As is often the case in worship facilities, the extreme height and angles of the 3,420 square-foot Austin Chinese Church in Austin, Texas, created less than desirable sound quality for congregants. The ceiling panel solution for this project had to not only address these acoustical problems, but it also needed to reflect the design team’s goals of creating a welcoming environment and account for the extreme variations in temperature and humidity that is typical for the region.

After weighing these factors, Sound Seal’s WoodTrends WoodGrill panels were selected to address the project’s acoustic and aesthetic requirements. Additionally, the birch veneer finish of the panel ensured longevity, providing the Austin Chinese Church with a solution that was engineered to their specifications and designed to withstand multiple years of use.

The schedule for the project was tight. As typical with religious facilities projects, scheduling centered around the delivery and installation of the church pews. All ceiling installation needed to be complete by a hard date to accommodate this phase of the project, requiring the teams to build around the specifications of the ceiling panels instead of adding them in later. By adopting a coordinated approach between the design, installation and acoustical teams, the ceiling installation was completed on-time and within the owner’s projected budget.


The manufacturing process for the panels combined both solid wood and veneered MDF to make panels incorporating different blade sizes and spacing. Due to the size of the project, multiple logs were sourced and sorted by the master veneer maker to ensure optimized log-to-log consistency.

There were many panel groupings at different heights in the Austin Chinese Church, which made perfecting the layout of the ceiling critical. The Sound Seal team specified an 11/16-inch wide by 1¼-inch high blade with six blades per panel. After slicing, the veneer was laid up by hand with particular attention to color, grain structure and overall size. While pre-manufactured veneer, or even laminate would have shortened the lead-time for the products, the made to order manufacturing of the veneer kept the cost down and maximized quality control.

To provide the owner with a ceiling that performed as good as it looked, the back-side of the panels were covered with an acoustic textile combined with a generous percentage of open area provided by the blade spacing.


Since there were many panel groupings and at different heights, Sound Seal created complex shop drawings to ensure proper layout of the ceiling. These drawings detailed a combination of reflected ceiling plans and sections through the multiple planes and levels of the ceiling. The installation plan also dictated design and implementation of the panel terminations at specific distances from the wall and/or bulkheads, as well as incorporation of lighting, HVAC and fire protection.

Finally, particular attention was paid to the fact that at the extreme heights of the space, variations in temperature and humidity would occur throughout the year. Creating these panels to withstand these conditions ensured a rock-solid installation that will offer beauty and quality for years to come.   

 When the project was completed, the team evaluated the acoustical performance of the Austin Chinese Church. The custom construction and installation of the panels resulted in a full 0.75 NRC rating per ASTM C423. Additionally, the beautiful, durable wood veneer panels delivered outstanding acoustical performance in a cost-friendly package.