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Talk to anyone in ceilings or soundmasking and one challenge seems to come up time and again: the complexity of achieving good acoustical performance in open designs.
"Many offices now are designed with a variety of ceiling types, ranging from traditional drop ceilings to completely open ceilings," Shenefield says. "The open ceilings are particularly popular in retrofits of older buildings where designers want to expose previously hidden wooden beams or other structural details. Of course, this results in complicated acoustics, and varied ceiling heights alongside the drop ceilings that are often retained in closed offices and conference rooms. Such a mixture of ceiling types presents a real challenge to the acoustic designer."
Ceiling companies are looking at several things in response to open space acoustics, Marshall said. One is trying to pull more acoustical performance out of mineral fiber, a dominant ceiling material. "Which is really kind of cool; it's kind of like trying to come up with a more effective way to make a Ritz cracker."
With the growing complexity of what goes into the ceiling, facility managers are well advised to be heavily involved in the product selection process. J. Mark Kemerling, product manager at USG, advises them to use industry associations for information and to lean in the direction of standardization — he cites projects where different wings or floors of a single project may have different ceiling products. He also says facility managers should think about the long term when razzle-dazzle products are being considered. "A lot of the products that get specified today are made to order, and the lead times can be generally longer," he notes. There's also the risk that the product will be discontinued.
Achieving Good Acoustical Performance in Open Space Designs