Architectural Record BE - Building Enclosure

Understanding Code-Compliant Integrated Ceiling Solutions

Using modern ceiling installation systems to meet design intent, IBC code requirements, and construction schedules
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Sponsored by Armstrong Commercial Ceiling Solutions
Amanda Voss, MPP

The Effects of Value Engineering

An academic definition of value engineering refers to a systematic method of valuing a good or service by examining its function and the ratio of function to cost. Yet too often, value engineering means a focus on cost cutting alone and gives little thought to the long-term impacts and effects of the decision on the final built environment.

In ceilings, the impacts of value engineering often play out during construction by means of well-intentioned budget management that can, too often, lead to owner and occupant dissatisfaction due to poor aesthetics or reduced performance.

Tested Ceiling Systems Versus Non-tested Systems

Tested ceiling systems are engineered to perform according to IBC/ASTM standards. Ceilings are typically subject to seismic guidelines, as defined by IBC, and other requirements, such as FEMA 302 NEHRP Recommended Provisions for Seismic Regulations for New Buildings and Other Structures.

The performance of a suspended ceiling system is based on its specific combination of components and methods of installation. The purposes behind installation requirements for suspended ceilings are to both guarantee that suspension systems are strong enough to resist lateral forces imposed upon it without failing and to prevent border panels from falling from the ceiling plane.

Seismic performance during recent large California earthquakes prompted FEMA to address several concerns, including suspended ceiling performance during a seismic event. Research and tests demonstrated that current industry seismic standards (UBC Standard 25-2) were not adequate. To support individual panels around the perimeter, FEMA determined that the key to good seismic performance is a wider wall molding on all sides. This led to the International Building Code requirement for 2-inch wall molding on all sides. Some ceiling manufacturers have a special clip solution that maintains seismic code requirements of opposite wall ¾-inch clearance and necessary cross tee to main beam spacing with a preferred 7⁄8-inch wall molding. This solution eliminates the need for a 2-inch wall molding.

Engineered seismic solution eliminates need for 2-inch wall molding

Photo courtesy of Armstrong Commercial Ceiling Solutions

Engineered seismic solution eliminates need for 2-inch wall molding

2-inch wall molding required by IBC

Photo courtesy of Armstrong Commercial Ceiling Solutions

2-inch wall molding required by IBC

Verifying that a ceiling is planned, drawn, created, and built precisely to specifications maintains the integrity of the entire system. If codes and requirements for a ceiling system are not discussed and planned for up front, not only will this delay construction schedules, but it could also lead to ceiling failure.

Acoustical Performance

As noted previously, complaints about noise and acoustical performance of a space are at the top of workplace gripes. To achieve comprehensive acoustic quality—an ideal combination of sound blocking and absorption of unwanted sound—acoustical ceiling products should perform at a high level according to two essential measurements: CAC and NRC.

Ceiling panels with high CAC and NRC ratings help block and absorb unwanted sound in open and closed office spaces that are used for both collaboration and focus work. These attributes are even more important in closed offices where privacy is key and sound could otherwise travel to adjoining spaces, such as other offices and corridors.

Failure to plan appropriately for sound or deciding to control for only one acoustic variable will spell dissatisfaction with the final built environment.

The decision to select a less-expensive product or traditional construction method that skimps on design control can mean owner dissatisfaction. Last-minute plan alterations typically add to the budget through increased labor and materials, and can make for an unsightly and inconsistent finish. Use of preconstruction services actually saves time and money for the project, particularly in designs calling for acoustical or drywall ceilings that require a unique solution or that call for special attention; with one-of-a-kind products; in custom applications; in new systems; in plans with complex geometries; and in systems with challenging transitions. By using detailed manufacturer shop drawings, specification sheets, and CAD/Revit drawings, you can easily create a perfectly finished ceiling using less time, labor, and material.

Code Compliance

Ceiling installation requirements follow the International Code Council’s International Building Code, or IBC. The IBC has been adopted by all 50 states. The code spells out the minimum performance standards for installation, acoustical standards, fire performance, and seismic restraint.

Code requirements continue to proliferate as higher-performance buildings with increased use flexibility are specified.

The important codes related to suspended acoustical or drywall ceilings include:
• C636/C635 M-13: Standard Practice for Installation of Metal Ceiling Suspension Systems
• E580/E580 M-14: Standard Practice for Installation of Metal Ceiling Suspension Systems in Areas Subject to Earthquake Ground Motions
• C645-14: Standard Specification for Nonstructural Steel Framing Members
• C754-15: Standard Specification for Installation of Steel Framing to Receive Screw-Attached Gypsum Panel Products


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Originally published in Architectural Record