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Using different ceiling systems and materials helps define IBM workplace zones. The options available for ceilings can work to create identifiable moods for a zone. Each option also subtly signals the expected behaviors for specific zones, creating a cohesive experience for clients and employees.

Application diagram demo

Ceiling system application varies by conceptual use of the space. Areas intended for focus work might have acoustical ceilings that deaden more ambient sound, for example. Explore the diagram shown here by selecting the application you want to study from the legend. Review the table for more information on typical use cases by system type.

Feature ceiling systemsFeature ceiling systems, such as wood or perforated metal, should be placed in the the Welcome and Connect zones to delineate their unique functions and create differentiation in the space.
Specialty acoustic ceiling systemsThese ceiling systems, which include felt or acoustical metal, should be considered in enclosed collaborative spaces tangential to the Welcome and Connect zones, signifying their larger capacity and collaborative nature.
Specialty drop ceiling systemsSpecialty drop ceiling systems can be used to attenuate noise, but more frequently are used to delineate boundaries or add variation to the ceiling landscape.
Acoustical ceiling tileAcoustical ceiling tile should be used in enclosed collaboration and enclosed individual spaces throughout the workplace as these spaces require a higher degree of acoustical privacy.
Open ceilingsOpen ceilings should form the bulk of open workplace areas to create a sense of volume and spaciousness.
Gypsum ceilingsGypsum ceilings are typically used within restrooms and pantry spaces. Drywall can also be considered for primary circulation routes.
Core area ceilingsCore area ceilings fall within the purview of the landlord’s specification.
Click to highlight ceiling type

Feature ceilings

The use of feature ceiling systems creates a warm and welcoming space for IBM employees and guests. Wood communicates growth and stability, while perforated metal communicates digitized energy and buzz. Patterns should be linear or geometric, adding textural dimension to the ceiling plane.

coffered ceilings

Coffered ceilings reinforce the 2x Grid while adding a sense of warmth.

wood slat ceiling defines walkway
wood slat ceiling in elevator lobby

Linear placement guides the flow to elevators.

wood slat ceiling defines open Collaborate zone
open-cell metal ceiling

Open-cell metal ceilings showcase a blanketed geometry, while the openness to the space above adds visual depth.

perforated metal ceiling

Specialty acoustic ceilings

Using specialty felt or acoustical metal ceiling systems in tonal greys and light neutral shades creates a visually energetic atmosphere. These acoustical systems are perfect for larger gathering spaces, such as closed and open collaboration spaces close to the Arrival and Welcome points, and can also be used effectively in casual dining or refreshment areas.

coffered felt specialty acoustic ceiling
specialty acoustical felt ceiling
low-profile coffered ceiling
acoustical felt ceiling over Collaborate zone

Felt ceilings help absorb ambient noise in the relaxed atmosphere of a Connect zone.

acoustical felt ceiling close up

Felt coffers elevate and acoustically attenuate a collaborative lounge area.

Specialty drop ceilings

The use of dropped ceiling systems can aid in acoustical attenuation throughout open workspace areas that are intended for collaboration and delineate spatial boundaries while adding variation to the open ceiling landscape.

dropped ceiling detail
white ceiling
specialty drop ceiling
meeting room

A lowered ceiling helps define the appearance of special areas.

Open ceilings

Open ceilings create the sensation of more space and volume and work well in open workplaces that have larger populations. K13 can be sprayed to the deck for acoustical attenuation across the open office landscape.

refined ceiling panels

Refined lowered panels contrast sharply with the raw energy of an open ceiling.

open ceiling
open ceiling over pantry

Acoustical ceiling tile

Acoustical ceiling tile should be used in closed collaboration spaces and enclosed individual spaces throughout as these areas require a higher degree of acoustical privacy.

acoustic ceiling with linear lighting
acoustic ceiling over conference table
acoustic ceiling panel option

Sustainability and wellness recommendations


  • While IBM does not necessarily endorse a third-party labeling scheme, Declare labels, Health Product Declarations (HPDs), Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), and volatile organic compound (VOC) testing certifications may contribute to LEED and WELL certification. These documents are called for by LEED credits EQc2, MRc3, MRc4 and MRc5, and WELL features X05, X06, X07 and X08. Points are awarded based on meeting the requirements for applicable criteria and the number of products installed.
    • Consider a LEED v4.1 substitution for EQc2.
    • Consider option 1 for MRc3, option 2 for MRc4 and option 1 for MRc5.
    • Consider exemplary performance for an innovation point for MRc3.
  • Specifying Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified woods and metals with recycled content for custom ceilings will contribute to LEED credit MRc4 building product disclosure and optimization – sourcing of raw materials.
    • It’s worth noting that there are other third-party certifications available besides FSC that IBM recognizes. FSC-certified wood is the only certification LEED recognizes.
  • LEED EQc9 and WELL S03 and S05 are acoustic performance requirements.
    • Look for products with a noise reduction coefficient (NRC) rating of at least 0.90.
    • Consider a LEED v4.1 substitution for EQc9 and pursuing the heating and air conditioning (HVAC) background noise and reverberation time options.

Additional recommendations:

  • When designing custom ceiling systems, select minimally processed woods and metals that don’t rely on toxic adhesives or coatings. Composite wood products or veneer panels that have composite cores frequently contain adhesives with formaldehyde that may off-gas at concentrations exceeding health-based guidance values.
    • Look for products that use no added urea formaldehyde (NAUF), no added formaldehyde (NAF) or ultra-low-emitting formaldehyde (ULEF) resins.
  • Ceiling systems and spray insulations are a potential source of flame retardants, per- and polyfluoroalkyl treatments (PFAS), antimicrobials and fly ash, which can contain heavy metals, such as cadmium, mercury and arsenic waste.
    • Avoid these hazards by specifying verified Red List Free or transparent materials, preferably third-party-verified HPDs at 100 ppm.
  • Textile-based ceiling tiles may contain a blend of fibers, either synthetic, natural or mixed. Blended textiles can be difficult, if not impossible, to separate and properly recycle.
    • Look for products that use a single fiber type.
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) contains potentially dangerous chemical additives that may be released during production, use and disposal.
    • Avoid ceiling systems that use PVC in their framing or textiles.