Open Ceilings: Does The Exposed Look Work In Office Design?

January 6, 2023

By Workspace Resource

Open plenums or exposed ceilings are other names for open ceilings. All structural and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems are visible in this ceiling style, either in their natural finishes or after being painted. This architectural concept offers a space with an industrial aesthetic while also appearing more open and airy.

In the last ten years, leaving the ceilings open has become a design staple in modern offices. Even while open ceilings have been popular office designs for a while, the trend for industrial, open office floor plans shows no signs of slowing down. There are benefits to the trend, but you should weigh them carefully before making a final decision.

Traditional covered ceilings create a space that is much smaller than it actually is, while an open ceiling can provide the illusion of more headroom in a cramped area. In warmer areas, having an open ceiling may be advantageous since it allows warm air to climb and cools the room.

Pipe fixtures and custom lighting look great and cohesive. Electrical and mechanical systems may serve as more than just conduits for power; they can also serve as focal points. Finally, if your structure faces south, installing skylights will significantly improve the natural illumination inside. 

Open Ceiling Design For Commercial Spaces

It would help if you made several considerations and allowances when designing with an open ceiling. Remember that although it may seem like a way to save on expenses, it involves more than just removing the ceiling grids or tiles; it is still a workplace design decision.

Sound Control

When trying to soundproof or reduce the bounce of echoes in a space with open ceilings, you must consider the kind of surfaces you'll be working with. Drywall, an inflexible building material, is ubiquitous in offices and homes alike. You may include these treatments in your planning to enhance the acoustics of your space: ceiling baffles or acoustic panels.

Hanging ceiling baffles may lessen echo in a room even if there isn't much room for them on the walls. You can halt reverberations using thick foams and soft acoustic ceiling fabrics. There is no need for prior building or renovation expertise. Using a system of hooks and chains, commercial building owners may suspend baffles in minutes. 

Acoustic panels also serve as a sound barrier. To dampen echoing, attach acoustic panels to drywall. The sound waves cannot pass through the acoustic panels. Use perforated wood, foam, cloth, or decorative panels to reduce noise levels.

Utilities, Piping, and Ducting

It takes a lot of time and money to have an appealing, clean, exposed appearance for plumbing and ductwork. In addition, you may need skilled workers to paint and ensure compliance of fire sprinklers with code requirements, which might mean higher labor costs. Open ceilings are cheaper to build, but they don't do a good job of preventing heat transfer and loss. Because of this, HVAC system expenses rise in both the summer and the winter because of an increase in heat absorption and heat loss.


You may cover the reflective, hard surfaces and underside of open ceilings with a spray-on acoustical substance. Some of the advantages of this material are thermal insulation, fireproofing, and soundproofing.

Spray-on solutions cost less than baffles or panels, but you cannot use the area during the application process. This will delay the project by up to ten days, possibly negating some of the energy savings.


An open ceiling would benefit from painting to make the piping more attractive and uniform. It is particularly vital in new spaces and older buildings alike to paint  to protect the ceiling material, reduce filth and dust, and prevent debris or fallout. A layer of paint may also help prevent corrosion on an open metal ceiling. A neutral color scheme for the walls and pops of color in the open ceiling are the go-to's for exposed structures. 

Attractive Lighting

Light travels longer from the source to the work area when the ceiling is open. Whether you want to or not, proper lighting is essential. Suspended pendant lights are trendy since you may alter their length to meet your specifications. Junction box covers are another option to avoid seeing unsightly junction boxes.

Exposed Ceilings In Office Spaces

Advantages Of Open Ceilings

The exposed ducts and maze of pipes in the ceiling add some personality to the space. More and more company owners opt for the sleek, industrial look often associated with modern decor. Open ceilings are more eye-catching than those walled up with inexpensive plaster or foam boards.

One unexpected benefit is that they might prove helpful for striking up a chat with someone. It provides people with something to talk about and something to look at when they are at work or visiting.

Traditional drop ceilings are walled off, giving the illusion of a much smaller area than really exists. Open ceilings give the impression of a large amount of space, even when packed with people.

Lastly, exposing your ductwork and pipes allows you to play around with different lighting arrangements and aesthetic elements. In addition to making leaks in ductwork or cables easier to see, it may also serve to showcase the building's original architectural characteristics.

Disadvantages Of Open Ceilings

First, creating an open ceiling that is both functional and visually appealing requires more effort. They may, however, amplify and allow reverberations to flow unimpeded since the ceiling isn't absorbing sound. Installing sound control solutions and sound masking like white noise systems to block out any ambient noise created and avoid distracting workers may take more time and effort. 

Finally, energy costs will naturally increase with more square footage to heat and cool. Although the open ceilings add to the contemporary aesthetic and provide the impression of more space, they might increase your monthly bill.

Plan Ahead For Open Ceiling Office Ceilings

These days, opening up the ceilings is becoming more popular in offices due to the modern, laid-back vibe it provides the space. As a result, the environment is both aesthetically pleasing and conducive to productivity. Exposed ceilings aren't less expensive than suspended ceilings and might come with hidden costs, but the benefits to tenants, workers, and guests outweigh the possible expenses. However, exposed ceilings must be strategically planned due to the additional costs involved.

Need help furnishing your office?

Furnishing an office space can be a daunting task. Our Office Furniture Buying Guide breaks the process down into 5 phases with clear actionable steps that will help you design a space you love.

Get The Ultimate Office Furniture Buying Guide

Love The Space You Work In

Design Your Office