Whether for a space with cubicles and teaming areas or private offices and conference rooms, there are acoustic options that also address sustainable needs. For example, a wide range of continuous and wall-to-wall acoustical ceilings are available that not only enhance the acoustic environment, but also contain high recycled content and can be recycled at the end of their service life.
There are also a variety of “free-floating” ceiling treatments including acoustical clouds, canopies and baffles that are ideal for open plenum or exposed structure spaces—a design trend in green buildings that continues to grow.
Unfortunately, this “warehouse look” can often cause acoustical problems due to sound reflecting off the deck, resulting in excessive reverberation. Any large space of this type will usually need some sound-absorbing elements to help control noise and reverberation within it. In addition, if the exposed deck is less than 15 feet high, reflections between open plan cubicles can cause distractions for nearby occupants.
Designed for use in either new construction or retrofit applications, acoustical clouds, canopies and baffles can add sound absorption in open spaces, provide visual interest and make a design statement, all without sacrificing that exposed look.
Available in a myriad of shapes, acoustical ceiling clouds suspended above work areas provide a type of interrupted ceiling plane. As such, they help control both distant reverberations and reflections, reducing occupant annoyance and distractions. Acoustical clouds actually provide greater sound absorption than a continuous ceiling of the same surface area because they absorb sound on both their front and back surfaces. In fact, reverberation time can be reduced nearly 50 percent with only 20 percent coverage.
Acoustical canopies also help reduce reverberation in the space below them, but are much different in size and look compared to acoustical clouds. For example, cloud systems are available in standard sizes up to 14 by 14 feet, while canopies are usually 3 by 3 or 4 by 6 feet in size. Visually, acoustical clouds are flat, while canopies are curved and can be installed as hills or valleys.
Currently, there is no standard credit in the IEQ section of LEED for acoustic performance. However, an innovation credit can be applied for by demonstrating that the acoustics of a building are superior to what would normally be considered typical, thereby improving the quality of the indoor environment. The LEED v4 proposal (in a fifth public comment at the time of this writing) does, however, include a requirement for acoustic performance as part of the IEQ section.