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The ceiling isn't the first place most facility managers look for energy savings, but it can play a role in making a space more energy efficient. A ceiling with a high light reflectance will bounce a higher percentage of the light that strikes it back into the space below. That's important whether the light source is a fixture or the sun. Either way, a more light-reflective ceiling can help reduce the amount of electricity used to illuminate a space.
Ceiling system manufacturers are branching out to make related products. For example, Hunter Douglas has created a light shelf that works hand in hand with the ceiling to distribute daylight into the interior of a space. A traditional light shelf, a horizontal, reflecting surface, is placed in the window plane, and has a wave-like design that is intended to spread and diffuse light over a larger ceiling surface.
Acoustical design is an element in an overall green design, and acoustic properties of tiles are an important piece in controlling noise in a building — one element of indoor environmental quality. But green interior designs can sometimes create additional problems for acoustical engineers as they try to control sound.
The problem comes when ceilings are eliminated in favor of an open-plenum approach. While that strategy does reduce the use of materials, it also introduces acoustical problems.
In the ABC equation for improving acoustics — absorb sound, block sound, and cover sound — ceiling tiles play the largest role in absorbing sound. Green design isn't the only reason that office spaces are more acoustically challenging than in the past. Design strategies like lower partitions between workers, less space between workers and open work areas with conference tables,
A ceiling also plays a role in hiding speakers and wires. If there is no ceiling, the appearance of sound masking speakers and electronic components becomes a consideration. Ceiling companies have developed products to help absorb sound in open-plenum offices. These products, which are available in a variety of shapes, may be suspended ceiling products designed to be installed over parts of a space or may be mounted directly on the deck.