Match Ceilings To The Characteristics Of A Space

  July 15, 2011

This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today's tip is to consider what a space will be used for before deciding on a ceiling.

The ceiling is a perfect example of form meeting function. As the largest visible plane of any interior space, the ceiling helps define that space's image. But that's only the start. A ceiling has to meet demanding performance requirements, from acoustics to durability. And another consideration is increasingly coming into play: sustainability.

Facility managers have a vested interest in both form and function. But while architects and interior designers will share the enthusiasm for aesthetics, the facility manager may be the lone voice for performance issues. That's why they should be well-versed on those concerns before the ceiling spec is developed.

Although occupants may never know it, the ceiling plays a major role in the acoustical performance of a space. When sounds from an interior space strike the ceiling, the make up of the ceiling largely determines what happens next.

The ceiling system should be matched to the characteristics of the space, whether it's a private office, an open office, a health care setting or a classroom. Mike Poellinger, owner of Poellinger, Inc., and a board member of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry (AWCI), says that the type of occupancy, intended use, and the interior finishes should be considered when choosing ceilings.

Different types of spaces not only have different types of noise to contend with, but also have different concerns about acoustical privacy. In a health care environment, for example, privacy issues arising from HIPAA should be considered. In an enclosed office, a private conversation being overheard — whether inadvertently or by deliberate eavesdropping — could result in the loss of trade secrets.

Even when there are no secrets or confidential information at risk, overheard conversations can pose problems. In an open office, for example, nearby voices can be distracting and reduce productivity.


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