Considerations for suspended ceiling systems

JAMES MICHAEL FLAHERTY BUILDING, OTTAWA
The ceiling systems employed at Ottawa’s 90 Elgin Street federal office complex support the project’s requirements for comfort, safety, durability, and sustainability as well as meeting the criteria for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold. Photo © Bochsler Creative Services. Photo courtesy Rockfon
The ceiling systems employed at Ottawa’s 90 Elgin Street federal office complex support the project’s requirements for comfort, safety, durability, and sustainability as well as meeting the criteria for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold.
Photo © Bochsler Creative Services. Photo courtesy Rockfon

A 60,387-m2 (650,000-sf), 17-storey federal office complex makes its home at 90 Elgin Street on Crown-owned property among Ottawa’s national monuments and institutions. The $250-million building features metal suspended ceiling systems throughout its lobby and offices. In addition to helping create an attractive workplace, these ceiling systems also support requirements for comfort, including acoustics; safety, including seismic conditions; and sustainability, including Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold criteria.

As the 90 Elgin Street’s development manager, GWL Realty Advisors ensured the building would be worthy of its prominent placement and national significance for the federal government as the landowner and The Great-West Life Assurance Company as the building owner. Designed by the joint venture of DIALOG and David S McRobie Architects (DSMA), the building’s stature and style are consistent with other significant federal buildings surrounding Confederation Square.

Bringing this vision to reality, Ron Engineering and Construction (Eastern) served as the design-builder. The project team needed to balance cost effectiveness with a high- quality standard. The request for proposal (RFP) called for high-quality materials in the lobby such as granite, glass, metals, and a wood ceiling. Not only were these high-end finishes expensive, but also very hard surfaces.

There was concern excessive reverberation caused by the use of hard surfaces would make it difficult to hear any announcements over the public address. The ceiling was the primary opportunity to improve the acoustic performance. Challenges the ceiling team needed to address included designing for sustainability and potential earthquakes.

Once the whole team understood the project’s design criteria and parameters, alternatives fitting the budget and meeting design expectations could be explored. A solution was found in specialty metal ceiling panels and matching custom metal trim, painted to look like real wood, paired with standard suspension systems. Installing contractor Advance Drywall worked with the manufacturer to co-ordinate a full-scale mockup and work through the details before scaling up to the actual installation.

Suspended at various planes, the rectangular ceiling pods add visual interest to the main lobby. Achieving the intended look and performance involved more than 492 m2 (5300 sf) of metal lay-in, reveal edge, solid aluminum panels. Black, lay-in metal panels knit together the ceiling’s rectangular pods and panels.

In contrast to the warm wood-look finish, a sleek metallic silver anodized finish was selected for the linear metal ceiling in the lobby entrance on Elgin Street facing the National Arts Centre. To create this eight-storey-tall grand welcome, Advance Drywall installed 200-mm (8-in.) wide, square edge, open reveal, metal panels. A similar ceiling system was used for the secondary lobby entrance.

Silver anodizing also was the finish of choice on the ceiling pods positioned at the elevator bays. These pods are composed of standard suspension systems, metal perimeter trim, and lay-in metal panels. An acoustical backer and perforation on the panels offer high sound absorption, achieving an NRC of 0.90. Elsewhere in the lobby, 0.70 NRC was acceptable.

Final details were presented to confirm how the various ceiling systems integrated with the lighting, air diffusers, sprinklers, security systems, and columns. The lighting fixtures already had been ordered, so extra care was needed to make sure the ceiling panels were properly sized for a smooth installation. Not only did the ceiling system need to accommodate these elements, but also needed to provide easy access to the plenum for potential repairs and updates to wires, pipes, ducts, and other components. The hook-on metal panels allow maintenance staff downward accessibility to the plenum, without the need for special tools. The ceiling manufacturer pre-cuts everything in the factory and engineered a new attachment for the hook-on system, along with special wall channels, column rings, and connectors.

Standard ceiling suspension systems were installed in the majority of the offices. Promoting team building and enhancing workplace well-being, the offices’ interior design subscribes to the new “Government of Canada’s Workplace 2.0 Fit-up Standards.” This initiative champions the design of modern workplace to attract, retain, and encourage public servants to work smarter, greener, and healthier. These also mesh with the Canadian Green Building Council’s (CaGBC’s) LEED guidelines.

The project earned LEED Gold certification for Core and Shell.

 

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