Florida university center brings acoustic comfort to students’ home-away-from-home

Designed by Gensler, the Christine E. Lynn University Center, Boca Raton, Florida, brings comfort to student spaces with acoustic ceiling panels. Photos © Connie Zhou (Gensler). Photos courtesy Rockfon
Designed by Gensler, the Christine E. Lynn University Center, Boca Raton, Florida, brings comfort to student spaces with acoustic ceiling panels.
Photos © Connie Zhou (Gensler). Photos courtesy Rockfon

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver-certified Christine E. Lynn University Center creates a warm, welcoming place for students to gather within the 47-ha (115-acre) campus in Boca Raton, Florida. Gensler’s Tampa-based team selected acoustic stone wool panels, metallic suspension system, and ceiling perimeter trim for a complete ceiling solution to meet the project’s aesthetic, performance, and sustainable design goals.

The $30-million, 6039-m2 (65,000-sf) student center is the largest facility on the campus. A hub for social, academic, and dining spaces, the university center is set between student housing, academic buildings, athletics facilities, and campus services. The building’s interior contains open floor plans, finishes, and furnishings to promote engagement between students, faculty, and staff.

In educational settings and open spaces without acoustic wall panels, a high-performance, sound-absorbing ceiling system plays a critical role. Choosing ceiling panels with a high noise reduction coefficient (NRC) increases speech privacy and intelligibility, improves concentration, and supports a healthy, comfortable learning space.

Used on all three levels of the university center, stone wool ceiling panels have excellent sound absorption with an NRC of 0.95, coupled with the desirable, elegant aesthetic of their lightly textured, white surface. Gensler specified acoustic stone wool ceiling panels with a square tegular, which reveal an edge that adds shadow and dimension to the interior design.

Choosing ceiling panels with a high noise reduction coefficient (NRC) helped the university center increase speech privacy and intelligibility, improve concentration, and support a healthy, comfortable learning space.
Choosing ceiling panels with a high noise reduction coefficient (NRC) helped the university center increase speech privacy and intelligibility, improve concentration, and support a healthy, comfortable learning space.

Complementing the stone wool ceiling panels’ appearance and performance, sound absorbing ceiling panels were installed in the enclosed rooms on the third and second levels. The top floor houses the Social Impact Lab, Watson Institute, and co-working spaces. The middle floor encompasses alumni, career, study abroad, and flexible conference spaces, plus Christine’s, an upscale pub. Within these spaces, where walls and furnishings offer acoustic absorption, the designers specified a more economical ceiling solution with standard sound absorption of NRC 0.75.

Acoustical stone wool ceiling tiles with an NRC of 0.85 was used to balance acoustic comfort within the energetic socialization in the multi-purpose rooms on the first floor. Here, students and visitors enjoy on-stage entertainment, group activities, and a 24-hour dining hall.

Contributing to the university center’s safety, health, wellness, and sustainability, the ceiling panels meet numerous LEED v4 criteria in the Materials and Resources category and Indoor Environmental Quality categories. The complete ceiling solution—panels, suspension system, and perimeter trim—are made with recycled content.

All of the stone wool panels installed in the student center are GreenGuard Gold certified, fulfilling the low-emission requirements of LEED v4. The panels enhance brighter, energy-efficient interiors, too. The white surface chosen for the university center reflects at least 85 percent of all light, helping carry Florida’s abundant natural daylight more deeply into the facility and reducing the need for electric lighting.

Stone wool also resists moisture and provides no sustenance for mold, mildew, or potentially harmful bacteria and microorganisms. Sag-resistant in up to 100 percent relative humidity (RH), the lightweight material is easy to carry and install. For the university center, contracting company Sesco installed ceiling panels with a 1.6-mm (9/16-in.) exposed suspension system. The steel grid was finished in white with matching 203-mm (8-in.) high, aluminum perimeter trim to form the ceiling’s straight, neat edges and crisp corners.

In addition to the ceiling tiles, the grid-based system easily integrates light fixtures, air diffusers, sprinklers, speakers, and other equipment. The suspension system also provides convenient access to the plenum when audio/visual, security, and other mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems—normally concealed by the ceiling panels—need to be repaired or updated.

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