“When you walk into an office, how often do you look up at the ceiling?” A casual comment, made by one of the Directors here at SPF Projects, highlighted a much-overlooked aspect of office refurbishment.
Due to the nature of our business, we do take careful note of the type of ceiling tiles used in an office, and frequently see mis-matched tiles. If the ceiling grid is in a good state of repair, then it may just be a case of replacing the mis-matched tiles with correct ones, however ceiling tiles may be playing a far more important role in your office than you think, and just because they may look the same, not all ceiling tiles are equal!
When offices are first built, they are constructed to a basic standard – basic carpet tiles, basic ceiling tiles, magnolia paint etc., basic ceiling tiles being the run-of-the-mill vinyl tiles.
Ceiling tiles can play an incredibly important role in the office environment, more so depending upon the nature of the business being conducted in the office. We recently walked into a telesales office, where the noise level was, quite literally, deafening!
Well, there were a number of blatant design flaws, but one major issue was the type of ceiling tiles used. Different ceiling tiles can provide different levels of sound deadening, yet the office in question was using a specific tile with very little sound absorption ability, simply reflecting sound down towards the office floor, which in return was reflected off hard furnishings such as desks, back towards the ceiling. This ‘ping-pong’ effect, known as reverberation, meant that you walked into a wall of sound when entering the office, making it a painful assault on the ears. I’m sure their staff could not be operating at their full potential in such an environment.
Ceiling tiles are far more complex than people imagine, so we’re going to keep this ‘techy’ bit as short as possible.
Ceiling tiles carry a number of different variations, including Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC – which is sound absorption), Ceiling Attenuation Class (CAC – ceiling’s ability to block sound travel) Fire Rating, Thermal Resistance, Humidity Resistance, Light Reflectance Coefficient (LR) to name just a few. There may be times when you want high NRC and CAC. Other times, you may need high NRC with a low CAC, or a mixture of both to get the right sound balance for a room.
Fixtures mounted in the ceiling (as well as the ceiling space above the tiles) can also impact on sound travel and your ability to control it. Light fittings carry their own sound specifications, and air-con units mounted in the ceiling can easily transmit sound through ducting and is almost impossible to control. Even smoke detectors can impact on an office’s acoustics!
Although the final solution was more complex than I detail here (which also included new floor tiles, acoustic rafts and soft furnishings), for simplicity we’ll stick to the ceiling tiles.
As part of the refurbishment recommendations made to the client, we recommended a change in ceiling tiles to high Noise Reduction Coefficient tiles, coupled with low Ceiling Attenuation Class, which absorbed the sound and reduced the reverberation, making the office a far better environment for all involved.
Another perk of the change in tiles, was the extra insulating effect they had. Just like when you wear a hat in winter to help keep warm, the new ceiling tiles were the ‘hat of the office’, helping insulate the area thus reducing the need for heating, in turn lowering costs, a super important benefit considering the current cost of gas and electricity.
The crazy thing? The new, acoustic ceiling tiles were not expensive and will easily pay for themselves by improving productivity in the office due to a far better working environment, and reducing running costs thanks to superior insulation effects.
As you can see, ceilings are not only important, but can be tricky to get right. If you have an office refit or refurbishment project on the horizon, please remember to pay attention to areas such as ceilings, as they play an important role in office comfort. If you need any advice in this area, then please do contact the team at SPF Projects who are always happy to help and offer advice.