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Look Up for Energy Savings.


Suspended ceilings can significantly reduce a building’s lifetime operating costs through energy and maintenance savings, according to new research from the Ceilings & Interior Systems Construction Association (CISCA), St. Charles, Ill.

“The Life Cycle Study: Suspended Ceilings vs. Open Plenum” shows that while suspended ceilings cost more initially, they can achieve a life-cycle payback in less than 11 months over open-plenum (exposed) designs, depending on the building type and region.

“The higher initial construction costs of a suspended ceiling are offset by the increased energy savings compared to an open-plenum design, often generating a remarkably fast payback,” said Barry Donaldson, principal, Barry Donaldson & Associates, Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., which conducted the study for CISCA.

The report looked at two building prototypes: single-story supermarket and low mid-rise office building. Construction and operating costs were evaluated for both types in five different cities that reflected a broad range of climate zones, energy costs, labor markets and construction costs.

The study found that first-time construction costs for suspended or continuous ceilings in a retail space were 4% to 11% higher versus open plenums. But the higher initial cost was offset by reduced energy consumption and reduced ongoing maintenance, both of which lower building operating costs.

Based on the energy rates used in the study, suspended ceilings resulted in a total energy savings of 12.7% to 17% for the retail design (and 9% to 10.3% for the office design).

Maintenance costs for suspended ceilings are estimated to be at least 10% less than with open-plenum designs.

Additionally, based on the study’s energy analysis, suspended ceilings may contribute to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) EA credit #1 on a building project (the credit requires a 10.5% energy reduction to earn one point and a 14% reduction for two points).

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