Lots of good dialogue and opinions here. I've done both and I have to say the drywall option is the best looking...and it doen't feel/look so much like a basement. As far as access; I used simple metal airvents-like a cold air return for critical access points. Painted to match the ceiling they look very natural and unobtrusive. I also take photos with key dimensions written in bold marker and keep them on file in case I ever have to get into something, I'm not punching out good drywall to find the turn-off or HVAC shunt valve.
Yes, unfortunately, dropped ceilings don't cut it here in Atlanta. I would suggest getting a digital camera and taking a zillion pictures. Doesn't cost anything and you can burn a CD with the images. Also I ran fishing line up and down the joists in case I had to pull wires. Using heating grills for access is a great idea!
No sense beating the horse more but drywall is really the way to go. Pipes run in ceilings between the first and second floor all the time. You'll appreciate the value of the drywall personally and when you sell the house. I also like the idea of using vents for access.
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