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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.