View of ceiling area



A ceiling’s material, colour or finish can be used to enhance a person’s ability to perceive the space around them. As ceilings are often the least obscured surface within a space, they can give partially sighted people a good impression of the size and configuration of an area. Building user are best supported by bright ceilings that allow artificial and natural light sources to be reflected and distributed evenly.

Using contrasting colour on surfaces and features between areas in a building can help people with visual difficulties navigate their immediate surroundings more clearly. Think about varying ceiling colours, finishes and height to help people find their way around a building in areas such circulation routes, seating or other activities that take place in a large open space. Core Elements HBN 00-04 Circulation and communication spaces

Recommended standards:

  • Use contrasting colour between ceiling and wall to help users perceive the size and dimensions of the space they are navigating.
  • Lower ceiling heights in key areas to distinguish public spaces. For example, a bulkhead over a reception desk can make an area feel intimate and welcoming. British Standards 8300-2: Design of an accessible and inclusive build environment.
  • When using ceilings to fix direction and locations signs, ensure they are fixed within a person’s line of sight. If there is an obstruction, lower the sign or mount it on a wall to ensure clear visibility for way finding. Please see the Wayfinding component for further information.

Ensure ceiling finishes look the same when exposed to different lighting conditions and minimises the detrimental effect of glare and unnecessary strong light which can distort sensory clues and the perception of space.

Recommended standards:

  • Avoid shiny and glossy surfaces which create glare and reflections. These surfaces give confusing visual cues that can hamper the perception of space.
  • Consider how ceiling finishes interact with the overall lighting solutions. Seek to avoid glare and reflection from ceiling finishes which create a distorted view of the space. See the Lighting component for further information. HBN 08-02: Dementia-friendly Health and Social Care Environment

All building components should be safe to use and minimise the opportunity for self-harm.

Recommended standards:

  • Ensure an anti-ligature strategy is agreed in line with services being delivered and appropriate risk assessment.

A good acoustic environment will help people to hear speech and other sounds they need to hear more clearly and is especially beneficial for people with hearing difficulties. The acoustic qualities of ceilings can affect the level of background noise and the quality of sound within that space.HTM 08-01 Acoustics, Specialist services

Recommended standards:

  • Consider lower ceiling heights to help reduce echo and sound reverberation.
  • Soft finishes and acoustic panels can reduce noise and reverberation, especially in large, open spaces.
  • Think about how ceiling materials can be used to help decrease sound from travelling between spaces.
  • Where appropriate, consider shaped ceilings (example dome ceiling) to focus sound in an area and so enhance speech intelligibility.

Very high ceilings can feel unfriendly and institutional, while ceilings that are too low can feel oppressive. Equally too many ceiling heights changes, created by bulk heads or boxing around services can create shadows that make the space difficult to navigate for those with visual impairments.

Recommended standards:

  • Install ceilings so they don’t feel opressive
  • Ceiling heights need to be designed in harmony with the surrounding area. As an example, 2.4m is often referred to as the minimum corridor height but, in wide corridors, can appear oppressive. Advice should be sought from a design professional. HBN 00-10 PartB: Walls and Ceilings
  • Ensure ceiling mounted signs have a line of sight that is visible to all users.
  • If installing patient hoists and other mobility equipment to the ceiling, ensure the height is sufficient to allow safe clearance for any support structure and for the equipment to be safely manoeuvred.

Artwork and interior design finishes to ceilings can provide several benefits to building users. They can make the inside space more interesting and feel less clinical. Artwork and colour can help users find their way by providing visual landmarks. For dementia-friendly design, pictures of familiar landmarks and artefacts can be reassuring and seem less institutional.

Recommended standards:

  • Images of sky or natural landscapes can be backlit and can act as an alternative to natural light. This can help patients feel relaxed and calm, make space more interesting and create a distraction. This might be particularly important in treatment areas where patients spend time lying on a couch or a bed.
  • For more information on artwork the following publication may be useful: Art of Good Health
Skip to content