Stone wool ceiling systems enhance acoustics and aesthetics at Kansas City office

Acoustic stone wool ceiling systems enhance visual interest, employee comfort, and productivity at modern workplace in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Photos © Chad Jackson Photography. Photos courtesy Rockfon
Acoustic stone wool ceiling systems enhance visual interest, employee comfort, and productivity at modern workplace in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
Photos © Chad Jackson Photography. Photos courtesy Rockfon

Stone wool ceiling products help enrich Solar Spectrum’s modern workplace in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, with a good acoustic experience. The company designs residential and commercial power systems, provides financing options, and manages system installation, maintenance, and performance.

Solar Spectrum’s office design reflects a positive culture of openness, interaction, and energy. Acoustic stone wool ceiling systems are positioned strategically throughout the workspace to enhance visual interest, employee comfort, and productivity.

The 38-year-old building is a cast-in-place concrete tower originally designed by Skidmore, Ownings & Merrill (SOM). Hoefer Wysocki Architecture designed Solar Spectrum’s new offices.

James Evrard, associate at Hoefer Wysocki and project architect, says, “In the early 1990s, the previous tenant built out the space very simply with tight enclosed offices along the exterior wall and gypsum ceilings. Opening up the space was a lot of fun. Returning to the concrete waffle slabs first imagined by SOM is the stuff of architectural dreams.”

Polished gray concrete floors complement the exposed concrete and convey a sense of functional industriousness and contemporary style. The firm describes the space as “composed around an open central hub overlooking the adjacent four-story atrium. This central hub links social areas and meeting spaces in an open and interactive environment, and provides easy access to work areas.”

Yellow and orange accent white walls, exposed steel pipes, cubicle framing, and enclosed metal-clad meeting rooms.

“As we opened up the space, we also were taking away everything that absorbs sound and showcasing all the reflective surfaces. We needed something more than carpet to manage the acoustics,” says Evrard.

However, the design team wanted to ensure the open office areas would not be too quiet. The owner wanted the young salespeople to feed off an energetic atmosphere. Therefore, the acoustics could not be too dead or dampen the collective sales synergy. This added yet another significant design challenge. The solution had to fall in between too loud and too quiet.

The approved solution uses a combination of more traditional, rectilinear island array layouts along the sides of the triangular floor plan and a more free-form, yet organized, layout of the islands elsewhere.

For the free-form island layouts, a “sun pod” arrangement with a square island at the center encircled by additional islands was proposed. The additional islands are suspended with a slight overlap on staggered, horizontal planes. The design is carried into other areas of the project, such as in the multipurpose and kitchen/break rooms.

The acoustics team had to accommodate the ductwork, lights, and fire suppression systems as they were already in place.

A more traditional, rectilinear layout of the islands was used in other parts of the floor plan. As the ductwork, lights, and fire suppression systems were already in place, the acoustics team needed to accommodate these systems. In key places, sprinkler heads were recessed into the islands and the covers blended into the white surface.

In addition to acoustic comfort, the stone wool ceiling panels and islands deliver a number of notable performance benefits including fire protection, water and humidity resistance, and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Environment’s GreenGuard Gold Certification for low-emitting products. The stone wool panels and metal suspension systems have no nutritional value for harmful organisms such as mold or bacteria, which helps maintain cleaner, healthier indoor air.

Wellness, sustainability, and energy considerations are a priority given Solar Spectrum’s business focus.

Within its Kansas City office, the smooth, white surface of the stone wool panels and islands reflects 86 percent of the light from the exterior windows into the office interior. Maximizing natural light minimizes the need for electric lighting and, in turn, can reduce overall energy use and associated costs.

Further contributing to Solar Spectrum’s environmental goals, the stone wool ceiling panels consist of up to 42 percent recycled content. The rest is made primarily of basalt rock, a material in essentially limitless supply. Complementing the stone wool panels, the metallic suspension systems also contain up to 90 percent recycled content and are 100 percent recyclable at the end of their life cycle.

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