Not to be cynical, but I think you'll find your answer at the bottom line of the manufacturer's profit statement. $\endgroup$
    – grfrazee
    Jul 16, 2015 at 12:50

1 Answer 1


In the United States at least, the design of mass-produced furniture if covered under ANSI/BIFMA (Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer's Association) X5.5. I don't have a copy of the standard to give you specific values, but in broad strokes the requirements for consumer goods like this (where the consequences of failure are much less than in an airplane or a building) codes focus less on design and calculation and more on testing of a physical sample.

One important aspect for furniture (not unlike airplanes) is that in addition to handling a maximum load, it needs to be able to handle many cycles of loading and unloading. Because of this, the design may well be governed more by the number of cycles the desk needs to be tested to than the maximum weight it needs to support one time.

Another major distinction is that in the US, manufacturers are not required by law to conform to the standard. Unlike airplanes, where the FAA has the authority to require conformance with applicable standards, furniture is not centrally regulated. As a way of controlling quality though, many large purchasers like schools or corporations will require conformance on all products that they buy, causing some manufacturers to develop products that conform. The difference of course is that it is perfectly legal (and common) to sell a desk that has not been tested by the standard.

  • $\begingroup$ This is a good answer, that makes sense. I've seen ikea promoting their furniture by the cycle tests that they do for each chair or sofa. Will attempt to check the content of the standard, and maybe you can add some concrete examples, if possible ? $\endgroup$ Jul 16, 2015 at 17:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.