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Insulated Metal Panels Can Improve Sustainability, Save on Costs

“What are the costs?”

This is usually the bottom-line question building owners ask prior to every new project, but maybe the question should really be:

“What are the true costs?”

When it comes to new commercial building projects in 2022 costs are certainly front of center, especially with inflation reaching levels we have not seen in 40 years, but we are also living in an era when people around the world are concerned about how our actions today are going to affect future generations.

“Companies must build trust and loyalty by clearly demonstrating that they share environmental goals with their customers,” Pete Davis, CEO and cofounder of GreenPrint, told NACS Magazine. “Defending and preserving our planet is not only the right thing to do, it's good business.”

Builders on commercial projects are finding that they can not only improve sustainability with the use of insulated metal panels (IMPs), but these alternative materials to conventional concrete wall systems can ultimately save costs as well.

Sustainability: One Building Envelope at a Time

IMPs, with their built-in insulation, are a sustainable option alone on the higher thermal performance they can deliver to building envelopes.

“IMPs have a foam core that can provide a thermal performance of R-7 per inch or greater. This R-value is impressive when you look at the typical thermal resistance of other types of insulation,” says the Metal Construction Association Continuing Education Center teaching materials. “Generally speaking, as the thickness of an IMP wall system increases from 1 to 6 inches, the R-values increase from 7 to 48. The R-value of roof systems also ranges from R-10 to R-48, as the thickness of the panels ranges from 1.5 to 6 inches.”

Green Span Profiles popular MesaLine exterior wall and ceiling IMPs, for example, deliver an R-value thickness of R-8 per inch. MesaLine 6-inch panel thickness delivered R-values between 44.05 at 75 degrees mean and 47.35 at 35 degrees mean in ASTM C518 test results.

“IMPs support many sustainable design criteria and so they are often selected on projects that are either pursuing green building certifications or where the owners want the buildings designed to be green conscious,” says the Metal Construction Association.

IMPs Sustainability vs. Conventional Concrete Systems

IMPs shine when it comes to sustainability when compared to conventional concrete wall systems.

“Concrete is the most widely used man-made material in existence. It is second only to water as the most-consumed resource on the planet,” reported the BBC. “But, while cement - the key ingredient in concrete - has shaped much of our built environment, it also has a massive carbon footprint.”

The BBC article highlighted that:

  • As of 2018, cement production contributed to about 8 percent of all carbon emissions worldwide, contributing substantially to global warming
  • If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest emitter in the world, behind China and the United States
  • Cement production contributes 3X more carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than aviation fuel (2.5 percent) and is not far behind the global agriculture business (12 percent)

“Not only does the production of Portland cement involve quarrying - causing airborne pollution in the form of dust - it also requires the use of massive kilns, which require large amounts of energy,” said the BBC. “The actual chemical process of making cement also emits staggeringly high levels of CO2.”

Concerns about the sustainability of cement-based construction have driven an embrace of alternative materials and methods.

“"I do believe the construction industry is approaching a point where alternative materials will be more widely adopted," Ginger Krieg Dosier, co-founder and CEO of BioMason, told the BBC. "This is in part due to market demand, other innovative technologies and wider concern for climate change."

Building with IMPs: Change Does Not Have to be Costly

While commercial builders may accept that utilizing IMPs in their projects is a sustainable option, they may worry that the costs are prohibitive.

The reality, however, is that the labor costs saved with the easier-to-install IMPs can make projects about 25 percent less expensive compared to installing insulated precast and tilt-up concrete walls.

“Cost savings of sustainable material selection can really add up. The applied total cost savings of using the IMP system in the example 150,000 square foot industrial building, instead of concrete wall systems, range from $279,941 in St. Louis compared to tilt-up concrete walls, up to $540,324 in Seattle, compared to insulated precast concrete,” reported Commercial Construction & Renovation about a study conducted by global construction and asset management consultant Currie & Brown.

The savings are not limited to walls. IMP roof system installations, for example, are comprised of basically one installation step with the panels containing:

  • Exterior face
  • Insulation
  • Air and water barriers
  • Interior face

“The quicker installation results in labor cost savings and dramatically shorter project schedules. It allows the inside work to begin sooner,” says the Metal Construction Association. “Avoiding the layer-by-layer, trade-intensive installation process typically employed in built-up roof assemblies avoids a lot of potential mistakes and missteps that will compromise the performance of the roof.”

While sustainability and cost-savings are enough, IMPs trump card comes in that they also deliver great performance, meeting and exceeding, increasingly strict local building and energy codes and regulations.

“Research confirms that making greener building envelope material choices doesn’t have to cost more. IMPs should be the cladding material of choice for saving costs, reducing embodied carbon and improving building performance,” concludes Commercial Construction & Renovation.

Contact Green Span Profiles today to find out how you can design and construct your next commercial building with sustainable and cost-effective insulated metal panels.

Topics: Insulated Metal Panels, Construction