Regardless of whether it’s new construction or renovation of an aging building, the selection of a ceiling system requires evaluation of a variety of factors, including both performance criteria, such as acoustical properties and humidity resistance, and visual criteria, such as pattern and texture.While performance-related properties are key to meeting the functional requirements of a space, visual properties to meet the aesthetic needs are becoming increasingly important. As more owners desire to make a design statement in their buildings, they are looking at acoustical ceilings other than the traditional flat, white variety.This trend toward more dynamic acoustical ceiling visuals has generated a number of trends of its own. One is the increased use of acoustical ceiling materials other than traditional mineral fiber.Wood ceilings, for example, continue to grow in popularity, mainly because they impart such a rich, warm look to a space. Today, wood ceilings are offered in a wider variety of finishes than ever before, including a new “reconstituted” finish that provides the look of natural wood, but is more consistent in both grain pattern and color than natural wood.Size and ShapeRegardless of the ceiling material, another emerging trend is the use of ceilings in non-traditional sizes and shapes. From the standpoint of shape, for example, more owners now realize that acoustical ceilings no longer have to be square or rectangular. Radial or circular ceilings are available in wood, metal, or fiber glass to reflect the architectural design of a space.In another effort to move away from the traditional, there is also an increased use of free-floating ceilings, once again in geometries other than square or rectangular. As part of this trend, ceiling pods, clouds, and canopies with curved edges and curved elements are becoming popular because of the softer look they offer and their ability to accentuate an area.The increased popularity of free-floating ceilings has also led to a rise in the choice of perimeter trim designs for these ceilings. Now, in addition to traditional vertical face trims, there are also horizontal alternatives that feature a sharply defined, knife-like perimeter edge that creates a clean, more streamlined look.Color and TextureColor trends are changing as well, especially in healthcare applications where owners want to get away from a sterile look, but still maintain the ceiling’s performance properties. As a result, expect to see manufacturers beginning to tint their ceilings in order to provide more color and a more “homey” environment. Also expect ceilings to continue to get smoother as manufacturers meet the growing demand for fine-textured panels.Finally, the trend toward more sustainable design is also evident in acoustical ceilings. As building owners become more involved in environmental issues, a ceiling’s recycled content and its ability to be recycled are fast becoming key selection criteria.As the largest uninterrupted plane, few, if any, interior products can influence a space as much as a ceiling. By simply changing its material, texture, shape, size, and/or color, building owners can easily change the look of a space and obtain the dynamic visual they desire.Ann Miller is director of Design for Commercial Ceiling Systems at Armstrong World Industries (www.armstrong.com/ceilings) in Lancaster, PA.