Here Peter Symons of Knauf AMF explores why metal ceilings are seeing a renaissance, encompassing robustness and efficiency as well as aesthetics
The mainstream use of metal ceilings originated in the late 19th century when they were more commonly known as ‘tin ceilings’ and were promoted as being a durable, ‘handsome’, fireproof, economical and quicker to install alternative to decorative plaster. Great technological strides have been made in the intervening century, with significant growth over the past 30 years in the specification of highly engineered, precision metal ceilings. Numerous factors have contributed to this success.
A long-term investment
Metal ceilings represent a wise long-term investment. They are easy to install, exhibit superior dimensional stability, and can withstand rigorous handling. Metal ceilings are also virtually maintenance-free, less prone to damage and are largely impervious to environmental conditions, with a very long lifecycle of up to and over 40 years. The ceiling void of most new and refurbished buildings now need to accommodate increased technical requirements and are home to complex services including electric, light, heat, telecoms, air conditioning etc., which need regular maintenance and repair. Having a robust, non-combustible, easily demountable ceiling system, which allows ease of access without fear of damage, is an increasingly important consideration for specifiers. In addition, the perforated surface incorporated into the design of many metal ceilings can also work well with integrated sprinkler systems and more successfully withstand accidental water damage.
Metal ceilings are popular amongst specifiers as they represent a highly versatile and appealing material, which offers real design freedom, particularly where visual impact is desired. They are available in a wide variety of dimensions, shapes, patterns, finishes and colours, which can enhance any interior. The finished result offers a crisp, appearance, which can convey a strong sense of style, quality, modernity and even opulence. Typically, metal ceilings have been used within prestigious corporate headquarters, offices and banks as well as airports and other transport termini where high traffic and intensive use called for the most resilient materials. More and more, designers are recognising the benefits of metal ceilings for use within leisure, educational and retail environments as well as restaurants and hotels.
Metal ceilings appeal to those looking for green products as they embody good environmental and sustainability credentials. Steel is the most recycled material in the world, with 94 per cent of steel used in UK construction being recovered. Many aluminium ceilings contain up to 98 per cent recycled content and require only 5 per cent of the energy used to make primary aluminium during the recycling process. These highly sustainable materials can be 100 per cent recycled and re-used repeatedly without degradation of quality.
For surfaces to be deemed clinically clean, they must have the ability to be wet washed. Metal ceilings provide a tough, highly resilient surface, which enables easy cleaning, inhibiting the build-up of dirt and preventing odour absorption. They are also impervious to a wide range of cleaning agents and regimes, mitigating the risk of damage or degradation.
Humidity & Acoustics
Metal ceilings can also offer high humidity resistance. With the correct anti-corrosive protections and coatings, metal ceilings can be used externally or in wet areas, designed to offer no danger of warping or sagging. It might seem counter-intuitive to consider a metal ceiling when looking for good sound absorption and acoustic control. But modern metal ceilings are so flexible in terms of their design that they can offer excellent acoustic performance levels. Tiles can be specified with a variety of perforations and infills behind the ceiling facade to meet specific sound absorption (up to Class A to EN ISO 11654), combined with high levels of sound attenuation.
Metal ceilings can also contribute significantly to optimising light reflection, depending on the colour, gloss level and size of the perforation, enhancing the ambience of the space and contributing to reduced power costs. In summary, metal ceilings are enjoying a renaissance and it’s easy to understand why. Aside from their versatility and ability to add a ‘wow’ factor to any interior, they are virtually maintenance free, have a very long product life and are largely insensitive to environmental conditions. Demounting for maintenance is quick and easy, they enable problem-free cleaning and are excellent for use in areas with specific technical requirements due to the variety of coatings and installation options available.
Peter Symons is commercial director at Knauf AMF