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Church Benefits from Wood Veneered Acoustical Grill Panels
By: Dave Gilbert

This project at Austin Chinese Church in Austin, Texas, incorporates 3,420 square feet of wood veneered acoustical grill panels. The design features many angle cuts. Due to the fact that there were many panel groupings, at different heights, layout of the ceiling was critical.

The ceiling panels feature a plain sliced birch veneer. Due to the size of the project, multiple logs were sourced and sorted by the master veneer-maker to ensure that log to log consistency was optimized in the selection process. After slicing, the veneer was laid up by hand with particular attention to color, grain structure, and overall size.

While pre-manufactured veneer, or even laminate, would have shortened the lead-time for the products, made-to-order manufacturing of the veneer assisted in keeping the cost down and maximizing quality control. The panels were manufactured with an 11/16 wide by 1 1/4 high blade with six blades per panel.

To provide the owner with a truly acoustical ceiling, the back-side of the panels were covered with an acoustic textile combined with a generous percentage of open area provided by the blade spacing. This construction allowed for a full 0.75 NRC rating per ASTM C423 to be achieved.

Construction documents for the project were scarce in detail concerning the ceiling products, leaving the manufacturing and installation team to design the most efficient method of install. Complex shop drawings were created detailing a combination of reflected ceiling plans and sections through the multiple planes and levels of this ceiling. Design and implementation of the panel terminations at a specific distance from the wall and or bulkheads was found to be particularly challenging.

As is typical with these ceiling types, the incorporation of lighting, HVAC, and fire protection proved to be difficult not only for the design team, but the installation team, as well. The extreme height and angles incorporated into the design of the space required a large portion of the project to be installed utilizing lifts as opposed to scaffolding.

As is often the case with house of worship projects, schedules were built around the delivery and installation of the pews. There was a hard date by which all ceiling installation needed to be complete in order for the delivery and installation of the pews to occur.

Due to all the complicated shapes, the contractor was required to field cut many panels to accommodate all the angles and slopes of the ceiling. Overall, the result was an installation more than worthy of the quality of the products themselves.

Finally, particular attention was paid to the fact that at the extreme heights of the space, variations in temperature and humidity would occur throughout the year. Creating these panels to withstand these conditions ensures a rock solid installation that will offer beauty and quality for years to come.   

Dave Gilbert is general manager for Sound Seal, www.soundseal.com.

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