What is a Non-Plenum Air-Space, and Why Does it Matter?

Wikipedia defines plenum space as

“Part of a building that can facilitate air circulation for heating and air conditioning systems, by providing pathways for either heated/conditioned or return airflows, usually at greater than atmospheric pressure. Space between the structural floor and the dropped ceiling or under a raised floor is typically considered plenum; however, some drop-ceiling designs create a tight seal that does not allow for airflow and therefore may not be considered a plenum air-handling space.”

Plenum is derived from Latin roots, related to plenty and plenary. It expresses fullness, and in the case of gatherings of people, an openness to all or to the public.

Laqfoil Stretched Ceilings Always Create a Non-Plenum Airspace

multilevel backlit printed ceiling in custom kitchen

The entry goes on to explain that a non-plenum airspace contains air that doesn’t move, as opposed to circulating air in a plenum airspace. A non-plenum airspace can accidentally become a plenum airspace if ducts become damaged or disconnected. This is dangerous, as circulating air can feed a fire.

Laqfoil stretched ceilings always create a non-plenum airspace,  an area filled with air that doesn’t move, because the profiles which support the membrane around the edges always take up some space between the wall or ceiling and the membrane, typically just under one inch, more if desired for design reasons. This cushion of air is both beneficial and desirable.

First, it’s thermally insulating. Both heat and cold coming from beyond the ceiling or wall have difficulty transmitting through non-moving air, so you save both money and the environment by using less heating and cooling energy.

Second, it’s sound attenuating. Stretch ceiling bounces and vibrates when sound hits it, turning acoustic energy into kinetic (motion) energy. The cushion of air behind the ceiling has the same effect as, well, a cushion!

modern kitchen with backlit reflective ceiling

Third, it makes an excellent hiding place. Electrical and telephone wiring, Ethernet cable, HVAC ducts and plumbing can all reside in a non-plenum airspace, eliminating messy visual distractions and creating a clean flawless finish. This is one of the design reasons why a stretch ceiling may be installed with a larger non-plenum airspace.

In basements where there is usually limited headroom, these utilities can be installed between the beams which support the floor above, with small holes drilled in the beams to allow passage through, so that the ceiling doesn’t need to sit too low. A quick and easy visit from one of our professional installers can open up the ceiling for access if repairs to these systems are needed, and then close it up again, just like new. If the idea of calling an installer in the future doesn’t appeal to you, we also offer installation training, which includes the proprietary spatula tool for installing and demounting membrane.

custom wall mural in modern home

Fourth, a non-plenum airspace can be used to create a variety of amazing visual effects. Imagine a stretched ceiling digitally printed with a photograph of a night or twilight sky, hiding behind it an array of LED lights attached to optical fibers. The fibers are installed to pierce the ceiling and affixed in place, and the LED array is programmed to softly brighten and dim, apparently at random.

Voilà! The open night sky in your bedroom, basement, or any other space! Alternately, you can use a translucent membrane, printed or unprinted, with LED or fluorescent lighting behind it for a soft diffused glow. RGB coloured LED lights can also be hidden behind a “perfectly respectable looking” translucent white membrane, to turn into a club-style light show at the flick of a switch!

–Esther Yates-Abrams

Laqfoil Ltd.

20 Magnetic Dr., Unit # 2
Toronto, Ont. M3J 2C4

Tel: 416 663 1708
Fax: 416 663 1707
Toll Free : 1 888 663 1708
Email: info@laqfoil.com


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