When it comes to selecting commercial ceiling panels, aesthetics, cost, acoustics, and convenience frequently are the key factors impacting the choice of panels and grid. But building and facility managers should look more closely at these so-called advantages, which may not be quite what they seem when compared to the life-cycle benefits of cast mineral fiber panels.
According to a recent A&D survey conducted by USG Interiors Inc., basic commercial panel and grid ceilings are considered inexpensive compared to drywall, maintenance friendly, and attractive enough for a regular office setting. However, the same survey showed that professionals believe standard panels are fragile, take the worst abuse during maintenance, need to be replaced quite often, and provide a very plain look.
So, what’s the solution?
One alternative is a higher-end cast product that offers a more durable, beautiful look. Cast panels are manufactured in a different manner than most commercial ceiling panels, which gives them an impact-resistant surface and edge. They also are integrally colored throughout the entire panel, which serves to mask small incidental damage from nicks and scrapes.
Unfortunately, many building professionals incorrectly believe that this upscale option carries too high a price tag. But by comparing the ceiling panel cost over the lifetime of the ceiling system, cast products measure up very differently.
For example, the average building lifetime is 30 years. In most applications, a cast ceiling will last the lifetime of that building. However, the typical commercial panel ceiling lifetime is only seven to 10 years, meaning the panel will need to be replaced approximately three to four times per building over a 30-year span.
Compared to basic ceiling panels, cast products are significantly more durable. For starters, their surface is stronger and resists knocks and scrapes commonly caused by accessing ceiling panels during maintenance. In addition, the edges of these panels don’t crumble or chip as easily, so they hold up better during delivery and installation.
Another important performance issue to consider with ceiling panels is acoustics. Cast products offer the best combination of Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) and Ceiling Attenuation Class (CAC) ratings – in both cases, the higher the rating, the better. The NRC of cast products is 0.70; CAC is either a minimum 35 or minimum 40. When it comes to ceiling design, staying within a budget doesn’t have to mean giving up beauty, durability, and sound control. By looking at the cost over the lifetime of a building rather than as a one-time-only expense, cast products can truly become a viable ceiling design option.
William R. Hogan is product line manager, Ceiling Tile, for USG Interiors Inc. (www.usg.com), Chicago, a leading manufacturer of ceiling panels and grid.