Integrated Ceiling Systems

Streamline an interiors project by exploring this option that merges multiple building systems.

By Crystal Jacobson
From the November/December 2016 Issue

Regardless of whether it’s a facility retrofit project, a major renovation, or a full-scale new addition, ceiling selection depends on a number of criteria. Some ceiling manufacturers are collaborating with manufacturers of other components in the ceiling plane to offer integrated ceiling systems that simplify not only ceiling selection, but also installation.

ceiling systems
Integrated ceiling systems organize lighting, air diffusers, and sprinkler heads in a narrow technical channel. (Photo: Armstrong Ceilings)

One example is the advent of acoustical ceiling systems that can be used to organize lighting fixtures, air diffusers, sprinkler heads, and even chilled beams in a narrow technical channel or “zone.” These systems create uncluttered ceiling planes by eliminating the need for penetrations in ceiling panels, as well as simplifying installation. Maintenance hassles and potential panel damage are also limited since technical services are housed in the “zone.” These systems are especially appropriate for large expanses and open plan offices.

To ensure a range of compatible fixtures prequalified for fit and finish in these systems, ceiling manufacturers partner with lighting, diffuser, fire protection, and chilled beam makers. This results in pre-engineered acoustical ceiling systems using standard components while delivering desired quantity and quality of light and air to the space.

The technical “zone” panels are usually offered in 4″, 6″, and 12″ widths. Among the lighting options that the narrow widths offer are continuous and non-continuous recessed linear light fixtures including LEDs.

Another trend in creating monolithic acoustical ceiling planes is on-center linear lighting. This refers to the installation of recessed linear lighting in the center of a grid module. The light fixture appears to replace the main grid runner, giving an uncluttered look to the ceiling plane. It also provides the opportunity to create a ceiling layout that allows symmetry to match facility design.

To ease the selection process, ceiling manufacturers and lighting manufacturers have partnered on integrated ceiling and lighting systems that offer higher ceiling heights, no plenum interference, and on-center continuous or non-continuous linear lighting layouts. These systems generally include factory-finished ceiling panels, narrow suspension systems, and LED luminaires.

These integrated ceiling solutions help to ease installation because the LED luminaires install from below. This eliminates construction coordination concerns since acoustical contractors do not have to wait until lights are on-site before finishing ceiling installation. Punch lists are reduced as lighting contractors do not have to install the fixture from above, eliminating interference with mechanicals in the plenum and minimizing damage to grid and panels.

Another area where an integrated ceiling system comes into play is at the transition between the interior of a building perimeter and the ceiling plane, especially as it relates to shade pockets. Acoustical ceilings, shade pockets, and shades generally require construction coordination between multiple trades. With partnerships between acoustical ceiling manufacturers and automated shade manufacturers, there are now integrated pocket and shade systems for building perimeters that tie into both drywall and acoustical ceiling systems for fit and finish and an enhanced visual.

These pre-engineered building perimeter trim solutions provide an integration between the ceiling and shade pockets without using any visible fasteners. This not only results in pleasing aesthetics and simplifies the selection process, but also enhances quality control by eliminating guesswork.

Integrated shade pockets, on-center linear lighting, and ceilings that organize building services are all examples of manufacturers working together to create integrated ceiling systems to help make selection, installation, and maintenance easier. During facility retrofit or construction projects, facility managers can evaluate integrated options to determine if these would benefit their buildings.

Jacobson is sales and marketing manager of Suspension Systems for Armstrong Ceilings, a Lancaster, PA-based company that designs and manufactures commercial and residential ceiling, wall, and suspension system solutions.

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