4 FM quick reads on ceilings
1. Ceiling Manufacturers Offer Recycled Content, Recycling Programs
Many ceiling manufacturers incorporate recycled content into their products. Hunter Douglas, for example, offers metal ceilings with 70 to 95 percent recycled content.
Armstrong's ceiling-to-ceiling tiles contain 15 to 18 percent post-consumer content. Armstrong's tiles vary in percentage of recycled content overall, with its greenest tile at 79 percent.
"We want to increase post-consumer content in our products," says Zucco. "Ninety percent of our tiles are recyclable, and we have an HRC (high recyclable content) program." Zucco says that large number of the company's tiles have more than 50 percent of their content made from recyclable material.
Ceiling tile recycling programs have been offered for more than a decade. Manufacturers that offer these programs will generally take back ceiling tiles from any company, as long as the tiles do not contain hazardous materials like asbestos or lead.
What's more, companies that recycle do not have to pay for dumpsters or landfill tipping fees. And depending on the number of tiles involved, the manufacturer may cover shipping. As a result, it doesn't cost more to recycle, says Anita Snader, environmental sustainability manager, Armstrong World Industries. "Our investment is in freight and processing" says Snader.
Manufacturers also offer other help with logistics. For example, if less than a full truckload of ceiling tiles is involved, USG Corporation will help businesses arrange to get those ceiling tiles removed through a network of local consolidators that the company has set up, says Al Zucco, senior director for sustainability.
Armstrong coordinates runs so if trucks are going to a certain location to deliver tile, they will, whenever possible, bring back a load of old tile for recycling. Armstrong also coordinates with local waste-management companies to bring the necessary equipment to the site of renovation so that the tiles can be hauled away.
From the building management side, it's up to the building owner, architect, or general contractor to develop a waste-management plan at the inception of a renovation, Snader explains, and register a project as early as possible.
2. Environmental Considerations of Selecting Ceilings
This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management. Today's tip is to consider the environmental impact of a new ceiling.
The idea that removing a ceiling would make a space more sustainable encouraged the move to open plenum spaces. The thinking was that facilities could gain sustainability by using fewer materials.
What's more, building owners interested in LEED certification often focused on other components, such as energy-saving HVAC systems, because a building's acoustical attributes haven't been included in the certification. He adds that this may change with the U.S. Green Building Council's Pilot Credit 24, which focuses on acoustics in new construction and commercial interiors.
Perceptions aside, there is evidence that ceilings can reduce the environmental impact of a space, in addition to providing acoustical benefits that can improve indoor environmental quality. A study by the Ceilings & Interior Systems Construction Association compared an area's energy use with a suspended ceiling and an open plenum. Researchers found that installing a suspended ceiling saved between 9 and 17 percent of energy costs.
Many high performance acoustical ceilings are highly light reflective. For instance, a ceiling with a 90 percent light reflectance reflects 90 percent of the light from its surface back into the room. That means fewer light fixtures are needed.
Over the past several years, one focus of indoor air quality has been to reduce or eliminate the amount of volatile organic compounds and formaldehyde in a space. However, while it's possible to reduce the amount of formaldehyde in a facility, some still occurs naturally. In addition, it's a component of some cleaning solutions. To counter this, a new type of ceiling tile incorporates a coating that removes formaldehyde.
3. Take Advantage of Ceiling Options to Address Workplace Trends
This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management. Today's tip is to take advantage of ceiling options to help address workspace design needs.
It's easy to think that ceilings are just there for looks. Unlike walls or floors, they don't meet an obvious functional need except to hide the plenum. And if the design goal is a contemporary, loft-like appearance, why not just eliminate the ceiling? Over the past decade, that's exactly what a growing number of spaces did. What's more, doing without the ceiling seemed a logical complement to an emphasis on green design.
But doing without ceilings meant giving up some of their important benefits. High on that list is acoustics.
In some open-plenum spaces, the lack of ceiling has had a negative impact on productivity. Heartland Acoustics and Interiors president and CEO Jason Gordon says it looked cool, but no one could function.
Exacerbating the acoustical challenges has been the move from private offices and workstations to desking or bench systems. As this has occurred, the physical barriers between employees have been removed, and it becomes very difficult to offset the loss of physical separations.
With fewer surfaces left to absorb sounds, noise from conversations and equipment reverberates within the space. One solution is sometimes referred to as "clouds" or "canopies." These are panels suspended from an open ceiling to provide acoustical absorbency and reduce noise levels. Another solution has been sound-absorbing panels that can be connected to the bottom of the floor above an open area. They absorb sound, while maintaining the look of an exposed structure. While some panels are formulated for use in offices, others have been developed for recreational areas, such as gyms and swimming pools.
4. Research Ceiling Specs
Facility managers should ask for proof to back up manufacturer claims when choosing a ceiling. Separating the sales pitch from the hard facts is an important step in comparing different ceiling panels on even ground.
Claims of durability, reflectivity, and resistance to mold, mildew and stains should all be backed up by independent testing. If those aren't made readily available, ask the manufacturer directly. They're generally more than happy to give as much information on their products as necessary to make a sale.
Once you have the results of the same tests on different ceilings, it's easy to compare apples to apples and make the best choice for your facility's needs.
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