For Quality Ceilings Selection, Balance Several Attributes: Cost, Aesthetics, Acoustics, and Access
First of a three-part article on how to select quality ceilings.
Given the importance of ceiling systems in shaping the indoor environment of a building, it should be no surprise that the decisions involved in ceiling system selection are anything but simple. Facility managers have to balance a range of attributes, including cost, quality, aesthetics, acoustics, and ease of access to the plenum.
“The first concern of anyone in development and property management is cost,” says Clifford Weinberger, president of Situs Real Estate Corporation. Budgets remain tight, and ceilings compete with lighting, HVAC, flooring, and other systems for dollars.
But a concern for costs need not mean skimping on quality when it comes to ceiling systems. Brad Cardoso is a principal architect and manager of project development and implementation services with Hobbs Brook Management. If he finds that cost has become a stumbling block when working on a proposed tenant allowance, he’ll try to reduce the scope of work, rather than sacrifice quality. “Whatever work we do, we want a level of quality,” he says.
Cardoso says he tries to protect the systems and materials that will keep tenants comfortable. “Ceiling tile plays a big part,” he says. It doesn’t make sense to build out a space, and then discover a tenant has acoustic or lighting issues that stem from poor quality ceiling tile.
Instead, Cardoso says he prefers quality tile with a high NRC (noise reduction coefficient) and a uniform reflectance. “Our preferred lighting method is indirect lighting which relies on the ceilings reflectance to light the space,” he says. “A ceiling with a smooth finish and uniform reflectance provides more uniform lighting within the space.”
Properly maintained, the tile will continue looking new for a long time, he says. “Tenants appreciate how clean the ceiling looks when it’s installed and handled properly,” he says.
Cardoso also says he tries to make tenants aware of all costs, including that of the ceiling system, early on. “They need to understand what they’re getting,” he says. That way, they can appreciate the value of different options, and identify which tradeoffs make the most sense when trying to work within their budget.
To be sure, the emphasis placed on cost will vary with the location of the ceiling. Areas that receive greater amounts of public traffic, like entrances and lobbies, tend to be more likely candidates for ceiling systems with higher price tags, Weinberger notes.
Boardrooms are another area that might deviate from the standard. While two-by-two tiles are used in most office spaces at Delta Dental of Washington, a hard ceiling was used in a boardroom, says Bill Archer, property manager. The room is fifty feet long, and a hard ceiling would does a better job at reflecting sound than the standard tiles, he says. “Now, someone sitting at one end can hear the person at the other,” he says.