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ATS Acoustic Ceiling Panels

ATS Acoustic Eco-Panels provide sound control in commercial and residential applications such as conference rooms, schools, offices, and apartment complexes… Read more
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  • Using materials recovered from the waste stream typically results in less waste, pollution, and energy use than using virgin materials. From an environmental standpoint, post-consumer is typically considered preferable to pre-consumer recycled content because post-consumer recycled materials are more likely to have been diverted from landfills.

    In some cases, we consider products with recycled content green but with some caveats regarding where they should be used. For example, rubber flooring made from recycled automobile tires should not be used in most fully enclosed indoor spaces due to the likelihood of VOC emissions.

    Recycling can have downsides. For example, some studies show that curbside collection programs and some recycling processes use more energy than they save. Closed-loop recycling is generally preferable to “down-cycling,” in which a lower-grade material is produced—but due to contamination of waste streams and the difficulty of extracting high-value ingredients, down-cycling may be as good as it gets. At times recycling can re-introduce hazardous components. Some products, like copper and aluminum, include a high level of recycled content as a matter of course—which we applaud, but don’t consider justification for listing in GreenSpec. As more complete life-cycle information on recycled materials and processes becomes available, we use that to increase our scrutiny of recycled products.

  • Third-party forest certification based on standards developed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the best way to ensure that wood products come from well-managed forests. Wood products must go through a chain-of-custody certification process to carry an FSC stamp.

    Manufactured wood products can meet the FSC certification requirements with less than 100% certified wood content through percentage-based claims (30% certified content is required if only virgin wood fiber is used; certified-wood content as low as 17.5% is allowable if the rest of the fiber content is from recycled sources).

    With a few special-case exceptions, FSC-based certification is a requirement for GreenSpec inclusion of any nonsalvaged solid-wood product and most other wood products. A few manufactured wood products, including engineered lumber and particleboard/MDF, can be included if they have other environmental advantages--such as absence of formaldehyde binders. Engineered wood products in GreenSpec do not qualify by virtue of their resource efficiency benefits alone (for more on this, see EBN, Vol. 8, No. 11).

  • Background noise, whether from indoor or outdoor sources, adds to stress and discomfort, and poor acoustical design inside can exacerbate problems from background noise and reverberation of sounds. Products that absorb sound and prevent sound transmission can be considered green, although there are so many such products available that we also look for especially innovative products, as well as products with additional green attributes such as recycled content and strong energy performance. We also look for sound-masking systems with exceptional performance characteristics.

Brent Ehrlich
Products Editor

ATS Acoustic Eco-Panels provide sound control in commercial and residential applications such as conference rooms, schools, offices, and apartment complexes. They have an NRC sound absorption rating of 1.0 and are available with either 80% pre-consumer recycled cotton or Ecose fiberglass from Knauf, which contains 58% post-consumer recycled content and uses a formaldehyde-free binder (Ecose products have a Class A fire rating; cotton are Class B). Frames are made from 90% pre-consumer HDPE and the backing is FSC-certified PureBond plywood. These panels are available in a variety of colors and in sizes up to 24"x48"x 4". Custom panels are also available.

Acoustical ceiling materials vary depending on the specific performance criteria desired—including durability, light reflectance, sound absorption, cleanability, design flexibility, and flame resistance.

Sound absorption is most commonly expressed as a Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC), the percentage of sound waves absorbed by the material rather than reflected back into the room. Products listed by GreenSpec have an NRC of at least 0.80 (80%). Other measures of acoustic performance include Ceiling Attenuation Class (CAC), which rates a ceiling’s efficiency as a sound barrier between two rooms whose dividing wall doesn’t connect to the structural ceiling, and Sound Transmission Class (STC), which expresses how well a partition attenuates sound. For high acoustic performance, the CAC should exceed 35 or the STC 55.

Most common in commercial suspended ceilings are wet-pressed mineral-fiber tiles and panels, typically made from a mixture of waste paper, mineral fiber (which may include slag, a waste product from steel-making), cornstarch, and various other mineral-based components. A number of these products have high recycled content; some, however, may contain low levels of formaldehyde.

Fiberglass ceiling panels are also available with recycled content, although the percentage is typically lower than with mineral-fiber products. Most fiberglass ceiling panel products use a phenol-formaldehyde binder.

Though far more common in Europe, wood-fiber-based ceiling panel products are also available in the U.S.—these are free of mineral fibers and formaldehyde and may have some recycled content, but are typically more expensive.

Metal ceiling products may or may not include a backing of fiberglass.

Products for use in food service facilities, hospitals, or other areas with high sanitary standards have a PVC covering or scrubbable paint finish.

Residential acoustical ceiling panels are not available in as many materials or styles as commercial products.

LEED Credits

IEQc4.6: Low-Emitting Materials—Ceiling and Wall Systems

IEQc9: Enhanced Acoustical Performance

IEQp3: Minimum Acoustical Performance

MRc4: Recycled Content

MRc6: Rapidly Renewable Materials

MRc6: Certified Wood

MRc7: Certified Wood

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