Understanding and Installing Insulated Metal Panels

IMP installation

IMP installation typically occurs once the steel frame is in place. The more common vertical installation allows for faster close-in for interior trade work. Photos: Metl-Span

Insulated metal panels, or IMPs, incorporate a composite design with foam insulation sandwiched between a metal face and liner. IMPs form an all-in-one-system, with a single component serving as the exterior rainscreen, air and moisture barrier, and thermal insulation. Panels can be installed vertically or horizontally, are ideal for all climates, and can be coated with a number of high-performance coating systems that offer minimal maintenance and dynamic aesthetic options.

The Benefits of IMPs

At the crux of the IMP system is thermal performance in the form of polyurethane insulation. Panel thicknesses generally range from 2 to 6 inches, with the widest panels often reserved for cold storage or food processing applications. IMPs provide roughly three times the insulation value of field-assembled glass fiber systems, and panel thickness and coating options can be tailored to meet most R-value requirements.

IMPs offer a sealed interior panel face to create a continuous weather barrier, and the materials used are not conducive to water retention. Metal—typically galvanized steel, stainless steel or aluminum—coupled with closed-cell insulation creates an envelope solution impervious to vapor diffusion. Closed-cell insulation has a much denser and more compact structure than most other insulation materials creating an advantage in air and vapor barrier designs.

Time, budget and design can all be looming expectations for any building project. A valuable characteristic of IMPs is their ability to keep you on time and on budget while providing design flexibility to meet even the toughest building codes. The unique single-source composition of insulated metal panels allows for a single team to accomplish quick and complete enclosure of the building so interior trades can begin. This expedites the timeline and streamlines the budget by eliminating the need for additional teams to complete the exterior envelope and insulation.

Minimizing Moisture

The seams function both as barrier and pressure-equalized joint, providing long-term protection that requires minimal maintenance. Multiple component systems often rely on the accurate and consistent placement of sealant and may also require periodic maintenance. In addition, with IMPS a vented horizontal joint is designed for pressure equalization, and, even in the presence of an imperfect air barrier, the pressure-equalized joinery maintains the system’s performance integrity. With multi component systems, imperfections can lead to moisture infiltration.

The real damage occurs when water enters through a wall and into a building becoming entrapped—which leads to corrosion, mold, rot, or delaminating. Unlike IMPs, some multi-component wall systems include a variety of different assembly materials that may hold water, like glass fiber or paper-faced gypsum. When those materials get wet, they can retain water, which can result in mold and degradation.

Installation

Typically, IMP installation is handled by crews of 2-4 people. Very little equipment is needed other than standard construction tools including hand drills, band and circular saws, sealant guns, and other materials. The panels can be installed via the ground or from a lift, and materials can be staged on interior floors or on the ground level. Panel installation typically occurs once the steel frame is in place and prior to interior fit out. The more common vertical installation allows for faster close-in for interior trade work.

Metl-Span CFR insulated metal standing seam roof panels

Metl-Span CFR insulated metal standing seam roof panels combine durable interior and exterior faces with exceptional thermal performance. Photos: Metl-Span

IMPs are often installed using concealed clips and fasteners that are attached to the structural supports (16 gauge minimum wall thickness tubes or stud framing). The panels are typically installed bottom to top and left to right, directly over the steel framing. No exterior gypsum or weather barriers are required, as these panels act as the building’s weather barriers.

The product’s high strength-to-weight ratio allows for longer installation spans and reduced structural costs. The metal skins act as the flange of a beam, resisting bending stress, while the foam core acts as the web of the beam, resisting shear stress. This important aspect also contributes to a long product life cycle.

Design Flexibility

IMPs offer a unique combination of aesthetic design options, including mitered panel edges, and a vast array of profiles, textures and reveal configurations. Flat wall profiles are ideally suited for designers seeking a monolithic architectural façade without sacrificing performance elements. The beautiful, flush panels have become a mainstay in projects in a number of high-end architectural markets.

The 35,000-square-foot AgroChem manufacturing facility in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

The 35,000-square-foot AgroChem manufacturing facility in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., showcases vertically installed Metl-Span CF36 insulated metal panels. Photos: Metl-Span

Striated or ribbed wall profiles are more common in commercial and industrial applications. The products offer bold vertical lines for a distinctive blend of modern and utilitarian design, while continuing flawless symmetry from facade to facade, or room to room on exposed interior faces. Ribbed panels also work in tandem with natural lighting to create impactful designs. Different textures, such as embossed or simulated stucco finish, add dimensional nuance and contrast to projects of all shapes and sizes.

IMPs are offered in an unlimited palette of standard and custom colors to meet any aesthetic requirement, as well as energy-efficient solar reflectivity standards. Panels are typically painted with a polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) coating with optional pearlescent and metallic effects, and can even simulate expensive wood grains and natural metals. PVDF finishes offer exceptional performance characteristics that can be tailored to meet most any project needs, including saltwater environments and extreme weather conditions.

Roof Configurations

For all the above reasons, IMPs have also become a popular building product for roofing applications. Insulated metal standing seam roof panels provide the desired aesthetic of traditional single-skin metal standing seem roofs with added thermal performance. Standing seam roof panels feature a raised lip at the panel joinery, which not only enhances overall weather resistance but provides the desired clean, sleek sightlines.

IMP installation

IMP installation typically occurs once the steel frame is in place. The more common vertical installation allows for faster close-in for interior trade work Photos: Metl-Span

The systems typically feature field-seamed, concealed fasteners that are not exposed to the elements. Just like their wall panel counterparts, insulated metal standing seam roof panels are available in a variety of thicknesses and exterior finishes.

Another popular insulated metal roof application showcases overlapping profile panels. The product’s overlapping, through-fastened joinery allows for quick installation in roof applications, resulting in reduced labor costs and faster close-in.

Finally, insulated metal roof deck panel systems combine the standard steel deck, insulation, and substrate necessary for single-ply membranes or non-structural standing seam roof coverings. The multi-faceted advantages of this system include longer spans between supports, superior deflection resistance, and a working platform during installation.

Insulated metal wall and roof panels offer an exceptional level of value when compared to traditional multi-component wall systems. The product’s unique single-component construction combines outstanding performance with simple and quick installation, a diverse array of aesthetic options, and the quality assurance of a single provider.

Laminated Cover Board Features Foam Insulation

ShieldBase 180 Laminated Cover Board provides a 2-in-1 composite layer cover board solution for commercial roofing applications.

ShieldBase 180 Laminated Cover Board provides a 2-in-1 composite layer cover board solution for commercial roofing applications.

IKO ShieldBase 180 Laminated Cover Board provides a 2-in-1 composite layer cover board solution offering versatility for commercial roofing applications.

ShieldBase 180 is a composite of 1/2-inch high compressive IKOTherm CoverShield polyiso insulation that is factory laminated to a 180-gram polyester reinforced SBS modified bitumen base sheet.

The CoverShield layer of the product features a foam insulation with thermal properties, which offers insulation protection and an R-value of 2.5.

The dual selvage, self-adhering edges of the product allow for easy joining of the base to the adjacent ShieldBase 180 boards.

It can be applied as a mechanically fastened system, offering a fastening pattern of 18-inch on-center to reduce material and labor. Additionally, ShieldBase 180 Cover Board may be adhered with IKO Millennium Adhesive or fully adhered with hot asphalt.

IKO provides a full suite of asphalt low slope roofing systems and accessories, including built-up roofing (BUR), cold applied, heat welded, self adhered and more. In addition, IKO offers building envelope and bridge deck and waterproofing membrane systems and accessories, along with wall insulation and air/vapor barrier systems.

For more information on ShieldBase 180 and details on IKO’s commercial roofing system solutions, visit the website.

SES Foam Wall Insulation Products Use Honeywell’s Low Global-Warming Material

Honeywell has announced that SES Foam has transitioned to Honeywell’s low global-warming-potential (GWP) material for wall insulation, with roofing systems to follow.

SES has introduced a 2.0 closed-cell spray polyurethane foam (ccSPF) formulated with Honeywell’s Solstice Liquid Blowing Agent (LBA) for use in wall insulation applications. SES joins a list of companies that have switched from hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) foam blowing agents such as HFC-365mfc and HFC-245fa to Solstice LBA in ccSPF systems, well ahead of environmental regulations calling for a phaseout of HFCs due to their high GWPs. More than 190 countries recently agreed to an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that would phase down the use of HFCs beginning in 2019.

Solstice LBA, which is based on next-generation hydrofluoro-olefin (HFO) technology, complies with changing regulatory requirements aimed at reducing climate impact, while also providing improved foam performance compared to HFCs. Blowing agents are an important ingredient in closed-cell foam, allowing it to expand and enabling its insulating performance.

“SES is proud of its commitment to sustainable solutions and innovation,” said Charles Valentine, chief operating officer, SES Foam. “Having built our open-cell foam business around sucrose-based technology, we believe that adopting Honeywell’s Solstice LBA in our closed-cell foam aligns with our customers and environmental focus. Our expertise is unique in that many of our staff are former spray foam contractors, so they have insight into customers’ needs, and can provide the support and products they require to succeed.”

“Honeywell is committed to helping industry leaders like SES create solutions such as using Solstice LBA in its closed-cell foam,” said Laura Reinhard, global business manager for spray foam, Honeywell. “Not only does Solstice LBA provide SES with an environmental solution, it has helped their 2.0 product formulation deliver foam performance.”  

Solstice LBA has a low global-warming-potential of 1, which is 99.9 percent lower than HFCs and equal to carbon dioxide. It is nonflammable (ASTM E-681) and is not a volatile organic compound per the EPA. Solstice LBA is listed under the EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program. In Europe, it is not listed in the Annex I of F-Gas regulation and thus not considered an F-Gas. It is also registered under the European Union’s REACH program.
 
Solstice LBA is used in a variety of rigid foam insulation applications, including spray foam insulation, residential and commercial refrigeration equipment, and insulated metal panels, as well as flexible foam applications, such as molded and slabstock foam, and integral skin. Visit the website for more information on Solstice LBA.

MCA Begins Research Projects

The Chicago-based Metal Construction Association is taking on three new research projects, which were topics at the association’s summer meeting. The results of the three studies, which will take place over several years, are expected to make a significant impact in the industry.

Air permeability research is being conducted at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and will evaluate and characterize the performance of discontinuous metal panels, such as modular metal roof panels and snap-together standing-seam roofing. The project goal is to develop a new test method that will more realistically reflect the wind up-lift these systems can withstand. The main test utilized for the work will be UL 1897 in the static and dynamic mode. Wind-tunnel testing and variations to existing industry test methods will also be used.

Research on cool walls is being funded by a grant awarded to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif. This study is important for California cities to reduce building energy usage and help address the urban heat-island effect. The project will evaluate the types of wall material snow in the marketplace and in the three climate zones in California. In addition to energy usage, the study will evaluate the dirt-shedding capability and durability of these wall materials. New technologies for ultra-cool pigmentation are also being investigated as part of this research.

Research on the use of spray polyurethane foam insulation on metal panels is also being conducted for wall and roof assemblies. The goal of this research project is to evaluate the effects of spray foam on metal. This project was proposed in conjunction with the Fairfax, Va.-based Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance (SPFA) and the Cleveland-based Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA). A few of the main concerns that led to this project are oil canning and potential damage to paint films caused by the exothermic curing of the foam and associated elevated temperatures. As a collaboration among MCA, MBMA and SPFA, preliminary research has already been completed to evaluate exothermic curing on metal. The next phase will include the use of full-size wall and roof assemblies with foam sprayed using different application methods. Based on the project findings, a best practices guideline for using spray-foam insulation with metal wall and roof assemblies will be generated.

MCA’s commitment to these projects is part of the association’s goal to further the growth and promote the environmental benefits of metal products in the construction industry.

Insulation Products from Dow Building Solutions Receive Validation from UL Environment

Dow Building Solutions (DBS), a business unit of The Dow Chemical Co., announced STYROFOAM extruded polystyrene foam insulation products in North America have received validation from UL Environment that they contain 20 percent pre-consumer recycled content on average. This verification marks the latest sustainability milestone for Dow insulation products, which also hold Cradle-to-Cradle certification.

“UL Environment is proud to have worked with Dow Building Solutions to validate the recycled content claims for its STYROFOAM Insulation Products,” says Lisa Meier, vice president and general manager of UL Environment. “Dow’s pursuit of third-party substantiation demonstrates its commitment to scientifically backed, credible communication about this sustainability attribute.”

For more than 70 years, DBS has been recognized in the building industry, delivering energy-efficient solutions that conserve energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including Dow’s flagship STYROFOAM brand. The UL Environment validation underscores the company’s drive to constantly improve, innovate and perfect building envelope science to deliver more sustainable, safer solutions and ultimately help advance a more sustainable planet and society as part of Dow’s 2025 Sustainability Goals.

“This certification is just one more example of DBS’ ongoing commitment to deliver solutions that meet and exceed market demands today and in the future,” says Matthew Marchel, business director, Dow Building Solutions. “This UL Environment validation is one more step in our sustainability journey, one that is deep-rooted, spans decades and is based on our legacy of innovation, leadership and action.”