Many large, commercial, low-rise buildings often don’t benefit from steeply-sloped roofs the way residences and small commercial buildings might. This is because a steep roof slope would add unwanted height and unnecessary construction cost. Buildings like warehouses, retail stores, etc. are more appropriately built with low-slope roofing, commonly known as “flat roofs”. The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) defines low-slope roofs as those with “a slope at or less than 3:12″. Anything steeper qualifies as a “high-slope roof”. With this in mind, let’s look at some key points to consider when designing and constructing a low-slope roof.
Low-Slope Roofing Materials
When it comes to selecting low-slope roofing products, there are generally three fundamental choices:
- Asphalt/ Bituminuous Products: The traditional commercial roofing norm for many years, the use of asphalt/bituminous products has dwindled as newer, more appealing options have emerged.
- Flexible Membrane Roofing: This roofing material can be made from a variety of types of plastic/polymer-based materials (commonly known as EPDM, TPO, PVC, etc.). Rolls of the chosen membrane are laid out on the roof structure and secured in place either with mechanical fasteners (screws with large washers) or with a continuous layer of adhesive.
- Metal Roofing: Sometimes overlooked, metal roofing is suitable for different roof slopes. Many metal roofs that use standing-seam systems are rated for use with a pitch as low as ½:12.
When considering which type of roofing material to use for a building project, there are a number of significant differences that illustrate why metal roofing is often the ideal choice.
Engineered For Superior Performance
Standing-seam metal roofing is made specifically for use on low-slope roofs as it meets a number of performance requirements:
- Water resistance: Precipitation doesn’t penetrate through metal or through the standing seams where the metal panels join together. This is why they can tolerate such low slopes, allowing the water to drain away slowly and predictably without leakage.
- Rigidity: The rigid nature of metal means that there is less opportunity for ponding (standing water). This is not always the case with asphalt/bituminous or membrane roofing systems.
- Drainage: Metal roofs carry water to the building’s edge toward gutters and downspouts that carry it away from the building. Other roofing systems rely on drainage piped inside the building. This takes up space and has the potential to leak water inside the building and cause damage.
- Wind Resistance: Standardized uplift testing shows that metal roofing performs as well or better in extreme weather than mechanically-fastened or fully-adhered membrane systems.
- Durability: The most cited advantage of metal roofing is its long-term strength and durability. Engineered design and use of high-quality coatings ensures a longer lifespan—50 years or more. In contrast, other roofing types typically feature lifespan ratings of 20 or 30 years.
- Puncture Resistance: Low-slope metal roofing is more puncture-resistant than asphalt/bituminous or membrane roofing. This makes it better able to tolerate foot traffic, hail and other puncture-inducing hazards.
- Construction/ Installation Ease: Metal roofing panels are custom-made to suit specific building sizes and end uses. This customization typically means it takes less time to place and install metal roofing in the field. Further, metal panels can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions and still install and perform as intended. Low-slope roofs are also safer to walk on with less risk of slips, falls and other hazards.
Using metal roofing on low-slope roofing systems can be cost effective in a number of ways:
- Fewer labor hours as a result of the ease of installation saves money during construction.
- Competitive material costs, particularly if the metal roofing is part of a total metal building package from a single manufacturer.
- Minimal maintenance requirements and aversion to rusting, mold growth and decay that save the building owner money over time.
This all adds up to a very favorable life-cycle cost.
The performance, cost-effectiveness and life-cycle benefits of metal roofing panels make them a viable option for low-slope roofing systems. Manufacturers like MBCI can help you select the right metal roofing products and provide information and resources to help ensure proper installation.
Designing and constructing sustainable buildings has become a mainstream expectation of most building owners. Whether for reduced energy costs, higher returns on investment, or as an organizational philosophy, “green” building solutions are in demand. Perhaps the best known and most often cited program to achieve these goals is the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC’s) LEED® rating system. While some may think that green buildings are more complicated and costly to build, that is not actually the case. This is especially true when metal building materials are used. In fact, metal buildings are an ideal and economical way to pursue sustainability goals and LEED certification. How? We break it down as follows:
The LEED® Program
The LEED program has been in use since 1998 and is now used worldwide. It is a voluntary, point-based rating system that allows for independent review and certification at different levels. These levels include Certified (40-49 points), Silver (50-59 points), Gold (60-79 points), or Platinum (80 or more points). Since it allows for choices in which points are pursued, innovation and flexibility are entirely possible as long as specific performance criteria are met. It also encourages collaborative and integrative design, construction and operation of the building.
Points are organized into six basic categories, many of which can be addressed through metal building design and construction, as summarized below.
- Location and Transportation: Metal buildings can be manufactured and delivered to virtually any location. That means they can support LEED criteria for being located near neighborhoods with diverse uses, available mass transit, bicycle trails, or other sustainable amenities. Metal building parking areas can also be designed to promote sustainable practices for green vehicles and reduced pavement. This all contributes toward obtaining LEED eligibility.
- Sustainable Sites: Adding a building to any site will certainly impact the natural environment already there. Delivering portions of a pre-engineered metal building package in a sequence to arrive as needed means that the staging area on-site can be minimized—reducing site impacts. Additionally, using a “cool metal roof” has been shown to reduce “heat island” effects on the surrounding site and also qualify for LEED.
- Water Efficiency: Any design that reduces or eliminates the need for irrigation of plantings and other outdoor water uses is preferred. Incorporating metal roofing with gutters and downspouts, as is commonly done on metal buildings, allows opportunities to capture rainwater for irrigation or other uses. It also helps control water run-off from the roof and assists with good storm water control.
- Energy and Atmosphere: Metal buildings can truly shine in this category. Creating a well-insulated and air-sealed building enclosure is the most important and cost-effective step in creating an energy conserving building. A variety of insulation methods for metal building roof and wall systems are used to achieve this. Typically, metal building construction uses one or more layers of fiberglass insulation and liners combined with sealant and air barriers. Alternatively, insulated metal panels (IMPs) provide all of these layers in a single manufactured sandwich panel with impressive performance. Windows, skylights and translucent roof panels can provide natural daylight, allowing electric lighting to be dimmed or turned off. For buildings seeking to generate their own electricity, standing-seam metal roofing provides an ideal opportunity for the simplified installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Metal roofs generally provide a sustainable service life in excess of 40 years. This means they can outlast the PV array, thus avoiding costly roof replacements during most PV array lifespans.
- Materials and Resources: Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) are recognized by LEED as the most effective means to holistically assess the impacts that materials and processes have on the environment and on people. Fortunately, the Metal Building Manufacturer’s Association (MBMA) has collaborated with the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute and UL Environment to develop an industry-wide life cycle assessment report. There is also an Athena Impact Estimator that can help with providing LEED documentation. Metal buildings support exceptional environmental performance through the significant use of recycled steel and the reduced need for energy intensive concrete due to lighter weight buildings.
- Indoor Environmental Quality: Most people spend much more time indoors than outside, which impacts human health. Therefore, LEED promotes or requires using materials that don’t contain or emit harmful substances. It also promotes design options for natural daylight, exterior views and acoustical control to promote psychological and emotional well-being. Metal buildings are routinely designed to readily incorporate components that help achieve these indoor qualities.
In addition, some LEED points are available for demonstrating innovation and addressing priorities within a geographic region.
Considering the qualities listed above, metal buildings clearly provide a prime opportunity to pursue LEED certification at any level. To find out more about the LEED rating system, visit https://new.usgbc.org/leed. To find out more about successfully designing and constructing metal buildings pursuing LEED certification, contact your local MBCI representative.
In a prior post on insulated metal panels (IMPs) we reviewed some of the basic things everyone should know about this versatile and lightweight metal building component. In this posting, we will drill down a bit more on the benefits of incorporating IMPs into a new or retrofit construction project. Here are some of the top reasons they are so popularly used in both walls and roofs:
Energy Conserving, Space Saving Insulation
Foam plastic insulation is used between the metal skins of IMPs. Such insulation has been accepted for use by building codes for quite awhile provided it meets certain conditions. IMPs have been tested and shown to meet or exceed all code requirements for construction and for energy conservation too. Part of their appeal over other ways to insulate is that they can achieve high performance in a thinner wall or roof assembly than would be required with other types of insulation, such as fiberglass. IMPs are available in thicknesses that range from 2 to 6 inches and have corresponding R-values from R-14 to R-46 allowing design professionals to select the thickness that matches the energy performance level sought in a particular building. Other insulation types would require thicknesses of at least twice as much to approach the same R-values as IMPs. Further, the metal interior and exterior skins are the only finish material needed so the total panel thickness is very space efficient. Thinner IMPs in the walls and roofs can save space in the building or on the site all while achieving high energy performance.
Durability, Longevity, and Low Maintenance
The manufactured panels are rigid and quite strong. They have been tested for compression, tensile, and shear strength with impressive numbers that come about because of the combination of the rigid foam and steel properties. The surfaces are made from the same long-lasting galvanized and factory finished steel used in other metal wall and roof panels so their resistance to weather, abuse, and even harsh conditions has been proven, making them very easy to maintain. In locations where severe weather and storms are a concern, they can also be specified to meet requirements for heavy winds, hail, and similar concerns. Plus, since the skins of the IMPs are made of noncombustible steel, they provide an ignition barrier as part of an overall fire protection scheme for the building.
Cost Saving Construction
IMPs are an “all-in-one” product that takes the place of many other products and components used in traditional construction. Instead of requiring multiple trades and materials to be installed individually over some number of weeks, IMPs are installed by a metal building contractor and allow the walls and roof to be completely closed in with a single trade. The use of concealed fasteners in the side joint of the panels makes installation quick and easy. Unlike other construction systems, the inherent strength and resiliency of IMPs means that work doesn’t need to stop over weather concerns. All of this saves a considerable amount of labor costs and can also save a lot of time meaning buildings can be completed quicker and more economically. It could also mean that an owner is able to occupy and use the building sooner, thus reducing construction financing costs and allowing operations to begin more quickly.
Versatility for Use in Many Building Types
IMPs can be used in virtually any type of new construction and for many retrofit applications too. There is a range of modular panel sizes that can work successfully with different structural elements of the rest of the building. The finished profiles and colors can all be selected to match the design needs of the building with edges, corners, and trim details all based on simple, appealing aesthetics. There are even IMPs specially designed for cold storage or refrigerated space applications. These panels may be part of the building exterior or create an isolated space within a larger building. Either way, they are designed for the rigors of a high use installation.
With such a broad range of benefits and capabilities, you owe it to yourself to check them out for a building project that you may be involved in. The best place to start is by contacting your local MBCI representative, and by signing up for our newsletter to subscribe to our blog.
When selecting a metal roofing product, there is an expectation that it will perform as intended over the life of the building. But what assures building owners, code officials, or design professionals that a product will in fact perform as promised? This question often comes up in building product discussions and the accepted way to answer it is to subject the products to physical testing. The type of testing is usually very specific to the product based on protocols and procedures developed by independent agencies such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), ASTM International, or others. Manufacturers typically submit their products to independent testing labs who follow these standard test procedures. Once testing has concluded, they report the results back to the manufacturer. These results then show whether the product meets stated performance criteria or not. If not, the manufacturer can re-design and re-test until it does and then make the final results available to the public.
For metal roofing, a series of relevant and important tests are typically performed. In this blog, we will look at two of them related to structural performance and wind uplift.
The structural integrity of metal roofing is crucial given the various natural forces that can be imposed on the materials. Effects from wind, snow, or other conditions can compromise its integrity. Accordingly, the ASTM Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings (including sub-committee E06.57 on Performance of Metal Roof Systems) has developed ASTM E1592 “Standard Test Method for Structural Performance of Sheet Metal Roof and Siding Systems by Uniform Static Air Pressure Difference”. While the standard acknowledges the use of computation (i.e. calculations) to determine the basic structural capacity of most metal products, it also points out that some conditions are outside of the scope of computational analysis and hence need to be tested.
The standard describes a test method with “optional apparatus and procedures for use in evaluating the structural performance of a given (metal) system for a range of support spacings or for confirming the structural performance of a specific installation”. As such, it is very specific both to metal roofing and its installation. This test method uses imposed air pressure not to look at air leakage but simply to determine structural reactions. It consists of three steps:
1. Sealing the test specimen into or against one face of a test chamber
2. Supplying air to, or exhausting air from, the chamber at the rate required to maintain the test pressure difference across the specimen
3. Observing, measuring, and recording the deflection, deformations, and nature of any failures of principal or critical elements of the panel profile or members of the anchor system
The test needs to be performed with enough variation to produce a load deformation curve of the metal and account for typical edge restraint (fastening) representative of field conditions.
Manufacturers need to submit different products that are tested at least once at two different span lengths between supports. Standing seam roof panels are typically tested at a 5’-0” and 1’-0” span. Spans between the two tested spans can be interpolated. The result is a table of tested loading results that can be compared to code required or engineered design loading to then determine if the selected material and spacing are adequate for the project needs or if another product or spacing is needed.
The ASTM E1592 test is focused on the structural integrity of metal panels. It also uses positive and negative air pressure in a static (i.e. non-moving) condition to determine performance. There is also a separate concern about how metal roofing will perform in a dynamic condition as would be expected in a windy condition where wind gusts can ebb and flow erratically. In that regard, a separate test developed jointly between Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) looks at the ability of roofing to resist being blown off a building due to wind. Known as ANSI/UL 580 “Standard for Tests for Uplift Resistance of Roof Assemblies”, it has become the recognized means to identify and classify the suitability of roofing for different wind conditions – low to high.
This test is also specific in its scope and intent stating that it “evaluates the roof deck, its attachment to supports, and roof covering materials”. It also points out that it is not intended to test special roof conditions, main or secondary structural supports, or deterioration of roofing. The standard prescribes in considerable detail the type of test chamber that needs to be constructed and used for the testing which includes three sections: “a top section to create a uniform vacuum, a center section in which the roof assembly (i.e. deck, attachment, and roofing) is constructed, and a bottom section to create uniform positive pressure”. The test procedure is then based on placing the roof assembly into the test chamber and subjecting it to a prescribed sequence of 5 phases of oscillating positive and negative pressure cycles (simulating dynamic wind conditions) over 80 minutes of total testing.
There are four wind uplift classifications obtainable for a tested assembly based on the test assembly retaining its attachment, integrity and without any permanent damage. These include Class 15, Class 30, Class 60, and Class 90. Each class has its own requirements for test pressures with increasing pressure as the class number increases. Higher class numbers indicate increasing levels of wind uplift resistance. Note, that to obtain a Class 60 rating, the tested assembly must pass the Class 30 test then be immediately subjected to the Class 60 test sequence. Similarly, to obtain a Class 90 rating, the tested assembly must first pass both the Class 30 and 60 tests. Metal roofing manufacturers who want their roofing products tested and classified under UL 580 must pair them with standard roof deck and fastening materials. Hence most have many different tests performed and results reported accordingly.
When reviewing metal roofing options, it is comforting to know that most manufacturers have tested their products and designed them to meet or exceed minimum requirements. To find out more about tested results of products you may be considering, contact your local MBCI representative or see the MBCI website and select the “testing” tab under a selected product.
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.
Among the many benefits offered by cool roofs—including a decrease in urban heat island effect or increased roof system longevity—perhaps the most significant is a reduction in peak demand energy usage which directly affects building expenses.
Peak demand is the highest point in the day at which a building draws electrical consumption. A facility’s monthly utility rates are largely determined by the power usage level at this time, so anything that can be done to drive usage down will significantly reduce utility costs. As evidenced by their test values, cool roofs are an effective way to decrease air conditioning loads during peak demand times.
Cool roof values are expressed in terms of solar reflectance and thermal emissivity. The combination of these values is used to determine how hot a surface will become by its ability to reflect solar energy and radiate heat away from itself. Cool roofsare capable of reflecting solar heat away from a building by more than 70 percent. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that ENERGY STAR® qualified roofing products can lower roof surface temperatures by up to 50°F.
According to Jeff Steuben, executive director, and Carolyn Richter, communications manager, Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC), in a recent Florida Roofing article, “Building occupants can experience improved comfort as compared to a conventional dark roof, as the building’s interior is subject to less thermal flux and stays cooler during warm seasons,” and, “Reduced indoor temperatures lead to energy savings from reduced cooling energy loads.”
Along these lines, contractors can also access a CRRC-provided listing of cool roof rebates, codes and voluntary cool roof programs at: www.coolroofs.org/resources/rebates-and-codes.
Cool Roofing Longevity
In addition to energy efficiency, cool metal roofs are known for extended durability and longevity, with most products offering a 40-year finish warranty.
In fact, a well-noted extensive study, Natural Exposure Testing in California, conducted by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, found that pre-painted metal roofing maintained higher levels of reflectance, over a three-year period, due to its ability to shed particulate matter, as compared to conventional roofing materials. Further, pre-painted metal roofing has been found to retain 95 percent of its initial solar reflectance over this same three-year period.
Increasing performance and energy savings, solar reflective pigments in cool metal roofs offer higher total solar reflectance and thermal emittance, even in darker colors. With cool roof technology, the ability for the roof to store heat and radiate that heat into the building after sundown is dramatically reduced.
Cool metal roofs are proven to deliver environmental and performance benefits, of which the most significant to building owners is their contribution to the bottom line. Although savings will vary based upon geography, materials and insulation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that reflective roofs can save up to 40 percent of a building’s cooling energy costs.
When utilizing the U.S. Department of Energy’s Cool Roof Peak Calculator, contractors will discover that the total value of energy savings offered by a cool roof averages more than $1,000 annually in most climate zones for a typical commercial building. Furthermore, this applies to both cool roofing installed over both existing roof insulation and new insulation.
As established by documented study and significant heat build-up reduction levels, cool roofs are a proven strategy for supporting longer lasting roofs, reducing both utility costs and decreasing a building’s environmental footprint as Steuben and Richter conclude, “cool roofs are one of the most effective ways to obtain energy savings and environmental rewards through building envelope design and re-roofing projects.”
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)