Suspended Ceilings Save Energy, Says Industry Study
by Michael Wilmeth
A study commissioned by the Ceilings & Interior Systems Construction Association (CISCA) found that spaces with suspended ceilings can use less energy for heating and cooling than those with open plenums. Barry Donaldson Associates, an architecture firm, conducted the study, which used computer simulations of two building types—a grocery store and an office building—in five U.S. cities, four in cooling climates and one in a heating climate. Installing suspended ceilings in these buildings would add 4%–22% to construction costs, but the simulation found energy savings of 9%–17%. The expected payback period for the suspended ceilings was between six months and a year for the office buildings and between three years and four months and six-and-a-half years for the grocery stores. The study found more efficient flow of return air through the plenum above a suspended ceiling than through the ducts used in open plenum spaces, as well as more efficient removal of internally generated heat, especially from lighting. A synopsis of the study is available at www.cisca.org.