These days there is a wide range of ceilings and roofs on the market that can be custom-designed to create a specific look and feel for a residential or commercial building project. The possibilities are endless. Architects should stay on top of new developments and search for innovative products that will cater for their needs.
In the past, ceilings were used mainly to create a roof over one’s head, but in modern architecture high-specification ceilings are developed to add to the interior design of projects, to create soundproof and private spaces, and add to employee comfort and productivity.
Walls & Roofs looks at the different properties of ceilings and products available on the market that will enhance a building’s aesthetic appeal and acoustic features, as well as providing a congenial office environment.
There are various types of ceilings available for architects to design decorative ceiling features in commercial and residential projects, with no restriction on flair and creativity.
Dropped ceilings can be used for aesthetic purposes or for practical reasons, such as making space available for piping. The inverse of this would be an upper floor. A concave or barrel roof will add visual or acoustic value, while a coffered ceiling is divided into a grid of recessed square or octagonal panels to provide an outstanding effect.
A cove-moulded ceiling uses a transition between the curved plaster walls and ceilings, and ceilings are normally decorated with paint, tiles or other surface treatments.
OmDev Interiors says suspended ceilings are a popular choice for retail and office environments. “These suspended systems can be lifted from the roof trusses or concrete slabs and accommodate the necessary lighting fixtures, air-conditioning and fire-sprinkler systems in modern and aesthetically pleasing designs,” the company states.
Also, whether used as a finishing element, as stand-alone perimeter cladding or for the modification of a ceiling line – bulkheads provide a very wide range of applications and functions in interior design.
According to OmDev, bulkheads require a specialist approach to add a unique touch to ceilings from both an aesthetic and design point of view. “Bulkheads are often used to conceal or enclose fixtures and can be installed in various positions, sizes and designs.”
Audrey Burrows, marketing and sales co-ordinator at Extenzo Stretch Ceilings, says normally architects and designers are limited with the type of ceiling design due to the materials they need to use in the acoustical space in order to achieve the necessary requirements. “There are ceiling products available that achieve almost any type of 3D shape flawlessly. Designers can also play with colours and textures, whether they prefer a purple ceiling or a high-gloss black, to create illusions of double-volume spaces,” she says.
One of the tricky parts in creating a decorative ceiling is to hide the air-conditioning system so that it does not interfere with the aesthetic appeal of a design. Burrows says Extenzo has designed an add-on system for stretch ceilings that solves this problem. “We found a way to hide an air-conditioning system while still creating an air-conditioned space with our ceiling system. This system is energy-saving due to the fact that the actual unit providing the air needs to pump out less air in order to reach the desired room temperature.”
According to Burrows, some stretch ceilings are extremely light, weighing only 250g per square metre. “This type of stretch ceiling is ideal for suspending design elements from a roof structure,” she says. “It is also cost-effective as clients don’t have to pay extra for reinforcements in the roof structure to accommodate floating structures.”
Burrows says these stretch ceilings are a finished product. “Due to this, cost-effectiveness comes into play on several platforms. If a project is undergoing renovations, there is no possibility of damage to walls and flooring as the product offers a completely clean installation.” She says this means that walls don’t have to be repainted. “Damage won’t occur to flooring either as the existing ceiling does not need to be removed and there is no chance of plaster getting in everywhere.”
Another way of saving costs is to limit maintenance. According to Burrows, very little maintenance is required in the long term when using these stretch ceilings. She says the product is made from a stretchable polyvinyl-chloride (PVC) membrane, therefore water can be used to clean the membrane and no re-painting is required.
Acoustic properties of a ceiling
The acoustic qualities of a space are fundamental, both in a professional context and in a place intended for relaxation. Sound reverberation leads to tiredness, impedes communication and alters the sound quality of music.
Architects and interior designers constantly look for ceiling products that offer optimal acoustic solutions. Heidi Olivier, senior product manager at Saint-Gobain Gyproc, says there is a wide portfolio of products on the market that not only add to the overall aesthetic appeal of projects but also offers acoustic excellence. She adds that a lightweight construction system that was recently introduced to the market prevents the transmission of noise. “One can also use products like a patterned ceiling that effectively absorbs sound and an acoustic ceiling board is typically used in upmarket extreme high-noise locations.”
Olivier explains that Saint-Gobain Gyproc recently introduced GypWall SoundBloc, a plasterboard system that limits the transmission of sound as loud as 81 decibels (dB) between rooms. “It is finished in a light-blue colour paper for easy identification on site.” She says the board used in this system includes a specially manufactured lightweight steel stud and track structure, and Isover glass-wool insulation made from up to 80% recycled glass. “It is suitable for use in environments from hospitals to schools and cinemas.”
According to Olivier, their acoustic ceiling boards come in two perforation patterns with different acoustic properties. “The boards are assembled in a jointless system, and can be fitted to curved ceilings with a maximum radius of 5 000mm.” The boards are supplied with a specifically designed black tissue that works with the perforations in the board to provide outstanding sound-absorption performance values at low, medium and high frequencies. “This type of board is particularly suited to noisy environments such as indoor sporting arenas, shopping centres and restaurants.”
She also mentions that if architects want to incorporate a natural and elegant visual link to a room, there are aesthetically pleasing ceiling products available on the market that would create these features. “Such a product offers optimal acoustic solutions, most suited for use in sound studios and education lecture rooms. It is made from acoustic tissue laminated on the back, adding to the absorption of sound and reflects light while also contributing to a pleasant environment, minimising large contrasts. It is easy to clean and can be painted and repainted using rollers, without compromising sound absorption. The patterned finish was designed to contribute to the acoustic qualities and offers the completed ceiling character.”
Burrows says stretch ceilings manufactured by Extenzo have a membrane that absorbs about 10% of the sound on its own. “We also perforate the membrane. Perforation holes range from 0,5mm to 1,5mm in diameter.”
She says the size and pattern of the holes are completely dependent on the acoustical space. “Once it is perforated, the membrane can absorb up to 40% of the sound.” She adds that to achieve a fully acoustical room, insulation boards need to be placed above the membrane.
Stretch ceilings are also waterproof. “As mentioned before, the product is made from a stretchable PVC membrane and water does not damage PVC,” Burrows says. “Once the membrane is stretched out, it has a thickness of less than a 1/3 of a millimetre. For this reason, it does not create a barrier from one space to the other and temperature can travel through it, creating the same temperature from the inside of the space to the outside.”
She explains that if there is no degree difference, condensation can’t be formed. “Without condensation, algae can’t grow. It is the perfect solution for humid areas such as, indoor swimming pools, saunas, bathrooms & kitchens.” She concludes that this actually protects the structures above the membrane, as these tend to damage over a longer period of time in humid areas.
As a leading supplier of quality ceiling systems, Armstrong Ceilings (distributed in this country by Masonite) says that an optimal working environment raises the productivity of people, and Armstrong’s chilled ceilings – which are a new air-conditioning concept that is ideal for hot climates – help in the attainment of this objective.
The problem with some conventional chilled ceilings is that they utilise the forced-air principle where warm air is re-circulated and replaced by recycled and cooled air, resulting in a draught of cool air. They can also induce “sick-building syndrome”, because if the air ducts of an air-conditioning system are not regularly maintained they can blow bacterial pathogens into a room, thereby contaminating the air and leading to the rapid spread of infections and diseases.
Chilled ceilings based on radiant cooling technology allow for an entirely new form of air treatment – a method that solves both problems. The ceiling panels of radiant cooling systems contain chilled water which flows through tubing mounted on the rear of the ceiling panels. The ceiling panels function as heat exchangers between the room air and chilled water. The ceiling absorbs heat generated by the heat sources in a room and exchanges it with the circulating chilled water.
Operating principle of a chilled ceiling
From a technical viewpoint, a radiant cooling ceiling is simply a large heat exchanger that is suspended from a room’s ceiling. It exchanges energy via the room’s radiation and convection.
This manner of air-conditioning is healthier and more pleasant, and has energy-saving benefits, as shown below.
Annual power consumption for various systems
Regularly used in offices, shops, shopping malls, laboratories, production facilities, hotels and hospitals – the applications for cooled ceilings are legion and, as architectural design can affect thermal comfort and general well-being, radiant cooling systems are designed to allow for a high degree of architectural freedom.
As can be seen from the foregoing, there is a wide range of high-spec ceilings on the market that can be applied to get different results and add value to a building project. Architects should stay on top of new developments and search for innovative products that will cater for their needs.
Full acknowledgement and thanks are given to Extenzo Stretch Ceilings, Saint-Gobain Gyproc, OmDev Interiors and Armstrong (Masonite) for the information given to write this article.