Project description

The Caisse des Employes de l’Etat (SECU) is a non-profit financial cooperative owned by its members. Since SECU serves state employees, its locations are considered both financial and government facilities. Accuracy, clarity and confidentiality are essential expectations of banking and financial service providers. Thoughtfully designing spaces with high-performance acoustical ceiling systems can enhance these valuable attributes, promote staff productivity and satisfaction, and create less stressful environments for customers and more welcoming facilities for the community.

As official architect of SECU, Summit Design and Engineering Services has designed new construction and renovations for at least 45 branches. For eight sites, including the new Granite Quarry branch, Summit selected and specified Rockfon’s high-performance stone wool and metal acoustical ceiling panels for the interior, durable metal ceilings for the exterior and systems suspended ceiling for both.

CBH General Contracting has managed the construction and renovation of many of SECU’s sites, coordinating with local installation contractors for each project. Acousti Engineering Company’s Charlotte, Florida office installed approximately 9,800 square feet of Rockfon products in SECU’s Granite Quarry branch.

Consistent quality, positive experience
Delivering consistent quality across multiple applications, Rockfon’s complete ceiling solution creates a contemporary and comfortable financial services installation for SECU staff and member customers.

As more and more people turn to online banking, visiting a physical branch can be an event. Choosing the right materials can make a difference in providing a positive and comfortable experience.

Historically, financial institutions were built of heavy masonry to imply a sense of stability and security. Trends in modern architecture are moving towards metal and glass to convey reliability and transparency.

SECU branches are conventionally composed of straight lines and semicircles. A turret-shaped main entrance supported by thick columns, a brick and stone facade, and a low-pitched metal roof present a sturdy profile. Large ground floor windows for offices and clerestory windows allow natural light into the bank without compromising the secure presence of the building. The simple, solid forms of the exterior continue inside, softened by a neutral palette of white and gray accented by rich bronze and brown wood tones. High vaulted ceilings accentuate the feeling of openness.

In large open spaces, stone, metal and glass are hard surfaces that reflect sound and generate reverberating echoes. This can make it difficult to communicate and understand important financial advice. It can also allow someone to overhear personal details, potentially compromising privacy and security.

Attractive, productive and comfortable spaces
Ceiling panels with a noise reduction coefficient (NRC) of 0.90 or higher are rated as the best performers for reducing reverberation and echoes and increasing speech intelligibility in a room. Quiet spaces also allow staff to better focus on tasks and focused conversations, improving accuracy and clarity. Reducing distractions and unwanted noise also decreases physiological responses to stress, promoting healthier spaces and contributing to employee and guest well-being.

Optimizing the acoustics to create a comfortable experience had been a challenge for at least one of SECU’s oldest branches. Summit architects were in the process of designing a renovation when they took a continuing education course in acoustic ceiling design presented by Rockfon.

Rockfon Architectural and Regional Sales Manager, Kelly Frame, explained: “The design team explained that the existing ceiling specification was solid metal linear ceiling panels with an NRC of 0.70 at the interior and a vinyl-covered gypsum on the exterior awning in the drive-through bays. Staff had complained that their old offices were too noisy inside. Also, some of the awnings on the old drive-throughs were beginning to show signs of aging and possible deterioration. We knew Rockfon could improve the look, performance and durability.”

In several remodeled and newly constructed SECU facilities, Rockfon ceiling systems have helped Summit create more attractive, productive and comfortable spaces. “Rather than feeling like you have to shout in a loud hall, you can now have a conversation while speaking at a normal volume,” Frame explained. “The checkout staff like to have products that work and appreciate the result.”

Sound absorbing and reflective ceilings
Working with Summit, CBH and Acousti on SECU’s Granite Quarry branch, SECU’s interiors feature two ceiling systems from Rockfon. Both systems reach up to 0.90 NRC and match the contemporary and welcoming design of the credit union.

2ft by 2ft Rockfon® Alaska® white acoustic rock wool ceiling panels were installed in a 15/16 inch suspension grid of the Chicago Metallic® 1200 series plus Rockfon® Planar® perforated linear metal panels 8-inch Macroplus® with white Acoutex™ backing. The combination of perforated metal with the sound absorbing backing improved the acoustic performance of the panels and the specially requested white material coordinated with the white finish of the ceiling panels.

The branch’s white ceiling panels present a clean and neat appearance. They also function as reflective surfaces to carry daylight deeper inside. Rockfon Alaska reflects up to 86% of light from its smooth surface. Respectful of state government funds, this allows for more efficient use of natural light and more efficient use of electricity.

Durable and long-lasting materials
Electrical light fixtures, HVAC returns and security cameras are integrated into the interior ceiling grid pattern with wiring and other equipment concealed above the panels. Rockfon’s modular format makes its systems quick to install and easy to remove one or more panels to access the plenum for future building upgrades.

Rockwool and metal are also durable and long-lasting materials that require minimal maintenance. Both are made with natural and recycled materials, resist moisture, moisture and mildew without the use of added antimicrobials. Supporting healthy indoor air quality, Rockfon’s stone wool ceiling panels are UL® Environment GREENGUARD® Gold certified for low-emission products.

Further promoting thoughtful product selection and material transparency, Rockfon Alaska has earned the Declare 2.0 seal from the International Living Future Institute as a Living Building ChallengeSM Red List Approved and is backed by a Health Product Declaration (HPD) . Rockfon’s stone wool and metal ceiling panels also have UL verified Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).

For outdoor use, the metal provides increased durability and resilience. Above the main entrance to SECU’s Granite Quarry branch, solid and linear 8-inch Rockfon Planar Macroplus metal panels finished in bronze present an elegant and accessible first impression for new and returning members alike.

Sheltering visitors by car, the awning above the outdoor service area incorporates 2-by-2 foot Rockfon® Planostile™ Snap-in metal panels installed using the same Chicago Metallic 1200 Series 15/ 16 inches only inside. The ceiling panels are finished in a silver color that reflects ambient light keeping the walk-through area bright and inviting.

Local partners
A grand opening event for SECU’s 8,500 square foot Granite Quarry branch was held in May 2022.

“We are very pleased to have this new location to offer our members,” said SECU Vice President and City Executive Lori Cinkmani. “More accessibility and convenience. Members who have lived and worked in the Granite Quarry area have been looking forward to this location for a long time. We want everyone to know that we are thrilled to be here to serve them in our own community.”

“Rockfon has proven that gaining acoustic performance doesn’t mean having to compromise on aesthetics, material choices or long-term value,” Frame concluded. “We are proud to be a preferred supplier to Summit and a regular supplier to SECU branches.”

SECU has been providing North Carolina state employees and their families with consumer financial services since 1937. As of 2022, its more than 7,000 employees serve more than 2.6 million members through 1,100 ATMs, telephone and online and more than 270 branches.


State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU), Granite Quarry Branch
970 North Salisbury Avenue, Granite Quarry, NC 29146
• Owner: State Employees Fund (SECU); Raleigh, North Carolina;
• Architect: Summit Design and Engineering Services; Hillsborough, North Carolina;
• General contractor: CBH General Contracting, LLC; Port Orange, Florida;
• Ceiling Systems – installing contractor: Acousti Engineering Company of Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina;
• Ceiling systems – manufacturer: Rockfon; Chicago;
• Photos by: Joe Ciarlante

About Rockfon
Rockfon is part of the ROCKWOOL group and offers advanced acoustic ceilings and wall solutions to create beautiful, comfortable spaces.

At ROCKWOOL Group, we are committed to enriching the lives of all who experience our product solutions. Our expertise is perfectly suited to tackle many of today’s greatest sustainability and development challenges, from energy consumption and noise pollution to resistance to fire, water scarcity and flooding. Our product range reflects the diversity of global needs, while helping our stakeholders reduce their own carbon footprint.

Stone wool is a versatile material and forms the basis of all our activities. With approximately 11,500 passionate colleagues in 39 countries, we are the global leader in stone wool solutions, from building insulation to acoustic ceilings, from exterior cladding systems to horticultural solutions, from technical fibers for industrial use to insulation for the process industry, marine and offshore.