Tag Archives: lighting

Thermoformed Ceiling Panels and Tiles: Drop-out Ceiling Panels Installed Beneath Fire Sprinklers

Approved drop-out ceiling panels can be installed beneath fire sprinklers. When exposed to heat from a small fire, drop-out ceiling panels soften, distort, and fall from ceiling grid. Heat from the growing fire activates sprinklers that, unimpeded by panels that have dropped out, controls or extinguishes the fire.*

Drop-out ceiling panels have several significant advantages compared to conventional ceiling panels. They are able to:

  • hide sprinklers to reduce visual clutter on the ceiling;
  • protect sprinklers against tampering and accidental knocks and the resulting water damage;
  • simplify sprinkler design at ceiling clouds and other design features by locating sprinklers above dropped ceiling; and
  • remain cost effective, eliminating need to ‘drop’ sprinklers, simplifying alignment with panel centers and coordination with ceiling installation, and allowing use of less costly, non-appearance grade sprinklers.

Codes and standards
Use of drop-out ceiling panels is governed by local building and fire codes that address acceptable interior finish elements like ceiling panels. The International Building Code (IBC) is often used as the model building code on which many building codes are based. IBC covers interior ceiling panels in Chapter 8 and addresses fire sprinklers in Chapter 9. When requiring fire sprinkler systems, IBC refers to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems. This standard addresses drop-out ceilings in Section 8.15.15 (2013 Edition), permitting their installation beneath sprinklers where ceilings are listed and installed for that service. Similarly, NFPA 13R, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in Low-rise Residential Occupancies, permits drop-out ceilings in Section 6.15.

NFPA does not approve, inspect, or certify drop-out ceiling panels. Instead, the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) refers to listings maintained by organizations—such as IAPMO-UES, Factory Mutual (FM Global), International Code Council Evaluation Service (ICC-ES), CertMark, and Underwriters Laboratories (UL)—that evaluate products for compliance with appropriate standards.** As the AHJ has final approval authority, they should be contacted early in the design phase to get their input and address concerns.

Occupancy
Design of a drop-out ceiling system generally begins with identification of building occupancy. Listings from some agencies recognize drop-out panels in both Light Hazard and Ordinary Hazard Group 1 occupancies. FM, however, only recognizes drop-out panels in light hazard occupancies. Listings should always be checked to confirm where proposed ceiling panels may be used. Additionally, the organization issuing the evaluation report must be acceptable to your AHJ.

Light hazard occupancies are where combustibility or quantity of contents is low and fires with relatively low heat release are expected. Examples of light hazard occupancies are:

  • animal shelters;
  • churches;
  • libraries (except large stack);
  • museums;
  • offices;
  • recreational facilities;
  • restaurant seating areas; and
  • theaters (except stages).

Ordinary Hazard Group 1 occupancies are where combustibility of contents is low, the quantity of combustibles is moderate, stockpiles do not exceed 2.4 m (8 ft), and fires with moderate rates of heat release are expected. Examples include:

  • auto showrooms;
  • food manufacturing and processing;
  • electronic plants and similar light manufacturing facilities; and
  • laundries.

While typical dairy processing facilities are appropriate for drop-out ceiling panels, this would not pertain where significant quantities of cardboard packaging are stored.

Ordinary Hazard Group 2 occupancies are not recommended for drop-out ceiling panels. These include manufacturing occupancies used for plastic fabrication, wood working, and machining, and mercantile occupancies used for display and sale of merchandise. However, the AHJ may have latitude to accept drop-out ceilings if stockpiles of combustibles are limited, consist of materials with low rates of heat release, and have low probability of rapidly developing fires. A pottery store with these characteristics might be appropriate for drop-out ceilings and acceptable to the AHJ despite being a mercantile occupancy due to incombustibility of the merchandise.

Residential occupancies permit drop-out ceiling panels under NFPA 13 and 13R. Drop-out ceilings can be used in combination with either standard-response, 74 C (165 F) or higher sprinklers or quick-response, 68 C (155 F) or higher sprinklers. Residential-type sprinklers are not acceptable with drop-out ceiling panels.

When remodeling an existing building, the fire sprinkler riser should be located and its hydraulic nameplate data for occupancy classification checked. This information may help the AHJ help determine whether a drop-out ceiling is appropriate.

Sprinkler types
Next is selection of sprinkler types. All drop-out panels currently available have been evaluated for use with standard-response sprinklers that have a thermal element with an Response Time Index (RTI)—a measure of thermal sensitivity—of more than 50 (meter-seconds)1/2. One brand of drop-out panels has been recently listed for use with quick-response sprinklers (see IAPMO-UES Evaluation Report 0310. This is significant as quick-response sprinklers have been required in light hazard occupancies since 1996 edition of NFPA 13. Quick-response sprinklers have an RTI of 50 (meter-seconds)1/2 or less. No drop-out panels have been approved with extended coverage, residential, dry-pipe, or other types of sprinkler systems.

Sprinklers must be installed in compliance with NFPA requirements, including avoidance of obstructions by structural elements, HVAC ducts, and other above-ceiling elements. Evaluation reports specify allowable sprinkler heights above ceiling panels and require identification of report on packaging. Examples based on a listed vinyl drop-out panel include:

  1. Standard-response sprinklers rated 74 (165 F) or higher can be installed from 25 to 1524 mm (1 to 60 in.) above ceiling panels.
  2. Quick-response sprinklers rated 68 C (155 F) or higher require sprinklers installed 25 mm (1 in.) or less from top of standard T-bar ceiling grid. Verify that proposed ceiling panel can be installed within this clearance.

Inappropriate applications
Finally, conditions precluding drop-out ceilings include:

  1. Use in exits such as corridors, stairways, horizontal exits, pressurized enclosures, and exit passageways as defined in IBC Chapter 10.
  2. Sprinklers installed both above and below panels.
  3. Insulation between ceiling panels and sprinklers. (Insulating backer panels in specific listings are an exception.)
  4. Panels are not Class A rated.
  5. Ceiling is required to protect sprinkler piping such as soft-soldered copper pipe or combustible plastic pipe. (Drop-out ceiling will not provide concealment as it drops-out early in fire.)
  6. Ceiling is part of fire-resistance rated assembly. (Drop-out ceilings can be installed below rated assembly but cannot be part of assembly.)
  7. Space above ceiling is air circulation plenum.
  8. Ceiling is non-horizontal.
  9. Structure is floating or waterborne.
  10. Ceiling suspension system does not comply with listing.
  11. Clips prevent downward movement of panels. (Uplift prevention clips are permitted but not required.)
  12. Drop-out ceiling panels are used as diffusers within light fixtures.

Maintenance
Building owner must maintain sprinkler and ceiling systems. Drop-out panels beneath sprinklers cannot be painted. If it becomes necessary to replace drop-out panels the new ones should be of same type as originally installed or another type approved for installation beneath sprinklers. Some drop-out ceiling panel manufacturers offer signage reminding building users to replace panels in kind; signage can be posted at sprinkler alarm valve (next to hydraulic nameplate) or another conspicuous location.

* For more information, see “Drop-out Ceiling Panels–A Discussion on Their Use With Fire Sprinklers,” a white paper by Gary G. Piermattei, RFPE, PE, senior consultant at Rolf Jensen & Associates.
**See, for example:

  • CertMark International: CMI Evaluation Report CER-3101;
  • FM Approvals–Suspended Plastic Ceilings (Class Number 4651) Approval Guide;
  • IAPMO Uniform Evaluation Service (IAPMO-UES): Evaluation Report 0310;
  • ICC Evaluation Service (ICC-ES):Evaluation Report ESR-2451; and
  • Underwriters Laboratories (UL): Product Listing BLME.R4036.

Light-transmitting plastics for luminous ceilings are regulated by IBC Chapter 26.

To read the full article, click here.

Thermoformed Ceiling Panels and Tiles

All images courtesy Ceilume

All images courtesy Ceilume

by Ed Davis, David Condello, CSI, and Michael Chusid, RA, FCSI, CCS

Plastic has been frequently used for floorings and wallcoverings, but not for ceilings. This is changing as thermoformed plastic ceiling panels and tiles have proven their mettle in rigorous testing and through approvals and listings by building product evaluation services.

While ceilings can be made with various types of plastic and in myriad configurations, this article discusses ceiling elements made from rigid vinyl or polyethylene terephtalate (PET) sheets 0.33 or 0.76 mm (0.013 or 0.03 in.) thick, that are thermoformed to create decorative surfaces. Forming also imparts depth to the thin material, sufficiently stiffening panels to span between conventional ceiling suspension grid members.

Ceilings of this type have been manufactured since the mid-20th century and have been improved with refinements in materials, fabrication techniques, and finishes. They now provide a unique constellation of characteristics making them suitable for various architectural and building applications.

This article uses ‘tile’ to mean a ‘ceiling element used with concealed or semi-exposed suspension systems, stapling, or adhesive bonding’ and ‘panel’ as a ‘ceiling element used with exposed suspension systems.’1 Since standards and manufacturers do not use terms consistently, construction documents should define terms used for particular projects.

Fire safety
It is appropriate to consider fire safety first because of plastic’s combustibility. Thin plastic has such little mass it provides no significant fuel load relative to the other combustible materials in a building.2 Surface burning characteristics are more relevant to life safety; there are now Class A thermoformed ceilings that, with certain limitations, can be specified for all but the most critical occupancies.3

Ceilings can be made from plastic rated V0 under Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 94, Standard for Safety of Flammability of Plastic Materials for Parts in Devices and Appliances Testing. Such materials are self-extinguishing—flaming combustion stops within 10 seconds after removal of heat source, glowing combustion stops within 30 seconds, and materials do not drip flaming particles that could ignite cotton.4

Unlike most types of ceilings, some thermoformed assemblies can be installed above or beneath fire sprinklers without interfering with sprinkler function when used in accordance with listings and approvals. When exposed to heat from a fire, panels soften, deform, and drop out of suspension grids at temperatures well below the activation point of commonly used sprinklers.

Ceilings beneath sprinklers
Referred to as ‘drop-out ceilings,’ thermoplastic ceiling panels can simplify sprinkler installation and significantly reduce construction costs.5 Sprinklers are not visible from below, making ceilings less cluttered and more attractive, while also protecting sprinklers against accidental impact or tampering and the water damage that results from sprinkler inactivation. Drop-out ceilings can be especially useful for suspended ceiling ‘clouds’ that could otherwise require sprinklers to be located both above and below the cloud. (See “Drop-out Ceiling Panels Installed Beneath Fire Sprinklers.”)

One glance at a thermoformed ceiling speaks immediately to the decorative potential of the molded panels and tiles. What is not seen, however, can be even more important—these panels can be installed beneath fire sprinklers to keep the ceiling surface uncluttered.

One glance at a thermoformed ceiling speaks immediately to the decorative potential of the molded panels and tiles. What is not seen, however, can be even more important—these panels can be installed beneath fire sprinklers to keep the ceiling surface uncluttered.

Lightweight and easily installed, thermoformed panels and tiles can be trimmed with scissors or aviation snips. Although the products are made with thin material, panels and tiles are robust, do not release fi bers, and are not frangible.

Lightweight and easily installed, thermoformed panels and tiles can be trimmed with scissors or aviation snips. Although the products are made with thin material, panels and tiles are robust, do not release fibers, and are not frangible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ceilings above sprinklers
To avoid falling panels from getting hung-up on sprinklers and preventing their operation, pendent-style sprinklers must be installed through over-sized openings in panels.

Installed with or without sprinklers, drop-out panels regain stiffness when they fall to the relatively cooler floor. Since they are thin and light, they do not significantly impede egress or access by firefighters. Building product evaluation services, however, have not approved use of drop-out ceilings in exits or stairs.

These comments about fire safety apply only to thermoformed ceiling products tested and approved by reputable organization such as UL, IAPMO Uniform Evaluation Service, International Code Council Evaluation Service (ICC-ES), CertMark, and Factory Mutual (FM).

For many designers, the best-looking fire sprinkler is the one that is not there. Sprinklers can be installed above approved thermoformed ceilings (top) or no more than 24 mm (1 in.) beneath surface (bottom). Holes for penetrating sprinklers must be oversized to allow panels to drop-out without draping over sprinkler in the event of a fire.

For many designers, the best-looking fire sprinkler is the one that is not there. Sprinklers can be installed above approved thermoformed ceilings (top) or no more than 24 mm (1 in.) beneath surface (bottom). Holes for penetrating sprinklers must be oversized to allow panels to drop-out without draping over sprinkler in the event of a fire.

Thermoformed ceiling tiles and panels can be used in humid areas such as above the hot tub. The decorative molded pattern suggests ripples in water. During day, side light entering from glazed wall enhances relief with shadows and highlights; at night, the ceiling is back-lit. Border tile with low relief are used around perimeter of space.

Thermoformed ceiling tiles and panels can be used in humid areas such as above the hot tub. The decorative molded pattern suggests ripples in water. During day, side light entering from glazed wall enhances relief with shadows and highlights; at night, the ceiling is back-lit. Border tile with low relief are used around perimeter of space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moisture, mold, and hygiene
Vinyl and PET ceilings are not affected by moisture and can be used in wet or humid locations. Examples include natatoria, shower and bathing rooms, spas, laundries, kitchens, and areas subject to washdown.6 Moisture resistance is also a concern in normally dry spaces due to ever-present risks of roof and plumbing leaks, dripping condensate from sweating pipes, HVAC equipment, and spills.

Moisture resistance is closely associated with mold resistance. Thermoformed ceilings neither hold the moisture required for fungal growth nor provide a source of nutrition.

In flood-prone areas, thermoformed ceiling panels meet Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Class 4 requirements for materials that:

can survive wetting and drying and may be successfully cleaned after a flood to render them free of most harmful pollutants. Materials in this class may be exposed to and/or submerged in floodwaters in interior spaces and do not require special waterproofing protection.7

In suspended ceilings, uplift prevention clips reduce the likelihood panels will be dislodged.

Moisture resistance makes it feasible to install thermoformed ceiling elements before humidity in a building has stabilized. This feature helps meet project deadlines because ceiling installation is frequently delayed until the end of a construction project. Plastic’s moisture resistance abets final cleaning of a jobsite because vinyl and PET are easy to clean.

This is important in areas requiring good hygiene. Thermoformed ceiling elements can be cleaned with a damp cloth and, if necessary, mild detergent or compatible cleaning agents. This makes them practical in culinary and food-manufacturing areas where government regulations require smooth, durable, easily cleanable, and non-absorbent surfaces. To meet these requirements, panels or tiles with low surface-relief patterns should be used.8 Thermoformed ceilings also promote hygiene by allowing above-ceiling installation of lighting fixtures and fire sprinkler devices that can collect contaminants.

While standardized stain-resistance tests have not been conducted on some thermoformed ceilings, their long record of use demonstrates plastic’s resistance to the grime and stains that typically disfigure ceilings. For example, the proprietor of a cigar lounge told one of these authors thermoformed ceiling elements in his establishment do not absorb odors from tobacco smoke, and stains can be removed by washing.

Many healthcare, veterinary, laboratory, and industrial facilities also require hygienic ceilings. Since plastic ceilings are impermeable and fiber-free, they can also be considered for cleanrooms.

Computer server farms illustrate how thermoformed ceiling products can solve a complex set of requirements. Cool air is typically fed into server racks to keep equipment within an optimal operating temperature range. Instead of releasing heated air into the surrounding room, aisles between racks are enclosed to act as plenums for exhaust air. By using translucent, drop-out panels as above-aisle ceilings, light fixtures and fire sprinklers can be located above server banks where they will not interfere with access to servers.

Computer server farms illustrate how thermoformed ceiling products can solve a complex set of requirements. Cool air is typically fed into server racks to keep equipment within an optimal operating temperature range. Instead of releasing heated air into the surrounding room, aisles between racks are enclosed to act as plenums for exhaust air. By using translucent, drop-out panels as above-aisle ceilings, light fixtures and fire sprinklers can be located above server banks where they will not interfere with access to servers.

Thermoformed panels and tiles come in a range of patterns and fi nishes.

Thermoformed panels and tiles come in a range of patterns and finishes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acoustics
Installed in a suspended grid, thin thermoformed panels act as diaphragms that transfer sound from occupied spaces to above-ceiling cavities where vibrations can be absorbed or dissipated. To simulate this condition, suspended ceilings are tested under ASTM C423, Standard Test Method for Sound Absorption and Sound Absorption Coefficients by the Reverberation Room Method, using Mounting E with a 400-mm (16-in.) deep cavity between panels and concrete surface of reverberant test chamber.9

In this condition, thermoformed panels 0.33 mm (0.013 in.) thick have a noise reduction coefficient (NRC) of 0.25 or 0.30. This increases to NRC 0.35 to 0.45 when paired with special backer panels—inverted pans made of 0.33-mm (0.013-in.) thick plastic that nest above ceiling panels to form 76-mm (3-in.) deep air pockets that dampen vibrations.

Given the moderate acoustical performance of most suspended ceilings, ranging from NRC 0.05 for plaster and gypsum board to 0.55 or better for mineral fiber products, thermoformed panels are suitable for various commercial, residential, and institutional occupancies. However, when glued or stapled to a solid surface, thermoformed tiles provide insignificant noise reduction.

Thermoformed ceiling panels complement the panelized wood walls and doors to enhance the decorative motif of this cigar lounge. The ceiling panels do not absorb odors from cigar smoke and can be washed to remove tobacco stains.

Thermoformed ceiling panels complement the panelized wood walls and doors to enhance the decorative motif of this cigar lounge. The ceiling panels do not absorb odors from cigar smoke and can be washed to remove tobacco stains.

Faux wood grain and molded surface of ceiling add to the charm and down-home comfort of a café. Thermoformed ceiling tiles can extend over culinary areas because hygienic surfaces meet Food & Drug Administration (FDA) requirements for food-handling facilities.

Faux wood grain and molded surface of ceiling add to the charm and down-home comfort of a café. Thermoformed ceiling tiles can extend over culinary areas because hygienic surfaces meet Food & Drug Administration (FDA) requirements for food-handling facilities.

Lighting
Available in three levels of optical transmissivity, thermoformed ceiling panels facilitate creative approaches to lighting.

Opaque white panels have a bright light reflectance value (LRV) of approximately 83.10 This takes on special significance with directional light sources that cast shadows on the molded relief of panels and tiles.

Translucent white plastic is used for backlit luminous ceilings. Panels that are 0.33 mm (0.013 inch) thick have light transmittance of more than 50 percent; this is reduced to approximately 40 percent when used with acoustical backer panels. Backer panels have a frosted surface that diffuses above-ceiling light sources for more uniform illumination below. Additionally, backers reduce shadows caused by detritus that would otherwise accumulate directly on top of ceiling panels. Translucent ceilings can be used with light-emitting diode (LED) lamps to create glowing illumination that can be programmed to change colors.

Transparent panels allow light fixtures to be placed above a ceiling while maintaining the continuity of the surface’s plane and pattern.11 For example, a light fixture with a directional beam can be placed above the ceiling—and out of sight—yet still focused on a piece of artwork or other visual feature. They are also practical in areas where hygiene or other considerations make it desirable to keep light fixtures isolated. For example, federal regulations require food preparation areas to be protected against contamination from breakage of overhead lamps, skylights, and other glass.

Several levels of transmissivity can be combined as required. In a hotel lobby, opaque panels can be used with uplighting at seating areas, translucent panels to create a luminous ceiling above the registration counter, and transparent panels below spotlights creating visual excitement above the dance floor in a bar. Daylight, as an energy conservation strategy, also suggests applications for translucent and transparent panels beneath skylights for opaque or translucent panels and as light shelves to direct light more deeply into buildings.

Sustainability
Many of the already enumerated characteristics of thermoformed ceilings contribute to building sustainability, such as:

  • lighting efficiency;
  • noise reduction;
  • cleanability; and
  • fungal resistance.

In terms of material choices, some industry leaders advocate against vinyl, also known as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Vinyl is made from petrochemicals, has problematic precursor products, and may release toxic products of combustions if burned. Other authorities remind us of vinyl’s long service life and low maintenance requirements which mitigate some of these concerns. Reputable manufacturers now use vinyl produced through cleaner technologies and without the most egregious additives. Combustion risks are reduced by considerations mentioned, and vinyl is recyclable as a Type 3 plastic.

Environmental Building News, an arbiter of sustainable design, suggests, “For builders and architects, our recommendation is not to avoid vinyl altogether, but to seek out better, safer, and more environmentally responsible alternatives.”12

Reasoning like this has led to an increased use of recycled PET (rPET) for ceilings with as much as 40 percent post-consumer recycled content. While PET has a greener environmental rap sheet—raw material costs more than vinyl—it is more difficult to fabricate in certain ceiling styles, and it is not yet approved for use below sprinklers. While vinyl has demonstrated longevity in building applications, PET service life has yet to be determined. PET is recyclable as Type 1 plastic.

Both vinyl and PET are available with GreenGuard’s Gold certification of compliance with California’s Department of Public Health Services Standard Practice for Specification Section 01350 (i.e. California Section 01350) for low chemical emissions from building products used in schools, healthcare, and other critical environments. Indoor air quality (IAQ) is also protected because the plastics are fiber free and hygienic.

While sufficiently rigid to maintain visual flatness once installed, both vinyl and PET:

  • are resilient enough to flex during installation and maintenance;
  • are not frangible;
  • resist moderate abuse without breakage;
  • contain ultraviolet (UV) inhibitors; and
  • are cleanable.

Thermoformed ceilings weigh as little as 0.49 kg/m² (0.10 psf)—approximately 80 percent less than mineral fiber ceilings. This represents a significant reduction of manufacturing resource requirements. Additionally, transportation impacts are reduced because panels and tiles are lightweight, thin, and nest for compact packing. Five times as many panels can fit on a truck compared to 19-mm (3/4-in.) thick mineral fiber panels.

Appearance
While this article has discussed physical and performance properties, selection of thermoformed ceilings frequently begins with aesthetic considerations. Ceilings are often the most visually prominent surface of a room; the flat plane and rectangular grid of standard acoustic ceilings, once the hallmark of ‘modern’ efficiency, now epitomizes the ‘less is a bore’ sentiment of many designers. Thermoformed ceiling panels and tiles are available in dozens of styles ranging from historic stamped tin patterns and classic coffers to contemporary geometric and multifaceted panels and from shallow profiles to relief extending as much as 76 mm (3 in.) above or below the ceiling grid. Additionally, digital fabrication techniques have lowered the cost of making molds for custom patterns.

Some styles can be installed upside-down; while the pattern remains the same, inverted panels change the relationship of shadow and highlight to engage the viewer. Other design options include white, solid colors, faux metallic finishes, and faux wood grain finishes.

When a style with deep relief is used, it is customary to use border panels or tiles with low relief around ceiling perimeters. Alternatively, adventurous designers can achieve interesting effects by expressing the panel or tile profile at the ceiling perimeter.

Installation
Installation of thermoformed ceiling panels and tiles is similar to other materials. Lay-in panels can be used with standard suspension systems with 24-mm (15/16-in.) wide tees.13 Fiberglass, plastic, or aluminum suspensions should be considered in wet areas. Direct-mounted tiles install easily with construction-grade adhesives or staples. Panels are available for both 609 x 609-mm (2 x 2-ft) and 609 x 1218-mm (2 x 4-ft) grids.

The lightweight panels and tiles are less likely to cause injury due to lifting or dropping.14 They lack sharp edges and installers do not have to wear respirators. The material can be easily cut with scissors or aviation snips. Decorative strips are available, if desired, to trim butt joints between tiles.

Conclusion
It is crucial to verify the approvals and listings of proposed products because not all thermoformed ceiling products rise to the same standards. While thermoformed panels and tiles are widely used in simple do-it-yourself applications, design professionals may want assistance from a reputable manufacturer to identify suitable products for projects with more demanding requirements.

Through thermoformed ceiling panels and tiles can be used for any one of their several beneficial characteristics, it is when these innovative products are able to meet several requirements simultaneously that plastic can be transmuted into gold.

Notes
1 These definitions are from ASTM E1264, Standard Classification for Acoustic Ceiling Products. (back to top)
2 IBC Section 803.2, “Thickness exemption,” exempts ceiling finish materials less than 0.09 mm (0.036 in.) thick from fire performance and smoke development testing. While the IBC section applies only to materials directly applied to the surface of walls and ceilings, it establishes thin materials have insignificant fuel load. (back to top)
3 Class A finishes have flame spread ≤ 25 and smoke developed ≤ 450 tested under ASTM E84, Standard Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials. (back to top)
4 For more on UL 94, see www.ides.com/property_descriptions/UL94.asp. (back to top)
5 In a detailed estimate examined construction costs for a 10,219-m2 (110,000-sf) office building in Oklahoma City 0.6 x 0.6-m (2 x 2-ft) plastic ceiling panels with acoustical backer and concealed (above-ceiling) sprinklers saved $3.30 per sf when compared to the same size ¾-in. mineral fiber ceiling panels with visible (recessed) sprinklers. (back to top)
6 Hold-down clips should be used when the ceiling will be directly sprayed with water. (back to top)
7 See FEMA’s Flood Damage-Resistant Material Requirements for Buildings Located in Special Flood Hazard Areas under the National Flood Insurance Program (Technical Bulletin 2–2008) at www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/2655. (back to top)
8 See U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) 2013 Food Code and Code of Federal Regulations at www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/RetailFoodProtection/FoodCode/UCM374510.pdf. (back to top)
9 See ASTM C423, Standard Test Method for Sound Absorption and Sound Absorption Coefficients by the Reverberation Room Method. (back to top)
10 See ASTM E1477, Standard Test Method for Luminous Reflectance Factor of Acoustical Materials by Use of Integrating-Sphere Reflectometers. (back to top)
11 Transparent plastic may show distortions due to molding process. (back to top)
12 See www2.buildinggreen.com/article/should-we-phase-out-pvc. (back to top)
13 See ASTM C635, Standard Specification for the Manufacture, Performance, and Testing of Metal Suspension Systems for Acoustical Tile and Lay-in Panel Ceilings and ASTM C636, Standard Practice for Installation of Metal Ceiling Suspension Systems for Acoustical Tile and Lay-in Panels. (back to top)
14 Sharp edges are especially a problem with stamped metal ceilings. (back to top)

Ed Davis is president of Ceilume, a manufacturer of thermoformed ceiling panels, and has been responsible for product testing and obtaining product evaluations and approvals. He can be reached at ed@ceilume.com.

David Condello, CSI, has more than 20 years of experience in construction and is the architectural services manager for Ceilume. He can be reached at david@ceilume.com.

Michael Chusid, RA, CCS, FCSI, is an architect, a Fellow of CSI, and a Certified Construction Specifier. He is a frequent contributor to The Construction Specifier, and a consultant to building product manufacturers. He can be reached at www.chusid.com.

The Drive Toward Energy Efficiency

Energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LED) luminaires provide consistent light levels for increased visibility and a secure environment.

Energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LED) luminaires provide consistent light levels for increased visibility and a secure environment. Photos © Kelly Lee Flora Photography

By Jeff Gatzow

The parking lot at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky has upgraded its illumination with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to improve light quality and provide better lighting control.

Located across the street from General Motor’s Bowling Green Corvette assembly plant—the only place in the world Corvettes are made—it was constructed in 1994, and showcases more than 70 Corvettes.

Visitors can see mint-condition classics, one-of-a-kind prototypes that never went into production, racetrack champions, and modern-day wonders of engineering and design. Attendees also have the opportunity to interact with educational hands-on exhibits, enjoy a film in the theater, and see rare collectibles and memorabilia.

Lighting upgrade
The museum’s upgrade to its three parking lots with LED luminaires was a one-for-one replacement—17 1000W metal halide fixtures were replaced with the same number of 240W LED luminaires. Also, 27 400W metal halide fixtures were switched to 27 120W LED luminaires. At the time the decision to retrofit the parking lots’ lighting was made, the museum had two key priorities for the upgrade: improve the quality and color rendition of the lighting, and enhance control of lighting energy use while maintaining or improving the lot’s safety.

The LED luminaires provide consistent light levels for the entire parking lot, reduced hazardous waste disposal, and provide more efficient light distribution than the metal halide fixtures. Additionally, these luminaires are virtually maintenance-free, offering another opportunity to further reduce expenses.

“The exterior lighting allows us to dramatically reduce operating expenses,” said Bob Hellmann, the museum’s facilities and displays manager. “Additionally, the new lights help make the parking lot bright and secure.”

The retrofit of these 44 fixtures is expected to save the museum $9300 annually in energy expenses and virtually eliminate the $2000 spent in annual maintenance and repair for the incumbent metal halide fixtures. The National Corvette Museum will have a payback of only three years. Further, the utility company, Tennessee Valley Authority, provided $9350 in incentives for the upgrades.

Commitment to sustainability
The National Corvette Museum is committed to sustainability through several green initiatives with the goal of enhanced energy conservation and lessening its carbon footprint. Through these efforts, the museum not only realizes bottom line cost savings, but also works to strengthen business relationships and inspire environmental action by the facility’s patrons.

In addition to the recent retrofit of exterior LED luminaires of the parking lots, the museum has also upgraded other exterior and interior building fixtures to further reduce energy costs and improve the quality of lighting.

“The energy-efficient lighting allows us to drive down operating expenses, present our cars and exhibits in the best light, and contribute to the greening of our community,” said Hellmann. “We installed the LED luminaires and the more efficient fluorescent lights because they pay back in so many ways and it’s the right thing to do.”

Recently, the museum was the site of a 12-m (40-ft) wide 6-m (20-ft) deep sinkhole that swallowed eight vehicles and caused extensive damage.

Before the light-emitting diode (LED) upgrade, metal halide fixtures consumed a lot of energy and required ongoing maintenance at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Before the light-emitting diode (LED) upgrade, metal halide fixtures consumed a lot of energy and required ongoing maintenance at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Jeff-Gatzow-headshot

Jeff Gatzow is national sales and marketing manager, lighting with Optec LED. The California-based supplier of high efficiency LED lighting fixtures feature a patented thermal management system for cool operation and extended life. Gatzow can be reached by e-mail at jgatzow@optec.com.

Industrial Daylighting

Increasing light quality and reducing energy load

All images courtesy Acuity Brands

By Brian Grohe

For an electrical conduit design and manufacturing company in Roselle, Illinois, a new plant would represent as much as a 60 percent increase in company production and 25 new jobs in the community. However, before expanding manufacturing operations to a 4923-m2 (53,000-sf) space, there needed to be major changes to the 14-year-old building.

The building would be reclassified from industrial to heavy manufacturing, and it would be made as environmentally sound as possible. This meant improved energy efficiency where it was most achievable—in the building’s thermal properties and lighting system. Specifically, the company wanted vegetated roofing assemblies, lowered indoor temperatures, and improved energy efficiency, as well as daylighting solutions.

Two years ago in another project, 15 skylights were retrofitted with new ones from a California-based manufacturer specializing in high-performance prismatic skylights for the commercial market. Having seen the enhanced performance of those skylights, project manager Ed Berbeka opted for them again.

This photo shows the 55 to 62 footcandle (fc) readings inside the facility after the installation of prismatic skylights.

This photo shows the 55 to 62 footcandle (fc) readings inside the facility after the installation of prismatic skylights.

A total of 56 skylights were installed in the Roselle facility last October, at the same time the insulation and new roofing was installed. For the insulation upgrade, R-25 insulation would meet the latest international standards for long-term, thermal-resistance values. For the roofing upgrade, the existing ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) black membrane was replaced with more reflective white—and more energy-efficient—thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) material. The TPO assembly, lightweight and time-tested since the mid-1970s, reflects the sun’s rays to reduce incoming heat, and does not require rock ballast.

New electrical and energy-efficient lighting was also part of the upgrade to the building. After the roof renovation, the building’s interior temperature decreased by an estimated 17 C (30 F)—a measure taken during the month of August, just before the entire project was completed.

Lighting also significantly improved. The new skylights cover three percent of the roof area, which is relatively standard for industrial buildings. Thanks to their prismatic properties, however, the lighting inside the building, which has a ceiling height of about 12.19 m (40 ft), is anything but standard.

Generally speaking, warehouse lighting varies from as few as 5- to 10-fc (footcandles) in inactive storage areas, to as much as 30- to 40-fc output in more active spaces such as loading docks or receiving areas. After the installation of the skylights, light-level readings in the building reached from 55 to as much as 62 fc—without any use of electrical lighting.

A new roofing membrane and insulation to reduce the HVAC load were installed.

A new roofing membrane and insulation to reduce the HVAC load were installed.

The electrician took note of the lack of ‘hot spots’ created by typical bubble-dome skylights, which can allow heat to build in the space below. The specified skylights, however, diffuse the incoming light through its prismatic lenses, eliminating hot spots, glare, or haze, as well as dissipating any heat. All that remains in the space is fully captured, evenly distributed and ultraviolet (UV)-stable daylighting coverage.

In addition to increasing the interior light source and providing increased energy savings, the building owner says the daylighting solution also boosted employee morale in the manufacturing plant.

Brian Grohe, LEED AP, is the corporate accounts manager–industrial for Acuity Brands. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College in Chicago. With more than nine years in the daylighting industry, Grohe has held roles in regional sales and business development. He can be contacted by e-mail at brian.grohe@acuitybrands.com.

LED Luminaires Provide Lesson in Energy Savings: Current initiatives

There are hundreds of initiatives, both grassroots and national, to help transform the nation’s approximately 13,900 public K–12 school districts to reduce energy costs and consumption, and lessen their carbon footprint.*

Mayors’ Alliance for Green Schools
Recognizing sustainability in schools must come from grassroots efforts. The Mayors’ Alliance for Green Schools unites mayors from major cities and small towns across the country around the common goal of bringing the benefits of green schools to local communities.

The program was initiated in October 2008 by two mayors—Manuel A. Diaz of Miami, and Greg Nickels of Seattle. It works in conjunction with U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and its national network to harness the leadership and creativity of local community leaders nationwide.

A major initiative of the group is the development of public-private partnerships (P3s) with local businesses to enable schools to install vegetated roofs and solar panels, implement recycling and sustainable purchasing programs, and advance other green improvements.

Participating mayors also champion innovative legislation to promote the construction and retrofits of green schools and related projects, such as safe biking and walking routes for students, developing and integrating green curriculum, and making facility operations and maintenance more efficient.

Green Schools Alliance
Created by schools for schools, the Green Schools Alliance (GSA) is a global network of sustainability coordinators—faculty, staff, students, and administrators—working together to solve environmental and climate challenges. GSA member schools share and implement sustainable best practices, and promote connections between schools, communities, and the environment by offering programs, exchanging resources, and creating peer-to-peer forums.

The GSA has an annual competition, Green Cup Energy Challenge, which is the largest national electricity use reduction competition among K–12 schools. This year, students from 120 schools across the country competed to reduce energy consumption. The challenge, now in its sixth year, is designed to raise awareness about energy conservation and provide concrete action towards reduction.

The Congressional Green Schools Caucus
The Congressional Green Schools Caucus, now approaching 70 members, was formed as a way to educate and inform members of Congress on the impact they have on the nation’s sustainability approach to new and existing school buildings. With support from USGBC, it empowers federal legislators to make schools greener.

The caucus hosts regular briefings on the benefits of green schools, supports policy discussions, creates opportunities for caucus members to work to advance legislative and programmatic goals together, and equips members of Congress with resources for constituents. Caucus members and their staff also participate in educational programs to learn what is going on nationally and in their districts, including site visits to green schools and educational panels with teachers, architects, and school officials from across the country.

* For more information, see U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Buildings Technologies Program book, Guide to Operating and Maintaining EnergySmart Schools.

To read the full article, click here.