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Sustainable Ceiling Design

Sustainable design is becoming an important consideration in store design. The most widely accepted standard for environmentally conscious building and design is the LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED system provides a third-party certification tool for verifying that a project has met the technical requirements of a sustainable building through different aspects of its design and construction.

Credits are awarded based on five categories of performance: Sustainable Sites, Energy and Atmosphere, Water Efficiency, Indoor Environmental Quality, Materials and Resources. Within each of these categories, a project can earn a certain number of points. (Projects can earn additional points under an Innovation in Design category, through demonstrating exceptional performance above LEED requirements.) The number of points the project earns determines the level of LEED Certification the project receives.

Types of Ceilings Used


Source: Chain Store Age/Leo J. Shapiro & Associates
  All stores 2007 Drug store 2007 Supermarket 2007 Department store 2007 Home Center 2007 Specialty apparel 2007 Big-box store 2007 Hard lines specialty 2007
2-ft.-by-4-ft. lay-in panels 45.8% 62.5% 40.9% 77.8% 66.7% 17.4% 43.8% 66.7%
Acoustical 34.4 75.0 27.3 66.7 25.0 13.0 50.0 16.7
Tegular 2-ft.-by-4-ft. lay-in panels 22.9 75.0 18.2 33.3 16.7 17.4 6.3 33.3
Open ceiling/No ceiling 21.9 12.5 22.7 0.0 25.0 26.1 31.3 16.7
2-ft.-by-2-ft. lay-in panels 20.8 25.0 18.2 33.3 41.7 17.4 6.3 16.7
Tegular 2-ft.-by-2-ft. lay-in panels 16.7 37.5 9.1 33.3 25.0 17.4 0.0 16.7
Plaster 16.7 0.0 4.5 33.3 16.7 34.8 12.5 0.0
Drywall/Sheetrock 7.3 0.0 4.5 0.0 8.3 13.0 0.0 33.3
12-ft.-by-12-ft. concealed spline 3.1 0.0 4.5 11.1 8.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Other 1.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 6.3 0.0
Not reporting- 5.2 0.0 18.2 0.0 8.3 0.0 0.0 0.0

Ceiling systems can help achieve LEED credits in several categories. In fact, it is estimated that a ceiling can impact more than 12 LEED prerequisites and credits.

Here is more information on how ceiling systems can help a project qualify for LEED credits:

Energy & Atmosphere: High light-reflectant ceilings (those with a light reflectance (LR) value of 0.83 or greater) contribute to credit (Optimize Energy Performance) in this category by reducing the energy required to light a room. These types of ceilings meet the ASHRAE standard by the required 20% for new buildings and 10% for renovations.

Materials & Resources: Ceiling systems containing recycled content can help earn LEED credit for Recycled Material Content. The choices are by no means limited: Ceilings are now manufactured with a wide range of recycled materials and recycled content in the form of both pre-consumer waste and post-consumer waste.

The amount of recycled content varies by product. But metal ceilings, at 45%, and fiberglass, at 40%, typically have the greatest recycled content (some metal ceilings are now produced with up to 85% to 98% recycled aluminum). Ceiling suspension systems can have 25% to 30% recycled content.

In addition, ceilings can help a building qualify for the Local/Regional Materials credit if raw materials are extracted or the place of final manufacturing of the ceiling is within 500 miles of the project location.

Ceilings made with ecologically friendly bamboo can contribute to the Rapidly Renewable Materials credit calculation. The same is true for wood ceilings made with veneers from sources certified to maintain sustainable forests.

Indoor Environmental Quality: Ceilings can contribute to the Daylight and Views credit. High light-reflectant ceilings can help in extending daylighting into a space. A GSA/Carnegie Mellon study estimates a 10% to 15% increase in daylighting with the use of high LR ceilings.

The performance of a ceiling system also has an impact on a number of other criteria within the LEED program. For example, for optimal energy performance (Buildings Systems Commissioning, Measurement and Verification is a LEED prerequisite), the HVAC and other building systems must be readily accessible. This means that ceilings must allow access to mechanical or electrical equipment located above the ceiling, and that ceiling panels must be easily removable and strong enough to be handled without damage.

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