Winner: 2013 Construction Excellence Awards: Gold (Acoustical Solutions, West Region)

Newport Beach Civic Center

Custom Engineering at Every Level

This ceiling design tested the experience of both the installer, Preferred Ceilings, and 9Wood. Two standard wood products were specified: 70,000 square feet of linear wood ceiling panels and 5,400 square feet of wood microperf wall and ceiling panels. But this is where "standard" ended.

The architect conceived a design with S-curved ceiling bays. Like shimmering sails overlooking the nearby marina, the bays spanned 150 feet long by 30 feet wide. Each bay's S-geometry continued from the interior through the glass curtain wall to the exterior soffit. FSC Hemlock planks, some as long as 17 feet, were panelized to fit the curves using flexible backers. A white scrim was sandwiched between the backers and planks.

Architects Bohlin Cywinski Jackson selected a water-based, low VOC exterior coating with a semi-transparent pickled finish. At first glance, this was standard. But achieving a consistent pickled finish — without becoming wallpaper — on 210,000 linear feet of wood planks proved a challenge. Water based finishes cure over 30 days, making installation and field cutting a challenge for the installation crew. Touch ups, if not done just right, read through the finish when the afternoon sun reached its critical angle.

As for the Council Chambers, "the doubly curved wall was an important focal point of the meeting room," recalled the Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. "The exciting aspect was that 9Wood worked with us to adapt a standard flat-panel product as a cost-effective way to treat the surface that curved in two dimensions. The curved wood wall beautifully captured the grazing daylight coming from the skylight above, while providing warmth, as well as good acoustics." This room's complex geometry needed over 100 unique panels. They were 100% FSC-certified and NAUF. In addition, the microperf panels had to achieve an NRC of greater than 0.80, while minimizing the perforation's visual impact — the room's natural sunlight making this task doubly challenging.

Structurally, the microperf panels had to flex to the spherical wall, yet maintain dimensional stability. Part of the problem was that a pioneering HVAC system, which utilized ocean air much of the year, had the unintended consequence of pushing wood stability to its limits — limits requiring some creative engineering to resolve. This engineering was achieved in partnership between the 9Wood and the Oregon Wood Innovation Center (OWIC) at Oregon State University. OWIC provided extensive climate performance testing, as well as advice on the performance criteria of the various composite wood products. The micro-perforations were achieved using a unique and custom machining process combined with an innovative lay-up process that allowed a plethora of unique panel types, while leveraging the acoustic absorption of each panel.

The room's microperf ceiling panels were Douglas Fir while the wall panels were White Maple. The challenge was integrating the two species to achieve a transparent pickled finish uniform in tone.

The results are beautiful and functional acoustic surfaces, striking features of the council chamber. The natural wood veneers combine with full spectrum sunlight to generate warmth that compliments the clean, contemporary space, and connects the curved meeting room to the flowing exterior wood elements.

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