Different themes speak to the distinct missions of two NOAA facilities and make memorable impressions.
From lightning bolts to rivers, the distinctive ceiling treatments in two National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) locations miles apart speak to the specific missions of each facility in a striking and memorable fashion. While the ceiling designs couldn’t be more different, designers of each project collaborated with the You Inspire Solution Center at Armstrong Ceiling Solutions, Lancaster, PA, to create results that go beyond typical institutional design.
‘Lightning’ Sparks Ceiling
The NOAA’s National Logistics & Reconditioning Center in Grandview, MO, is responsible for the repair of all the radar systems and other forecasting equipment used by the National Weather Service stations around the world. Originally located in a facility built in the 1930s, the center is now housed in a newly constructed 238,000-sq.-ft. building.
At the new facility, the main conference room is used to host everything from briefings and training sessions to tour groups and national meetings. As a result, the design team at Burns & McDonnell, Kansas City, MO, felt it was important to create a space that would not only embody the center’s mission but also provide the staff with a space of which they could be proud.
“We wanted to create a space that would leave a lasting impression of the facility,” stated senior interior designer, Rhonda Hulkill, “and the best opportunity for making an impression is the ceiling.”
The design team originally considered suspending clouds from the ceiling, but that was not feasible because the space also serves as the facility’s storm shelter and there was not enough ceiling height. “To be effective, clouds need volume, and we just didn’t have the space,” Hulkill noted.
Working in collaboration with Armstrong Ceiling Solutions, the design team achieved its goal by creating a ceiling featuring custom 2- by 4-ft. Armstrong MetalWorks RH215 ceiling panels in white with MetalWorks trim installed diagonally across the room in a herringbone pattern. The result is a visual reminiscent of lightning bolts coming down from the sky. A 6-in. gap separates each of the lightning bolts, while soft-blue fluorescent lighting behind the ceiling panels represents the sky and adds even more interest to the ceiling visual.
All of the panels are micro-perforated and backed with an acoustical fleece to provide sound absorption in the room. “Considering the multiple uses of the space, acoustical performance was a key consideration,” Hulkill said.
According to associate architect, Vicky Borchers, the MetalWorks ceiling panels were chosen because of their durability and reflectivity. “We wanted a certain amount of reflectance to extend the blue light into the room and give the space more life. This effect would not have been possible with standard acoustical ceiling tile. Because the panels are floating, we also wanted sharp, crisp edges since they are visible.”
And as far as making an impression, Borchers reports that the conference room has become the facility’s signature space. “It is definitely the space everybody remembers and also the first place the staff takes everyone.”
A River Runs Through It
The NOAA recently constructed the National Water Center in Tuscaloosa, AL, the nation’s first center for water forecasting operations.
In keeping with the water-based mission of the facility, the design team at Gould Evans (location?) created a “river” that snakes its way through the facility’s ceiling. It did so by creating a separation between the center’s suspended drywall ceiling and its acoustical ceiling. Light coves around the perimeter of both ceilings function as the river’s banks.
Original construction plans called for the light coves to be built of drywall. However, acoustical contractor, Keith Yeager of Dixie Acoustical in Montgomery, AL, believed this would be extremely time-consuming and difficult. “In terms of time, studs, and drywall would take forever,” he said, “because of the need to frame it, hang it, tape it, and sand it. Considering the extremely curved nature of the coves, it also would have been almost impossible not to have cracks or flat spots in the drywall, especially since the radius changed every few feet.”
Long Light Coves
To solve the problem, Yeager designed coves using Axiom aluminum perimeter trim from Armstrong Ceiling Solutions. He then presented his designs to the Armstrong You Inspire Solutions Center to determine if they were feasible, and they were, even though all the trim had to be custom made because of the complexity of the curves.
Three different-sized light coves—18, 12, and 6 in.—were required depending on location. All of the coves consisted of multiple components. The most complex was the 18-in. cove which required five elements—a 12-in. piece of vertical trim to which a 6-in. piece of trim was attached, a 4-in. piece of horizontal trim, another 6-in. piece to form the upturn, and a small wall angle to create a lip on which the horizontal trim could sit. In total, 400 ft. of 18-in. coves were installed, 480 ft. of 12-in. coves, and 250 ft. of 6-in. coves.
To make the job easier and faster, each section of cove was given a letter and
each of its components, a number. Armstrong then packaged each section and its pieces in a separate crate. “When you have to attach so many custom-made components to each other, it helped to have all the pieces in the same package,” Yeager explained. A total of 22 crates were shipped.
Another challenge was layout. “To make sure we hit our spots, 85% of the job was laid out on the floor before installation began,” Yeager stated. “For each section,
we placed a protective sheet of paper on the floor and traced a cove’s construction.
A dot laser was then used to mark corresponding spots on the ceiling.” The firm budgeted two weeks of time just for layout of the “river.”
Once installation began, job superintendent Tim Thomas noted construction
of the coves using the Axiom trim was accomplished in half the time as drywall. “We probably saved two months in time,” he said. “And, there are no cracks or flat spots. Considering the curves and lengths of the spans, this would not have been possible
In the final analysis, two different themes, executed with different products and methods, nevertheless succeed in bringing a little hint of weather indoors.