In the United States the cell size in the suspension grids is typically either 2 ft × 2 ft or 2 ft × 4 ft and the ceiling tiles are the same size. In Europe the cell size in the suspension grids is 600×600 mm, while the ceiling tiles are slightly smaller at 595mm x 595mm or 595mm x 1195mm.
Modern dropped ceilings were initially created to hide the building infrastructure, including piping, wiring, and/or ductwork, by creating a plenum space above the dropped ceiling, while allowing access for repairs and inspections. Drop ceilings may also be used to hide problems, such as structural damage. Further, drop out ceilings can also conceal the sprinkler systems while still providing full fire suppression functionality.
In contrast, the tiles and other parts of a dropped or stretch ceiling are easily removed to allow access to the area above the grid to do any necessary wiring or plumbing modifications. In the event of remodelling, nearly all components of the grid can be dismantled and reassembled somewhere else.
In older buildings the space above the dropped ceiling was often used as a plenum space for ventilation systems, requiring only enclosed ducts that deliver fresh air into the room below, with return air entering the ceiling space through open grilles across the ceiling. This practice is now used less frequently in new construction.
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