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Construction of the new 35,000-square-foot Admirals Club and Flagship Lounge was one of the final phases of a four year long renovation of American Airlines’ Terminal 4 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Completed in late 2003 at a cost of $16 million, the Admirals Club is a premium service facility where First Class travelers and Club members can relax or conduct business between connections. Project architects Rivers & Christian, Los Angeles, had used vaulted metal ceilings from Ceilings Plus throughout the Terminal’s ticketing lobby and concourses, and wanted to continue the curved ceiling motif in the Club, but wanted a warmer material to create a more relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. According to Partner-in-Charge, Steven R. Rivers, AIA, the solution was to use curved Arboreal™ panels. Rivers explains, “The Arboreal ceiling is a major design element in the space. It’s a metal panel system that’s finished with real wood. And it’s perforated so it has acoustical quality to it.”

The Club was one of the first projects to use Arboreal™, a new wood panel technology developed by Ceilings Plus, a Los Angeles-based manufacturer of specialty interior finish systems. By laminating real wood veneers to an aluminum core, Arboreal enabled the designer to use wood in ways that are not practical with conventional wood panels.

Rivers, for example, explains that acoustics were a primary concern for the new facility. Since the Arboreal panels are fabricated on high-speed numerically controlled equipment, they are easier to perforate than traditional wood products and can provide better noise reduction coefficients (NRC) than ordinary wood panels. The CAD/CAM fabrication also makes it easier to curve Arboreal panels. Rivers states, “With regular wood, it would be very costly and time consuming to bend panels; you’d have to laminate them in some kind of a jig to make an arc. Of course, with metal core panels, you can make all kinds of shapes.” He says his firm “also looked at using an acoustical fabric panel system, but the Ceilings Plus price was better by the time we got through with it.”

The Admirals Club at Los Angeles Airport was one of the first projects to use Arboreal™, a new wood panel technology developed by Ceilings Plus, a Los Angeles- based manufacturer of specialty interior finish systems.In addition to cost considerations, acoustical fabric systems would have posed another concern. Rivers explains, “In an airport environment there is an awful lot of soot from jet fumes and over time you build up a lot of dirt. Fabric would be difficult to keep clean. But you can clean Arboreal pretty rigorously and not destroy the finish because it’s real wood with a tough urethane coating.”

The aluminum core panels were also much lighter than traditional wood core panels. Rivers says, “Because we built the new facility on top of an existing building, we had to be very conscious about how much weight we added to the structure. So from that standpoint, the Arboreal panels helped with the structural design.”

Ceiling installer Vince Paparella, Superintendent with Performance Contracting, Inc., Anaheim, Calif., says that ease of installation was also a factor in selecting Arboreal. He remembers, “By the time the space was ready for the panels, the job was starting to get late, so we were under the gun. Regular wood panels are tough to work with; they are like making cabinets. But with the Ceilings Plus system, it’s not even the same ballgame; they just spring into the T-bar support system. It doesn’t get much easier than that.”

Christine Peters, American Airlines Premium Services Manager for the Admirals Club, is proud of her new space. She says the size of the Club, together with its vaulted ceilings and wide expanses of window, is “breathtaking!” She comments, “Spaces that are so very open can have a cold feeling. But this Club is warm and welcoming. People coming into the Club stand and look at it in awe. They admire everything from the windows to the furniture – all of the finishes.” Then, she continues, the ceiling “attracts a lot of attention from our customers. We get people who are walking and they look up, stop and say, ‘that ceiling is great! Is it real wood?” Her answer, thanks to Arboreal, is “Yes.”

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