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Report of the Eighth Census Conference on Newborn ICU Design
Committee to Establish Recommended Standards for Newborn ICU Design
Robert D. White, MD, Chair
January 26, 2012 Clearwater Beach, FL
   September 18, 2012
Standard 18 - Ceiling Finishes

Ceilings shall be easily cleanable and constructed in a manner to prohibit the passage of particles from the cavity above the ceiling plane into the clinical environment.

The ceiling construction in infant rooms and adult sleep areas and the spaces opening onto them shall not be friable and shall have a noise reduction coefficient (NRC) of at least 0.90 for 80% of the entire surface area or an average NRC of 0.85 for the whole ceiling including solid and acoustically absorptive surfaces. To ensure protection from noise intrusion, ceilings in infant rooms and adult sleep areas shall be specified with a ceiling articulation class (CAC)-29.

Finishes shall be free of substances known to be teratogenic, mutagenic, carcinogenic, or otherwise harmful to human health.

Interpretation: Since sound abatement is a high priority in the NICU, acoustical ceiling systems are desirable, but must be selected and designed carefully to meet this standard. In most NICUs, the ceiling offers the largest available area for sound absorption. The Standard for ceiling finishes includes areas that communicate with infant rooms and adult sleep areas (e.g., hallways, corridors, storage, and staff work areas) when doors are opened in the course of daily activity.

Ceilings with high acoustical absorption (i.e., high NRC ratings) do not necessarily have a significant barrier effect (i.e., offer protection from sounds transmitted between adjacent areas). A CAC-29 provides a moderate barrier effect and allows a broad range of ceiling products. Poor barrier effects can result if room-dividing partitions are discontinued above the ceiling allowing room-to-room cross-talk or if there are noise-producing elements in the ceiling plenum. If the ceiling plenum contains noise sources such as fan-powered boxes, in-line exhaust fans, variable air volume devices, etc. then a higher CAC than CAC-29 may be necessary.

VOCs and PBTs such as cadmium are often found in paints and ceiling tiles and should be avoided. Specify low- or no-VOC paints and coatings.


Additional Information
last updated September 19, 2012  Kathleen Kolberg, University of Notre Dame