Insulated metal panels (IMPs) are ideal for many roofing and wall applications. They are considered a top-of-the-line choice known for their superior insulation value, high performance air barrier, design flexibility, and fast installation. The simplicity of installation creates a high-performance building envelope. The many design options provide a versatile building solution for commercial, industrial, and institutional projects.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? What’s the catch? Well, those benefits won’t mean much if proper care is not taken during the installation process to ensure you’re getting what you paid for. Potential consequences can span the gamut—from minor aesthetic headaches to extremely costly errors such as leaks and structural issues.
Here are some ways to avoid common pitfalls when installing IMP panels on your next metal wall or roof project.
1. Pay attention to the manufacturer’s product installation manuals.
Installation manuals are not just for show! Even the most experienced installer should read, review and understand the installation guide before installing IMPs, and the panels should always be installed in accordance with the project’s installation drawings.
Don’t simply rely on the “what-you’ve-done-before” mindset. Take the time to review the specifics for every individual project. In addition to providing the information needed to execute a successful install, it can also give installers an opportunity to build upon their own knowledge base. One of the most common errors is related to proper receipt and handling of the panels. Investing a few minutes before the project starts and at the start of each day to review key topics helps avoid costly errors and improves production.
If you have a question or something does not seem right stop and call the manufacturer. It is always best to address a problem up front than try and fix a problem after the building is in operation.
2. Equipment check. Do you have what you need?
To keep your IMP installation on track, it’s imperative to ensure you have the equipment you’ll need for the job. Does your project need one or two forklifts, is a crane a better option? Will your project include longer-length IMPs being installed in a vertical orientation? If so, you may need special lifting equipment so as not to damage the panels. Whatever the details, crews need to be prepared to receive a project’s specific materials on site. A little advance planning will ultimately save you time and money by reducing labor and avoiding costly mistakes.
3. Don’t assume every IMP application is the same.
All buildings are not created equal. Just because a construction crew has had experience installing insulated metal panels on past jobs, doesn’t mean they can assume the process will be exactly the same every time. There will always be specific conditions and variables that need to be taken into consideration. Techniques used for vertical industrial panels will be different for horizontal architectural panels.
The vapor barrier (a key function of an IMP) is a great example of how a miscalculation can be problematic. Depending on the panel, the vapor barrier may be applied either at the factory or at the jobsite. If the project calls for a cold storage environment, the “warm” side of the vapor barrier will be on the exterior. Alternatively, a commercial or industrial application generally calls for the vapor seal to be on the opposite side of the panel. Confuse placement of the seal and you’re bound to run into problems down the road.
4. Be on the lookout for creases, buckles and framing alignment.
A crease or buckle on the face of a panel might seem like no big deal, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, framing alignment is one of the most critical aspects to ensure a proper fit-up of the construction as a whole. In terms of the panels themselves, not only will a framing misalignment not LOOK right but can also cause numerous efficiency and performance issues. Installing inexpensive shims can avoid panels needing to be replaced.
Additionally, make sure the first panel is plum and square, if you start right it is much easier to finish right.
Purlins must be level and square and all framing and bracing should be installed before installing panels. (The IMP manufacturer should specify the amount of tolerances allowed.) Also, take care with caulking and taping, foam-to-foam connections (in order to mitigate potential vapor leaks), seaming, and lap joints.
Attention to detail will avoid costly mistakes.
5. Always think ahead.
Being proactive may be the most important piece of advice construction crews need to hear.
For one, be sure to have a panel surplus on hand. You may be of the mindset that ordering extra panels is at worst a waste or at best, not worth the effort. This is a common judgement error that often leads to installation delays. If a crew has only ordered the exact number of panels needed for a job and there is any damage to the product, whether prior to delivery, on-site or during the installation, there a risk to the project schedule. Waiting on replacement panels can wreak havoc on schedules, especially with panels that may need special manufacturing due to custom components, finishes or colors. What do you do with extra panels you don’t need on the initial installation? Building owners can hold on to any surplus panels to be used as replacements, as needed, over the lifecycle of the building. A little preparation today can go a long way.
Other best practices include understanding the project’s site conditions and ensuring crews remain crews up to date on proper installation techniques—including staying current with training and certifications.
By taking this advice to heart, you can exponentially increase your ability to enjoy the many benefits of IMPs and be confident in your investment. For more information on MBCI’s insulated metal panels and proper installation guidelines, we encourage you to contact your local MBCI representative or visit our website.
Once you’ve set your sights on metal panels for your next building project, insulation will be one of the first, and most important, considerations. There are so many variables, though, so how do you know what’s best?
When you’re trying to make a determination of the insulation type, you should first identify what’s driving your decision making. Are your insulation requirements based on external parameters, such as job specs or established code requirements, or is there some other self-proposed condition at play like the end-use function of your building? Do you require upfront cost savings or is long-term value what you’re after?
Here we’ll take a look at some of the most common determining factors and how they might affect your insulation choices.
Depending on whether you’re building in the commercial or residential arena, and what the physical location of your project is, you may have to adhere to strict energy/building codes that will be an unmovable goal post in your decision making.
Are there any local code or project-specific stipulations as far as minimum R-values for the roof or for the walls? What must you be in compliance with? There can be many different aspects of an energy or building code that you will need to research. For example, there may be an envelope solution where the whole building nets out “X” R-value. Or, a prescribed method could be mandated, where each individual component (i.e., windows, doors, walls, etc.) going into that building cannot exceed (or must meet) a particular requirement.
Let’s say, as an example, you have a code that requires you to have a continuous R-value at your structural attachment point. Depending on what that requirement is, it may be harder to achieve that by using a rolled or batt fiberglass systems. You might be able to achieve it much more easily with a componentized system using metal decking/liner and rigid board insulation, or perhaps an insulated metal panel (IMP) may be better suited. In that case, you could be looking at spending more money for that panel system while saving money on the labor … which brings us to the next variable: upfront costs.
Another critical factor is the cost associated with materials and labor of the system you’re going to install. Let’s say, for instance, your needs require a higher-end type installation in order to reach higher R-values or a code-prescribed method. How are you planning to achieve that?
In some instances, you may be looking toward an insulated panel system, which can readily give you those higher installed R-values. While these are extremely efficient systems, there can be a notable bump in the panel material price to get to that same level than if you choose a single-skin approach with a fiberglass or rigid board insulation system. You would, therefore, need to accurately compare the installed costs of the two systems versus just the material alone. Which will be less expensive/more efficient: the multiple components with lower individual costs plus more labor time and expense to assemble OR the potentially higher individual IMP panel price but with less time and expense to install? You will need to look at the project holistically to determine which is more cost-efficient for the specific situation.
Long-term costs, value and end-use functionality
Oftentimes, upfront material and labor costs need to be evaluated in terms of potential long-term savings and value. Some things to consider here are what your big picture needs are for the structure, including an assessment of how it will be used now and in the future. Unlike with dictated codes and regulations, here it may be more a question of wants vs. needs or owner-occupying vs. vendor leasing.
While you might want an R-30 building, for instance, is it economically beneficial for your end use of the building? Let’s use this example: If you’re a homeowner using a metal structure to store relatively non-valuable belongings, how well does it have to be insulated? Is it worth a high price point? In this case, perhaps single layer roof and wall insulation will be adequate for your needs.
If on the other hand, you’re a builder contracted to construct a structure for which interior climate control is critical for the end use—either because of the production to occur inside or perhaps due to food storage or other temperature-sensitive contents—then you might lean more toward an insulated panel system. In another example, if there’s going to be the potential for an abundance of heat or moisture in the building, as with paper products production or wastewater treatment, then you’ll want to be certain that the insulation system you use best resists such an interior climate and doesn’t permit condensation to form. In this example, it is critical that the structure is significantly protected so that moisture cannot become trapped in the roof or wall assemblies leading to reduced building efficiency or even formation of mold.
You should also consider how long it will take to recoup your initial investment. Obviously, for instance, you may spend less money upfront by only putting 4-inch blanket in your single layer metal walls as opposed to choosing to install an insulated metal panel (IMP) system, but long-term, is the money you save by going with the lesser insulation system going to be more than what the energy savings would be over the time that you’re the occupant of the building?
If you’re only going to be in the building for one or two years, or you’re not even occupying the building, you might be tempted to install a lesser expensive system, but then you might be risking not being able to retain tenants or impacting future resale value.
What Are the Insulation Options?
Once you’ve identified what the driving factors are for your insulation system choice, you can match up your needs with most popular options, which are:
Fiberglass insulation solutions, including over-the-purlin systems; cavity fill insulation systems; batt insulation; rigid board insulation via a composite system with metal decking and vapor barrier; or spray-on insulation systems. Alternatively, if a foam core insulation is preferred, it may be worth considering the use of insulated metal panels (IMPs) that are designed, engineered, and fabricated to be compatible with metal building construction as an envelope building solution.
For more specifics on the types of insulation systems that are available, check out this MBCI blog article: https://www.mbci.com/coordinating-roof-insulation-with-metal-building-construction/
The primary purpose of a building’s envelope (roof and walls) is to protect the building’s interior spaces from the exterior environment and provide the desired exterior aesthetics. Whether choosing insulated metal panels (IMPs) for their superior performance or, instead, looking to the wide range of aesthetic choices available with single-skin panels—or some combination of the two—the common goal must always be to protect the building from the potential ravages of water, air, vapor, and thermal/heat. By ensuring proper installation of metal panels and, thereby, properly sealing the building envelope, problems can be mitigated, efficiencies maximized, and the integrity of the building protected.
Here, we’ll briefly consider the benefits of each panel, and some key considerations relative to their sealant needs and capabilities.
Insulated Metal Panels (IMPs)
IMPs are lightweight, composite exterior wall and roof panels that have metal skins and an insulating foam core. They have superior insulating properties, excellent spanning capabilities, and shorter installation time and cost savings due to the all-in-one insulation and cladding. In effect, IMPs serve as an all-in-one air and water barrier, and are an excellent option for retrofits and new construction. With their continuous insulation, roof and wall IMPs provide performance and durability, as well as many aesthetic benefits.
Generally speaking, because of the nature of the joinery, it is easier to get a good seal in place with IMPs given their relative simplicity (i.e., putting the two pieces together with the sealant). They require great attention, though, in terms of air and vapor sealing—aspects largely controlled by the installers on a given project. As an example, vapor sealing in cold climates or applications is critical to the overall soundness of a building. Consider the damage a building could incur if moisture seeps into a panel and becomes trapped; it if freezes, it could push panels out of alignment. This would result in not just an unattractive aesthetic, but a performance failure as well. In order to be effective, all sealant and caulking must be fully continuous.
Single-skin panels, alternatively, offer the advantage of an expansive array of colors, textures and profiles. They are also thought to have more “sophisticated” aesthetics than IMPs. Single-skin panels are available in both concealed fastener and exposed fastener varieties, and are part of an assembly. They can be used alone or in combination with IMPs, and as long as the needed insulation is incorporated, single-skin panels can meet technical and code requirements, depending on the application. Single-skin products offer a wide range of metal roof systems and wall systems as well.
Getting the proper seal on single-skin panels may require extra sealants or closures, and have more parts and pieces that have to come together to create the seal. However, when properly installed and sealed, they can provide excellent performance in their own right. Some key caveats include ensuring panel laps are properly sealed with either tape or gun butyl sealants, and carefully inspecting air and water barriers for proper installation as well as penetrations through the wall for sealing/fire caulking prior to panel.
In most cases, following the details for the most common conditions will give you a successful and high-performing outcome.
Regardless of the type of metal panel used, taking the time and effort to ensure the sealing and caulking details are properly handled, metal buildings can protect the built environment and provide long-lasting quality and performance.
Many metal roofing installers may think that their years of experience on the job is enough. But even for those who have been putting up metal roofs for a long time, the truth is that if they haven’t put up a particular brand’s roof before, they need to go through that manufacturer’s installer training and get certified. There are several reasons for this.
- More and more, architects are starting to specify that an installer must be certified by the manufacturer of the product being installed.
- For many manufacturers, including MBCI, in order to get a Standard III warranty with no dollar limit—or any Day One warranty—training and certification are required.
- Installers need to know the proper technique and protocols—for a particular manufacturer’s product! After all, you don’t make any money by going back and fixing leaks.
There are many other standing seams that are very similar to those that MBCI sells, and while they may look similar, there will be a number of small differences, such as the way panels are notched or the way sealants are put in. Even the way companies test panels can be different. For instance, if you have a Florida or Dade County approval or an FM approval, that’s all tied into the way the roof system is tested. So, if someone has a project where one of those things is required, it is imperative to make sure the installer is using that brand’s system of doing things, down to every last detail. These are some of the things covered in certification courses.
At MBCI, we offer a three-day course that covers all of our standing seam panels, and have a separate two-day course for insulated metal panels, which provides advanced installer training in metal roof installation through classroom lecture and hands-on application in a variety of MBCI’s products, assembling roof systems on a mockup to reinforce what was learned from the presentations. Courses take place once a quarter in different locations throughout the United States.
In terms of who should attend certification courses, generally speaking, it’s the person from the company who will be doing the actual work since a certified installer needs to be on the roof any time any work is being done on the roof. He or she is the one we train. And that installer is tied back to the company in order for them to receive certification. That company has to have workman’s comp and general liability insurance. If the certified person leaves the company to go elsewhere, the first company needs to certify someone else.
The Bottom Line of Certification
From a bottom line perspective, it’s important for companies to be proactive in making sure there is always someone on their team who is a certified installer for the products they use—or might use. Not only will they learn tips and tricks for proper installation, but it will also avoid a situation where you have a job, the panels are being delivered the next week and you realize you need someone to be certified. Maybe it’s three weeks until the next certification opportunity. You’ll want to have all that settled before you need it.
Just because you’ve been installing roofing for 30 years, doesn’t mean installer training and certification isn’t necessary. Our best advice is to come to the class and learn all the little idiosyncrasies about whatever manufacturer’s roofing panels you’ll be installing. This is a case where even a little knowledge goes a long way.
Insulated metal panels (IMPs) used for building envelopes offer great simplicity in terms of enclosing a building in an attractive, energy-conscious manner. However, they require somewhat different thinking in terms of design and installation compared to conventional single skin panels on metal building with separately installed fiberglass insulation and vapor liners. That’s because, while the insulation aspect of IMPs is well controlled in the factory, the air and vapor sealing aspects are entirely in the hands of the installers in the field.
Why is vapor sealing a concern? Because it can make or break a building envelope. Airborne moisture that travels through seams, joints, or gaps between IMPs or between the panels and the structural steel can condense and wreak havoc on the integrity of the wall system. If that condensed moisture makes its way to unprotected edges of metal, then rusting, staining, and deterioration can occur. If it collects and drains out the bottom of the panel, then a building owner may mistakenly think that the IMPs are leaking water. If the moisture works its way inside a panel and becomes trapped it could freeze in cold climates or applications, and push panels enough to make unsightly or fail to perform as intended.
How does an installer of insulated metal panels avoid these issues? By properly using sealants as recommended by the IMP manufacturer to close the gaps and assure a vapor-tight installation. Here are the key things that installers need to pay attention to:
In most cases, butyl caulking is the recommended sealant for panel joints and perimeter attachments, although urethane sealant may be called for in some cases. For fire-rated panels, silicone sealants are usually required. The important caveat for all of these sealants is that they are most successfully installed when they’ve been stored within acceptable temperature ranges. In cold weather, they may need to be kept in a warming bin; in warm weather they must be kept out of direct sunlight.
Tools to Use
Applying any of the needed sealants will require using the proper tools. Manual caulking guns don’t provide the consistent quality of application needed, so electric or pneumatically operated applicators are required.
For typical building applications (non-freezer/coolers), the vapor sealant is placed in the interior panel joints when IMPs are installed vertically. For refrigerated spaces, the sealant is commonly placed on the exterior. If the IMPs are installed horizontally, then it usually is sealed on both the interior and the exterior panel joints to help with weather sealing as well. Note that the final placement of the sealant, as well as type and location, is actually the responsibility of the mechanical contractor/architect and not the panel supplier as it is to be based also on the mechanical design of the building envelope. In addition, the entire perimeter of the panels where they meet the building structure needs to be sealed. This includes the base flashing, interior corner trim, and eave struts. Further, marriage beads of butyl sealant must be placed at all panel terminations.
In order to be effective, all sealant and caulking must be fully continuous. That means that the thickness of the sealant bead must be consistent and thick enough to fully close all gaps between or around IMPs. It should not be overdone, however, since too much sealant will ooze out between panels that are pressed together, causing a bit of a mess on one side of the other. Sealant continuity also means that it can not be interrupted due to poor adhesion. Therefore, before any sealant is installed, the application surfaces must be cleaned and dry to be sure that full adhesion is achieved. Always check with the panel suppliers details for minimum bead size and critical locations.
Factory-Installed Option for IMP
Some IMP manufacturers offer the option of having sealant pre-installed along the edges of the IMPs. Since the panels are wrapped and sealed for shipping, the sealant is protected and should be ready for use onsite. However, in this case, it is incumbent on the installers to handle the panels quite carefully, since the inadvertent placement of a hand over the sealant can damage it or deform it enough to render it ineffective. This factory-installed option offers a labor saving in the field but must be checked during installation and can be impacted by time climate depending on the time of year. Field application, while requiring more labor, does provide greater onsite flexibility for installers. Nonetheless, in all instances, the installer must ensure the sealants are properly located.
By paying attention to the details of sealing and caulking, a metal building constructed with IMPs will be a quality installation that will hold up quite well over time. To find out more about IMP metal products and systems that can help your next building be more vapor- and weathertight, contact your local MBCI representative.
When it comes to understanding fire ratings for wall panels on buildings, one of the first things to overcome is incorrect information or misunderstanding that sometimes emerges around this topic. In an effort to achieve some greater clarity, let’s look at some of the basics of fire resistance ratings, particularly for insulated metal panels (IMPs).
Building Code Requirements
The fundamental reason that any wall needs to provide some degree of fire resistance is to allow people enough time to safely evacuate from a space or building in the event of a fire, or to prevent the spread of fire between defined areas or whole structures. Building and fire codes have been developed and adopted, in part, specifically to define the situations, building types, conditions and circumstances where different degrees of fire resistance are required to protect the public health, safety and welfare. Therefore, when looking at a specific building and the fire resistance ratings required, the applicable codes must be consulted and the proper determination made regarding the minimum fire resistance requirements for the different exterior and interior walls of that building.
Ratings-Based on Testing
The established means for knowing whether or not a wall meets a particular fire resistance rating is based on conducting a fire test in an independent laboratory. For IMPs, that means a manufacturer needs to submit full-size product samples to a laboratory such as Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL), which will then prepare and carry out the test according to standard, agreed-upon procedures such as ANSI/UL 263, “Standard for Fire Tests of Building Construction and Materials.” The procedures dictated by a standard such as this are intended to be the same for all similarly tested materials or products to determine the actual fire resistance rating for each. When the products are subjected to the prescribed heat and flame under uniform laboratory conditions, then they can be classified based on how well they performed. Some products, for example, may survive the test long enough to qualify for a 1- or 2-hour rating, while others may only qualify for a 30-minute rating before succumbing to the fire.
In creating or renovating a building, then, it is incumbent on the design and construction team to choose products and materials that have a proven, tested fire rating that meets or exceeds the building code requirements for the particular building at hand. If a manufacturer of IMPs has been identified ahead of time, then it may be possible to ask for evidence of the UL or similar test to prove that the selected product or assembly meets the code requirements. But many times, there is a need to first determine the requirements, and then look for the available products and manufacturers who can provide the needed fire resistance. Fortunately, UL maintains an online directory of all of the products that they have tested and certified. Their online certifications directory allows users to input selected criteria to search for specific result reports. Using this resource for IMPs, the UL Category Code of BXUV and the UL File Number of U050 should be entered to do a search. This will yield a summary list referencing the ANSU/UL263 test with a link to the BXUV.U050 test report for IMPs. There you will see under item 2: “Metal faced panels, nominal 42 in. wide by nominal 4 in. thick (for the 1 Hour Rating) nominal 7 in. thick (for the 2 Hour Rating) or nominal 8 in. thick (for the 3 hour rating) installed vertically or horizontally. Panels supplied factory double tongue and grove joint.” This lets the design and construction know that 1-, 2-, or 3-hour ratings are available depending on the thickness of the IMP and given that the factory joint is provided. Hence, the manufacturer can label their products accordingly.
By specifying and selecting the proper products that have been correctly tested and certified, then building code compliance is not only streamlined, the building will meet the inherent fire and safety requirements for the people who will occupy it.
For fire resistance information on MBCI panels, please review the product data sheets.
When using compressible insulation, say for instance fiberglass batt, consideration must be given to how that insulation is going to be deployed in the actual wall or roof. For instance, installers might place the insulation across the framing members and then smash it down with the cladding and run a screw through to the underlying structure. The problem here is that the insulation is rated with some R-value—and that R-value is determined by an ASTM procedure that also determines what its tested density is. So in essence, it’s ‘fluffy’ insulation.
One manufacturer’s insulation, however, might be thicker than another’s. The contractor is buying an R-value, not a density or a thickness. The insulation is tested to that R-value at whatever thickness and density¹ is needed to achieve it. Let’s say R-19 fiberglass batt is specified, but then it is put in an assembly and smashed down flat… now it’s not R-19 anymore; it’s now R-something else. That’s a thermal bridge—when the insulation’s R-value has been compromised.
Unfortunately, thermal bridging is almost impossible to eliminate. In the example above, another choice might be to put it between studs. Except in this situation, the studs break the insulation. While it’s not pinched, the studs are separating it. Whether the studs are metal or wood, in either case it’s still a significant thermal short circuit or a thermal bridge.
Even with the highest quality insulation systems—insulated metal panels, for example—a joint is required. Building is not possible without putting neighboring panels together. Therefore, insulation is discontinuous. While it’s impossible to avoid thermal bridging, there are two requirements to ensure the building performs the way it needs to perform.
- Thermal bridging must be mitigated. In other words, the designer or installer has to try to eliminate as much of it as possible.
- If thermal bridging is unavoidable, it must be accounted for in some fashion, which usually means putting more insulation somewhere to make up the difference. This is called a “trade-off” and is allowed by most building energy efficiency codes.²
Why Insulated Metal Panels?
Insulated metal panels then are the best bet, because although the joint is a thermal bridge, in effect, it is not nearly as impactful as breaking a line of fiberglass with a stud or smashing the fiberglass between the panel and a framing member. In the illustration below, R-value doesn’t just vary at that point where the panel and the stud meet. The entire insulation line gets smashed and one would have to go some distance from the stud before the insulation returns to its normal, fluffy thickness. These issues need to be mitigated and accounted for.
Manufacturers such as MBCI and Metl-Span publish insulated metal panels as U-factors because the joint is tested as part of the assembly (both mitigating and accounting for the aforementioned issues). These values can be found on product data sheets and technical bulletins, such as Metl-Span’s Insulation Values technical bulletin, published January 2017.
- ASTM C 665 – 12, Standard Specification for Mineral-Fiber Blanket Thermal Insulation for Light Frame Construction and Manufactured Housing, Table 1, Footnote c.
- ASHRAE 90.1 – 13, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Ride Residential Buildings, Section 5.6
- High Performance Green Building Products – INSMP2A (CEU)
Commercial projects aren’t one size fits all. By bringing in metal panel products to suit the individual need, designers and architects can provide custom solutions for a variety of applications. Single-skin metal panels and insulated metal panels (IMPs), if used correctly, can together add both aesthetic and functional value to your projects.
While IMPs can provide superior performance with regard to water control, air control, vapor control and thermal control, you may sometimes find your project requires—from an aesthetic perspective—the greater range of choices available in single-skin profiles. Let’s spend a little time looking at some of the reasons behind the growing trend of specifying a combination of insulated metal and single-skin panels.
Benefits of Insulated Metal Panels
Insulated metal panels are lightweight, composite exterior wall and roof panels that have metal skins and an insulating foam core. Their much-touted benefits include:
- Superior insulating properties
- Excellent spanning capabilities
- Insulation and cladding all in one, which often equates to a shorter installation time and cost savings
Benefits of Single Skin
Single-skin panels, on the other hand, with their expansive array of colors, textures and profiles, may have more sophisticated aesthetics. They can be used on their own or in combination with IMPs. It should be noted, too, that single-skin panels can—in their own right (as long as the necessary insulation is incorporated) —satisfy technical and code requirements, depending on the application.
Beyond aesthetics, when it comes to design options, single-skin products offer a wide range of metal roof systems, including standing seam roof panel, curved, and even through-fastened systems. As for wall systems, those may include concealed fastened panels, interior wall and liner panels, and even canopies and soffits, not to mention exposed fastened systems. Therefore, you have a wide range of not only aesthetics options but VE (Value Engineering) options as well.
So, in what situations might the designer or architect choose to combine the two panel types? Let’s examine a couple of specific scenarios related to the automotive or self-storage worlds as a means of illustration. In both of these types of applications, it is not uncommon for the designer to recognize the importance of wanting to keep the “look” of the building consistent with branding or to bring in other design elements.
Single-skin panels can be used as a rain screen system in the front of the building or over the office area, and would provide the greater number of design options. In the rest of the building, designers can take advantage of the strength, durability and insulation benefits of IMPs. Although you could use one or the other for these examples, the advantage of mixing the two would be achieving a certain look afforded by the profiles of single-skin, while still adhering to stringent building codes and reducing installation time—which is the practical part of using IMPs.
Focus on HPCI IMP Systems
One great example of a current trend we’re seeing at MBCI is the use of the HPCI-barrier IMP system, along with single-skin panels. The High Performance Continuous Insulation (HPCI) system is a single system that is a practical and effective replacement for the numerous barrier components found in traditional building envelopes.
A big benefit to using the HPCI system is that the barrier wall is already in place. In terms of schedule, the HPCI barrier system is typically installed by contractors who are also installing the single-skin system, eliminating the need for multiple work crews, and thereby minimizing construction debris and reducing the likelihood of improper installation. With a general lead time of four to six weeks for the HPCI and a week or two for the single-skin, the installation goes fairly quickly. Therefore, it appeals as the best of all worlds—a single system meeting air, water, thermal and vapor codes (ex.: IBC 2016, NSTA fire standards) plus the design flexibility of a single-skin rain screen product. (Note: The HPCI panel must be separated from the interior of the building by an approved thermal barrier of 0.5″ (12.7mm) gypsum wallboard to meet IBC requirements.)
Bottom line, HPCI design features and benefits include the following:
• Provides air, water, thermal and vapor barrier in one step
• Allows you to use multiple façade options while maintaining thermal efficiency
• Easy and fast installation, with reduced construction and labor costs
As designers, architects and owners are getting smarter about a “fewer steps, smarter dollars” concept and an increased awareness of applicable codes and standards, not to mention lifecycle costs, the trend towards maximizing the strengths of available systems will continue to grow. Whether the right choice is an IMP system, single-skin or some combination, the possibilities are virtually endless.