In office buildings, the drop ceiling is often used in conjunction with hollow steel studs to construct small office spaces out of a much larger cavernous space. Wiring and other services are run through the open ceiling, down through the hollow stud walls, and to outlets in the work areas. If business needs change, the office spaces are easily dismantled and the overall cavernous space reconfigured with a different floor plan.
To address fire safety, ceiling tiles made from mineral fibres, plastic, tin, composite, or fire-rated wood panels can be used within the construction to meet acceptable standards/ratings. Some tiles, in specific situations, can provide the needed additional resistance to meet the "time rating" required for various fire code, city ordinance, commercial, or other similar building construction regulations. Fire ratings for ceiling panels vary based on the materials used, the preparation of each panel, and the safety testing and third party evaluation done to determine where and how they can be safely installed. In the UK it can be required for the tiles from certain manufacturers to be clipped into the grid with special ceiling clips in order to provide a fire rating; there are special tiles designed for the underside of mezzanine floors however that can give a fire rating without being clipped.
Effective building design requires balancing multiple objectives: aesthetics, acoustics, environmental factors, and integration with the building's infrastructure—not to mention cost of construction as well as long-term operation costs.
Dropped ceilings generally conceal many of the functional and structural elements of a building, creating an aesthetic paradigm that discourages the use of functional building systems as aesthetic design elements. Concealing these elements makes the complexity of today's advanced building technologies more difficult to appreciate. It is also more difficult to perform maintenance on or diagnose problems with the concealed systems.
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