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.

Project Profiles: Retail/Mixed-use

Outlet Collection at Niagara Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada

Team

DEVELOPER: Ivanhoé Cambridge, Montreal

The largest open-air outlet mall in Canada features approximately 23,000 square feet of PTFE fiberglass membrane walkway canopies.

The largest open-air outlet mall in Canada features approximately 23,000 square feet of PTFE fiberglass membrane walkway canopies. PHOTO: Birdair

Roof Materials

The largest open-air outlet mall in Canada features approximately 23,000 square feet of PTFE fiberglass membrane walkway canopies. The membrane canopies exhibit a flying-mast cone design that provides relief from the elements and creates a signature look for the shopping center.

PTFE, or polytetrafluoroethylene, is a Teflon-coated woven fiberglass membrane that is durable and weather-resistant. PTFE fiberglass membranes can be installed in climates ranging from the frigid arctic to the scorching desert heat with a project life in some cases exceeding 30 years.

PTFE fiberglass coating is chemically inert, and the low-surface free energy of the material results in an electrical-grade fabric membrane that is readily rinsed by rain-water. It is also immune to UV radiation. This combination makes PTFE-coated fabric membrane ideal for projects requiring weather endurance and fire resistance.

PTFE fiberglass is ENERGY STAR- and Cool Roof Rating Council-certified. During scientific tests of its solar properties, it was discovered that PTFE fiberglass membranes reflect as much as 73 percent of the sun’s energy while holding just 7 percent on its exterior surface. Certain grades of PTFE fiberglass can absorb 14 percent of the sun’s energy while allowing 13 percent of natural daylight and 7 percent of reradiated energy (solar heat) to transmit through.

PTFE FIBERGLASS MEMBRANE DESIGNER, FABRICATOR, INSTALLER: Birdair

Roof Report

Located beside the Queen Elizabeth II Highway, less than 20 kilometers from the U.S. border, the 520,000-square-foot shopping center features 102 retailers, including Canada’s first Pandora outlet, White House Black Market outlet and Bass Pro Shops Outpost. Other sought-after brands at the center include a Kate Spade Outlet, NIKE Factory Store, Calvin Klein Outlet and Michael Kors Outlet.

The Niagara Outlet Collection was developed to attract shoppers and visitors who might have otherwise crossed the U.S. border to shop in the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls, the Walden Galleria or the Boulevard Mall. David Baffa, Ivanhoé Cambridge senior vice president of retail development, said the developer wants the new outlet collection to be part of the Niagara experience.

Outlet Collection at Niagara is committed to corporate responsibility and environmental sustainability and has a number of design features throughout the property to raise awareness of its green initiatives. Its canopies make the open-air concept possible, reducing energy consumption because the common areas do not need to be heated or cooled. Some of the public buildings, like guest services and the eatery, have been designed so that they can be opened to the outdoors in favorable weather, thus saving energy and connecting people to the outdoors.

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