Acoustic ceiling tiles. They’re everywhere, and for those not educated or experienced in the design or construction industry, the obvious question is often why? Why, why, oh why?? Let’s face it, aesthetically, the best they seem to be able to do is to show up as little as possible!
Acoustic Ceiling Tiles
For architects, designers, and construction experts, however, they do serve some important functions. First, the reason they’re called “acoustic” is that their characteristic rough surface with random holes does go a long way toward mitigating unwanted sound in a room.
Second, they’re less expensive and easier to install than a smooth drywall ceiling, and third, they have long been used to hide unsightly HVAC (Heating, ventilation and air conditioning), electrical and plumbing equipment in office and industrial buildings in a way that still leaves this equipment accessible, should it need repair or maintenance. Access is gained by simply popping a tile out, and then back into place when the work is done.
Recently, we have been gaining increased awareness of our impact on our natural environment, however, and the industries surrounding the built environment are no exception. Close to 50% of all the materials that go to landfills in North America are building materials, so the less we put into buildings, the less we’ll eventually have to take out. For this reason, dropped acoustic tile ceilings have been disappearing from new builds and renovations in favour of high ceilings with all of the mechanical equipment open for all to see.
Painted in flat black or white, it’s not all that bad to look at, especially if this view means saving the earth a little, and the higher ceiling often means a more open, airy feeling, which can be especially important in offices as individual workstations continue to get smaller and could easily become claustrophobic. (For more info on environmentally sustainable design, see CaGBC’s sustainable building program, LEED).
There are also challenges and issues with open ceilings, however. For one thing, they consist of hard surfaces that bounce sound, and that original reason for acoustic tiles has not gone away. In a large office,
the constant buzz of hundreds of people talking and all of their machines working can be a source both of stress, and poor communications. Also, all of those many surfaces gather dust, and while ductwork may not be so bad to look at when it’s just been installed and painted, after a while it is natural to start wondering who is going to climb 20 or more feet up and dust everything, without the dust falling into sensitive electronics and on workers with allergies. A team of professionals has to be called in, and often the company puts this off for far too long in order to meet budget restrictions.
So before you think about tearing out a dropped ceiling grid and sending it, and all of its acoustic panels to a landfill, there’s more to consider than what meets the eye. Perhaps an even more ecologically and financially sustainable solution is to reuse what’s already there.
Laqfoil’s Acoustic Ceiling Tiles
Laqfoil’s fully recyclable polymer vinyl and nylon membranes can be used not only to cover an entire ceiling surface, but also for wrapping ceiling tiles, which can then be popped right back into the existing t-bar suspension assembly. While the tiles are out, if desired, the suspension assembly can be repainted with spray paint.
The result? Anything you want it to be! Combine colours and LED lighting to activate a space, or hide colour changing LEDs behind
translucent white tiles for a “business by day” look. Add digitally printed images to transport the viewer to a different place or time, or reinforce your company’s identity.
Shine is unexpected on a ceiling, and also makes more efficient use of lighting by reflecting light back to the room. Our high gloss membranes are as shiny as a new car, in over 260 colours, but if you don’t want a high gloss look, we have matte, satin, and canvas textured finishes as well, and yes, we have white.
Like ceiling paint, our membranes come in several different shades of white. Combine high gloss with bright white for maximum light reflection and lamping efficiency.
What about that dust? Dust that settles above the tiles will be trapped up in the plenum (the space between the original ceiling and the dropped ceiling)
harmlessly, and dust below wrapped tiles will not adhere to them as the membrane has a particulate-repelling static electrical property. Likewise, chemical vapours do not get embedded in these materials, and they do not off-gas. If something should become splashed or stuck onto a wrapped tile (I’m not going to try to guess how that could happen!), no harsh
chemicals are required, a soft damp cloth should do the trick, and if necessary, a little household soap can be added.