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End Notes: Acoustical Remedies

End Notes: Acoustical Remedies

The trend toward open plenum spaces—meaning those that use no ceiling and reveal building service elements—such as the ductwork and piping, continues to grow. Unfortunately, this “warehouse look” can often cause acoustical problems because sound reflecting off the deck above results in excessive reverberation.

As a result, any large space of this type will usually need some form of 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.

Many noise issues related to open plenum designs can be addressed through the use of acoustical clouds and canopies, two types of “free-floating” ceilings that add sound absorption in the space while still allowing an exposed look.

Acoustical clouds

Designed for use in either new construction or retrofit applications, acoustical clouds are an ideal way to define areas in open plenum spaces and enhance acoustics without sacrificing design flexibility.

In addition, acoustical ceiling clouds suspended above work areas provide a type of interrupted ceiling plane. As such, they help control both the reflections between cubicles and distant reverberation noise, helping reduce occupant distractions.

Acoustical clouds actually provide greater sound absorption than a continuous ceiling of the same surface area because sound is absorbed on both the front and back surfaces of the cloud. In fact, the more “live” the space, the greater will be the effect on reverberation time from the addition of clouds.

A typical cloud system consists of pre-cut acoustical ceiling panels and a kit containing all the ready-to-assemble suspension system and perimeter trim components required to create the cloud. Cloud shapes range from squares and rectangles to circles and ovals.

Pre-packaged clouds that do not require a grid system are also available. These clouds feature a wide variety of shapes as well, and can be used as individual units or grouped together to create unique visual configurations.

Acoustical canopies

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 sizes up to 14 feet by 14 feet, while acoustical canopies are only about 4 foot by 6 foot in size. Visually, acoustical clouds are flat, while canopies are curved and can be installed as hills or valleys.

The ability of acoustical canopies to combine an aesthetically pleasing visual with sound-absorbing properties that provide spot acoustics makes them ideal for use in open plenum areas, as well as over spaces such as workstations and reception desks. Use of multiple canopies improves acoustics even more.

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