Should you select ceiling panels with lower sound absorption with hopes of also blocking sound between rooms?
In the real world of building design, effective noise control should start with high absorption ratings for ceiling panels. Ceiling panels serve to absorb the noise in the room, preventing it from bouncing off surfaces and spreading through spaces and down corridors causing disruptions. In fact, the maximum permissible reverberation times are decreasing in building standards and guidelines, meaning high-performing ceilings (NRC 0.90+) are not only recommended, but in some spaces required. Where low-performing ceilings are installed, additional absorption on the walls and floor may be required, adding avoidable costs.
Even in enclosed spaces, such as meeting rooms, the need for absorption by ceiling panels is evident. For example, a conference room with no carpeting or acoustic wall panels which, in the past, may have only required an NRC of 0.60, now needs 0.90 from the ceiling panels to maintain the same reverberation time. For designers and architects to achieve successful acoustic experiences, they need to tap into the inherent strengths of their ceiling panels by focusing on their high absorption ratings.
Unfortunately, as designers navigate the range of ceiling panel solutions available, there are still products on the market that degrade this absorptive strength by trying to also provide adequate noise blocking. This misinformation about the use of dual-purpose or multi-functional ceiling panels is causing architects and designers to compromise the acoustics in their buildings and fall short of requirements set out in the standards and guidelines.
The best solution is to select an acoustic ceiling panel engineered to achieve the optimal level of absorption for the specific needs of each space.
THE TRUTH: Good acoustic design begins with the optimal sound absorption rating for the ceiling and where required, the use of other effective architectural components like walls to block sound.