Key Components of Ceiling Selection and Acoustical Performance

Acoustical performance is being considered in the design process now more than ever. In order to ensure an optimal level of comfort and privacy in both work and the home, builders need to keep aware of the latest developments in acoustical products from the ceilings industry. It is important to have an in-depth understanding of the impact that materials can have on creating the ideal acoustical environment.

“One of the key ingredients for a successful project is a sales rep who has good knowledge of the state of the ceilings market,” says Greg Zucchero, Business Development Manager. “This kind of insight can bring a great amount of value at the bidding stage, which is the best time help price the appropriate products to meet the desired performance of each acoustical ceiling type.”

­In an open space, such as an lobby, the primary objective is to absorb sound. This is in order to make it easier to understand people speaking in a potentially crowded room. In private spaces like a conference room, the opposite is true: you want to dampen sound and prevent it from spreading. A product’s acoustical performance is measured by its NRC rating where the higher the number, the more sound is absorbed by the product.

“If you’ve ever been in a noisy restaurant where everybody is speaking loudly, yet nobody can understand each other, you can understand the value of good acoustical performance in a space,” says Mark Sweeney, Merchandising Manager for Ceilings and Acoustical Products. “In order to create the ideal acoustic performance and save money for our customers, sales reps must have a strong knowledge of the sound absorption (NRC) and sound barrier combination (CAC) of all the products in their ceiling system.”

At L&W Supply, we work hard to ensure that our customers have access to the highest quality acoustical products in the industry. Accomplishing this goal requires a knowledgeable sales force and highly trained associates, along with strong partnerships with leading manufacturers like USG. By taking a closer look at three products from USG, we can help illustrate a few key components of the greater principals of acoustical performance and how to get the most out of your ceiling system:

USG Radar Panel

USG Radar Panel


Radar is an all-purpose, economical ceiling tile that is available in many different sizes.

  • Quick to install
  • Clean appearance
  • Low-sound-emitting
  • NRC Rating of 0.55

A product like Radar can help illustrate the main concepts of sound absorption in an acoustical space. Whenever a sound wave reaches a surface, the energy it carries is partially reflected and partially absorbed by that surface. For a lecture hall or a larger classroom, the architects will want to balance the need for sound to travel with the need for privacy from other rooms in the building.

USG Ensemble Ceilings

USG Ensemble Ceilings


A specialized ceiling system, Ensemble combines the look of drywall with the acoustical performance of standard ceiling panels.

  • Monolithic appearance with options for custom colors
  • System installed on a suspended USG Drywall T-Bar grid
  • NRC Rating of 0.80

Ensemble is a ceiling product that allows designers and architects flexibility with creating a uniform look to a space without sacrificing acoustical quality,

USG BARZ Design Solutions

USG BARZ Design Solutions

BARZ Design Solutions

An open-plenum system that is designed to achieve a similar performance to acoustical ceiling panels. BARZ consists of pre-formed hollow metal baffles which come pre-fabricated in a kit, making it quicker and easier to install.

  • Open-plenum design with strong acoustics
  • Pre-fabricated allowing quick installation
  • NRC Rating from 0.70 – 0.90

Since a ceiling system can incorporate several different kinds of products, it is crucial to learn the differences in acoustical performance between various ceiling types. For example, Radar has an NRC rating of 0.55, meaning it absorbs less sound and reflects more than Ensemble or BARZ. Because of this, you find Radar utilized in more uniform assemblies with lower ceilings. By contrast, Ensemble and BARZ are used in more public environments with greater sound challenges and more noise, requiring a higher NRC rating, but as a result, they are slightly more expensive.

Looking Forward

As the relationship between work and the home shifts, builders and architects are being faced with new challenges that require more detailed product and market knowledge than before. L&W Supply helps bring value to our customers by keeping up-to-date on the latest developments in the acoustical world and through our committed partnerships with vendors like USG. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about acoustical ceilings, contact your local L&W Supply rep today or visit our acoustical ceilings category page:

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