Reach new heights with metal ceilings

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The malleability of metal means that even the most ambitious of designs can be made a reality. Metal ceilings allow the designer curved, trapezoidal, waveform and even multi-faceted options. Offering cool, sleek designs which can be shaped to reflect, complement or heighten a building’s identity, metal is a go-to ceiling material for developers wanting to put their unique stamp on a project.

Made to measure

Metal ceiling systems can be designed with millimetre increments in terms of tile sizes so this can meet any building modules that a design might be working to. It’s therefore possible to integrate with light fittings, grills and any other services that will go into the ceiling. For example, leading metal ceiling manufacturer SAS International can provide a pre-determined cut-out made in the factory.

This cost-effective solution eliminates the need for cutting on site or alternatively they can help with the integration so it can be cut on site. Many fit-out companies prefer the finished article straight out of the box, so they can simply drop a light into it. In some cases, the lights are already integrated so it will simply be a plug-and-play ceiling system.

The biggest challenge occurs when designers push the boundaries with unusual and odd building shapes. This puts the onus on the manufacturer to invent new ways of making a rectangular product fit, such as a curve. They will then have to come up with new ways of achieving this through curved metal panels or faceted panels.

Colour is also having a dramatic impact on ceiling design. Changing gloss levels of paints, and different colours are frequently being used to identify certain areas within interior spaces. SAS ceiling systems are typically finished in polyester powder coating. However alternative finishes such as anodising, as well as custom effects and more industrial looking finishes are also available to the designer.

Expose those soffits

There is also a big push for open soffits, and feature areas are becoming increasingly attractive. While the grid system remains metal, there are aluminium or mesh tile options and even trends for fabric and wood tiles, as designers become more playful with ceiling design.

The days of the conventional ceiling tile are quickly vanishing. It’s now about breaking up areas and playing with the open soffit. In the past, there wouldn’t have been a solution, but SAS Systems often combine with or discretely hide otherwise unsightly M&E services.

The open soffit lends itself to activating thermal mass. Baffles and rafts are examples of metal ceiling solutions which expose the concrete soffit to encourage heat absorption. Chilled ceilings have also emerged as an alternative to traditional air conditioning systems and are one of the most efficient ways to cool a building.

Boundary-breaking design

Metal allows architects the freedom to work in a material that offers performance and durability alongside aesthetics. For example, take the petal leaf ceiling in the Foster + Partners designed Bloomberg building – the world’s most sustainable office. The Integrated Ceiling Panels (ICPs) combine acoustics, lighting and ambient temperature control. This played a crucial part in the building achieving a BREEAM Outstanding rating.

Sustainability was an overarching objective for Michael Bloomberg from day one. He insisted on a considerate design from an architectural and performance perspective. For SAS’ Special Projects team – which oversaw the design, manufacture and eventual installation of the scheme onsite – this was a truly collaborative project and one that saw the company deliver 24,000m2 of SAS product.

The stunning petal-shaped ceiling is aesthetically striking and plays a significant part in a building that pushes the boundaries of sustainability. In total, 3916 Integrated Ceiling Panels (ICPs) were manufactured and installed with an impressive 2.5 million petals attached to them.

In terms of lighting, the role that LED lighting takes is a lesson in efficiency and sustainable design. The ICPs feature 500,000 LED lights and use 40% less energy than a typical office design. Due to the number of LEDs used, they run significantly below maximum output for the required light levels. They are even more efficient when cooled and operate with an increased life expectancy. The cumulative effect is an incredibly efficient design, consuming significantly less energy than is typical in office space.

Acoustically, the design of the metal ceiling performs exceptionally well. The slotted petals and the perforations mean that the surface is sufficiently open to allow enough sound to come through to the mineral wool behind. Tested to Class A absorption levels, the ceiling impressively and precisely manages acoustic reverberation across the open plan offices.

The ceiling is a first for the UK, if not globally, and unlikely to be achieved in any other material. Commenting on the project, Foster + Partners’ Michael Jones said: “Without the ceiling, the sustainability wouldn’t be what it is.”

With metal ceilings, the design possibilities are endless. There is no limit to the shape, colour, design or concept that can be achieved. By working closely with leading manufacturers such as SAS International, there is an opportunity to turn an ambitious idea into a complete reality.

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