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William L. Shannon, Editor

William L. Shannon, Editor of CISCA

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

for the September / October 2007 Issue, CISCA's Interior Construction Magazine

Every now and then it is wise to stop for a moment and reflect upon your business. What was the inspiration to form the business? What does it look like today and where will it be tomorrow.

Not that many years ago there was no acoustical ceiling industry. It's amazing to think that our industry is less than sixty years old! Acoustical problems have existed for centuries, but, the approach to solving the acoustical problems as we know them didn't surface until the early 1950's!

The early years were all about eliminating reverberation. Virtually all spaces were a combination of plaster ceilings and walls, wood, asphalt tile or concrete floors with large operable windows. Noise came from all directions, voice, office machines, people walking on hard floors and outside automobile & trolley traffic. Early answers to the problems included, cork, wood fiber, perforated "stuck tile", and even horsehair with fabric. Most of the early acoustical contractors were actually plaster companies.

Fifty Seven years ago, a number of contractors met to form the predecessor of CISCA. Change came quickly to our industry in those early years. The development of air conditioning and other mechanical and electrical systems created the need for suspended acoustical ceiling systems. Suspended ceilings were not new, but, suspended, exposed grid ceiling systems certainly were.

The 1960s and 1970s were exciting times in our industry. We witnessed the development of the modern acoustical ceiling contracting industry. Many new and interesting issues surfaced;

  • Fire ratings and combustibility ratings.
  • Mineral Tile Ceilings.
  • Metal Ceilings.
  • Fiberglass Ceilings.
  • Wood ceilings.
  • Integrated Ceiling Systems.
  • Modern lighting systems.
  • Air conditioning and ducted HVAC Systems.
  • Access flooring systems.

The focus of our industry changed, and the booming national hospital and school building programs created many new manufacturing and contracting opportunities. Business's started to change and distribution became a more important part of our industry.

The 1980s and 1990s witnessed new challenges and opportunities. Energy consumption became a national issue and the interior construction industry began to deal with issues including air quality, light reflectance, energy costs, daylighting and an explosion of technology both within our industry and within the industries serviced by our members.

Many contractors changed focus and more and more companies began to specialize in unique aspects of our industry. New products and systems required training and a more in depth understanding of all aspects of a commercial building.

As we entered the new millennium, a new word appeared in our industry, LEED. Many thought that this would be a passing fancy, and when owners and architects realized the added cost of The LEED Concept, it would disappear. Well, I think we all now know that this concept is here to stay and many of our most prominent contractors, manufacturers, distributors, and Independent Manufacturers' Representatives have become deeply involved in LEED and related programs.

Specialty ceiling, wall products and systems. Wood, metal, fabric, GRG, laminated panels, to name a few, have exploded onto the scene. New opportunities and designs have surfaced in virtually every market segment. Members of CISCA have been confronted with the requirement to increase education of their workforce. Technology in all facets of our organizations has required additional investment in people and equipment.

For some this has been greeted with concern for others it has created vast new business opportunities.

One thing is certain, change will continue and those who wish to survive and prosper will be ready willing and able to make the investment in time, treasure and talent.

After more than fifty years of developing our interior acoustical ceiling businesses, a new challenge is surfacing. Interiors without suspended ceiling systems. Like so many trends in the past, many of these new designs are surfacing in the market without a full understanding of the related problems created with the elimination of a ceiling. It is our responsibility as professionals in the interior construction industry to point out the overwhelming positive reasons for suspended acoustical ceiling systems, including but not limited to;

  • Enclosure of the plenum for acoustical control, fire protection, cleanliness, and air control.
  • Acoustical control, both within the occupied space (NRC) and from space to adjoining space (STC).
  • Providing mounting for mechanical items. Lighting, HVAC, Life Safety. To name a few.
  • Creating a surface to conceal non finished mechanical, structural electrical and life safety infrastructure.
  • Developing a light reflecting surface to enhance electrical lighting.
  • Saving dollars by avoiding required painting and finishing of all plenum based exposed surfaces.

Many of our member companies have adapted to limited use of exposed structures quite successfully, but, it is important for all participants in our industry to educate owners and designers regarding the many reasons for and benefits of suspended acoustical ceilings systems. Change is a certainty, as business people and members of CISCA we must be prepared to accept, adapt and excel in what the future has to offer! We not only have to deal with today, but, be prepared for tomorrow.

William L. Shannon CSI, CISCA
President of Shannon Corporation
Recipient of the 2004 De Gelleke Award

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