Second, think about the people who will occupy that space on a day-to-day
basis. Will it be occupied by a handful of individuals or large groups? Will any of
the occupants be elderly or hearing impaired? The number of occupants can have
a substantial impact on acoustics, especially in education facilities and office
buildings that feature waves of occupants in between classes, during meal times,
or at peak commuting times.
Third, examine the physical properties of the space in relation to the building
and its environment. Are there a lot of hard, reflective surfaces like concrete or
glass? What activities will be taking place in adjacent spaces? In addition, make
sure to take into account sources of sound besides the occupants themselves.
HVAC systems, machinery, office, and medical equipment all have an effect on
The answers to these questions will point toward the level of sound absorption
and/or noise blocking required for each space.
Most spaces require at least some level of sound absorption, which helps
control background noise and quiets the room. Key indications that a high level of
sound absorption is necessary include activities requiring occupants to focus or
concentrate, larger numbers of occupants, spaces with a lot of hard surfaces, and
occupants with impaired hearing.
Noise blocking, on the other hand, limits the amount of noise leaking into
adjacent rooms, and it’s not always necessary — particularly in open spaces.
Situations that demand noise blocking include performance activities, those activities or events involving one speaker communicating to a large group, a need to
maintain privacy or confidentiality, and adjacent spaces that require more peace
Once the type and level of acoustic performance for a space has been determined, the next step is to identify the ceiling panels that meet those criteria. The
key pieces of information that indicate the acoustic performance of a ceiling panel
are the Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC), the Ceiling Attenuation Class
(CAC), and the material composition of the panel.
Sound absorbing panels — NRC rating indicates the level of sound
absorption provided by a panel and is calculated by averaging how much sound
it absorbs at four different frequencies. This figure is commonly represented as
a decimal between 0.00 (no absorption at all) and 1.00 (complete absorption),
rounded to the nearest 0.05. The highest levels of sound absorption are typically
achieved with fiberglass panels.
For maximum sound absorption, look for products with NRC 0.90 – 1.00.
These are typically high-density fiberglass panels or composite panels with
a fiberglass face. However, technologies have progressed to the point that
even mineral fiber panels can achieve NRC ratings in the 0.75 – 0.80 range.
Examples of spaces requiring high levels of sound absorption include
open offices, cafeterias and dining areas, libraries, and waiting areas.
Noise blocking panels — NRC is important, but it tells us nothing about
a panel’s noise blocking capabilities. For that, you must look at CAC. This is
the measurement of the ceiling’s ability to inhibit sound transmission between
two rooms separated by a ceiling-height partition, which is key for spaces
that require speech privacy.
“Separated by a ceiling-height partition” is an important distinction. High
CAC products are not typically required for projects where the wall assemblies
are built to deck, such as school classrooms and corridors. In these
instances, the wall assembly itself performs the sound blocking function.
Maximum noise blocking is indicated by CAC of 40 or higher. Anything
above 35 is considered high performance. These are typically mineral fiber
panels, gypsum panels, or composite panels with a mineral fiber or gypsum
Spaces requiring high levels of noise blocking include healthcare exam
and procedure rooms, executive and HR offices, conference rooms, and
auditorium or performance spaces.
Creating a comfortable environment for building occupants is the goal
of design. And thanks to the variety acoustic ceilings panels there are more
options than ever before. However, since the choice of ceiling panel can
have a dramatic impact on the design of a space and the experience of
its occupants, it’s more important than ever to understand the benefits of
targeting the acoustic performance to the space.
Fortunately, there are product collections available that offer a wide
range of acoustic performance specifications – from maximum absorption
without blocking to maximum blocking with standard absorption to a
balance of both – all with a consistent visual. Such collections provide the
opportunity to create commercial spaces with optimal acoustic performance
without compromising the design vision or the project’s budget.
Healthcare facilities can be loud and hectic
spaces with rolling medical equipment, machinery,
sensors, intercom systems, and human voices all
fighting for attention. Ceiling products in healthcare
settings should be able to quiet the ambient noise
while being easily-cleanable. Open-office
areas, a fast-growing trend in corporate America,
require different acoustic solutions than break
rooms, conference room, and private offices.
Since noise blocking is less important, architects
and designers can turn to products which provide
sound absorption. This leads to less distracted
employees and higher productivity. Spaces
such as conference rooms and executive offices
should have higher amounts of acoustics available
to keep conversations confidential. There’s no
space too big to benefit from targeted acoustics.
Certain Teed Ceilings Symphony® f helps lessen
the deafening noise of hungry teenagers while
providing a cohesive design with the rest of the