Building and design firms are increasingly focused on sustainability, with a growing emphasis on sustainable building materials and construction practices. One such company is SmithGroup, which specified Rockfon Alaska® acoustic stone wool panels for the 2022 design of a University of California–Davis Teaching and Learning Complex building.

The university’s first new general assignment classroom building in more than 50 years is also one of its largest. The four-story facility spans more than 101,000 square feet, providing approximately 2,000 students with 20-plus modern learning spaces, a 426-seat auditorium, and multiple indoor and outdoor group study areas.

The project blends the latest active learning techniques, interactive technologies, highly configurable spaces, a welcoming, modern appearance and sustainable strategies aligned with LEED® v4 Gold criteria.

UC Davis guided the TLC’s design-build, with architects at SmithGroup leading the design and DPR Construction serving as the contractor.

Meeting the project’s aesthetic and sustainability goals and acoustic performance requirements, Rockfon Alaska acoustic stone wool ceiling panels — which are inherently resistant to fire, water, moisture and humidity — were chosen for their winning combination of sustainable properties, functionality and visual appeal.

UC Davis TLC

Davis, California

Complementing the TLC’s modern appearance, Rockfon Alaska ceiling panels feature an elegant, smooth white surface with a large selection of sizes and edges. Supporting comfortable, accessible learning spaces, the panels achieve best-level sound absorption, demonstrated with a noise reduction coefficient of up to 0.90.

For UC Davis TLC, Westside Building Material supplied DPR Construction with nearly 200,000 square feet of Rockfon Alaska acoustic stone wool ceiling panels, installed in Chicago Metallic® 1200 Seismic 15/16-inch and 4000 Tempra™ 9/16-inch suspension systems.

Replacing Outdated Modules With Sustainable Interior Design

The TLC facility replaced a collection of one-story modular structures built in the 1960s and 1970s that had been intended as temporary spaces and had surpassed their useful life cycle. DPR Construction began work on-site in July 2019 and achieved substantial completion in February 2022. Students, professors and staff began using the TLC’s classrooms in the spring, while interior build-out on the fourth floor continued through the summer.

Improving Acoustics and Learning Outcomes With Stone Wool

Acoustics play an important role in active learning and innovative teaching practices in multifunctional spaces. In small group discussions, one-to-one conversations, short lectures, interactive technologies and experiential exercises, clear communication is key.

Full-height walls within the facility block noise from other rooms on the same floor, while floor slabs offer sound isolation between rooms above or below each other. The appropriate background sound level ensures that any sound that does get through is masked and not heard.

In the classrooms and informal collaborative areas inside UC Davis TLC, Rockfon Alaska acoustic stone wool ceiling panels absorb the sounds in a room, reducing noise and reverberation while increasing acoustic comfort and privacy for students and faculty.

Reducing Glare and Enhancing Focus With Reflective Ceiling Panels

Along with acoustic comfort, visual comfort contributes to effective learning and teaching as well as students’ and instructors’ health and well-being. The TLC’s design strategically uses exterior windows for outside views and daylighting.

Rockfon Alaska ceiling panels’ bright white surface reflects 86% of light. The reflected light results in a softly diffused illumination, which reduces glare on whiteboards, computer screens and other educational interactive devices. Reducing glare also helps reduce eye strain and associated health issues, improves readability and, by extension, enhances comprehension.

The stone wool ceiling panels’ high light reflectance also optimizes the TLC’s natural light and LED lighting. Occupancy sensors and controls further maximize the all-electric building’s energy efficiency.

Meeting Sustainability and Building Code Requirements With Rockfon

The TLC project adheres to the UC Davis Campus Design Guide and the University of California Seismic Safety Policy. The latter requires compliance with the provisions of the California Building Code and anchorage for seismic resistance of nonstructural building elements.

Rockfon offers Chicago Metallic suspension systems suitable for fire-rated ceiling assemblies and seismic design categories. These systems are third-party certified to meet ASTM standards and are listed in ICC Evaluation Services. 

Rockfon Alaska ceiling panels are available with an Environmental Product Declaration, a Health Product Declaration and a Declare label.

Chicago Metallic suspension systems can be specified with high recycled content and are 100% locally recyclable at the end of their use in the ceiling. Rockfon stone wool ceiling panels are made from basalt rock and recycled content. Stone wool inherently resist fire, water and moisture and do not support the growth of mold, mildew or other microorganisms, without any added chemicals.

Rockfon Alaska acoustic stone wool ceiling panels are UL® GREENGUARD® Gold low-VOC certified and meet the State of California’s Department of Public Health Services Standard Practice for Specification Section 01350 for testing chemical emissions. Recognized by LEED, GREENGUARD Gold-certified products support indoor air quality, contributing to healthy interior spaces.

Capitalizing on Energy Savings From Stone Wool

The University of California’s Sustainable Practices Policy required the UC Davis TLC project to register with the U.S. Green Building Council as pursuing LEED v4 for New Construction, striving for Gold certification.

In addition to the benefits of Rockfon’s stone wool ceiling panels, the building features sustainable solutions such as:

  • An east-west building orientation for better control of solar heat gain
  • Efficient mechanical systems with radiant heating/cooling and displacement ventilation
  • A high-performance building envelope
  • Large-scale ceiling fans
  • A rooftop solar array that doubles as a shading canopy over an outdoor stepped gathering space

Students and visitors learn about these cutting-edge sustainability and carbon reduction features from the interactive building information monitor on the first floor.

Energy modeling showed the TLC could outperform the university’s sustainable policy targets for energy use intensity and carbon emissions.

Applying the savings gained through sustainable strategies, SmithGroup’s design significantly expanded the study spaces without exceeding the project budget while reducing the building’s carbon footprint.

UC Davis TLC

Location:Davis, California, United States
Architect:SmithGroup; Sacramento, California
Contractor:DPR Construction
Installer:DPR Construction
Photographer:©Emily Hagopian Photography, Inc.
Tiles:Rockfon Alaska®
Grids:Chicago Metallic® 1200 15/16"