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The Best and Most Common Uses of Insulated Metal Panels (IMPs)

Insulated metal panels (IMPs), with their energy efficiency and thermal performance, are still the go-to material for cold storage facility construction, but advances in IMP detailing by manufacturers and architects over the years now allows these systems to be used across a wider range of projects.

“When you think of insulated metal panels (IMPs) on a building, do you go straight to cold storage and industrial projects? While IMPs have traditionally been used in those projects, they are now being used on buildings in every industry sector,” wrote Metal Construction News editor Marcy Marro in June 2022.

From sports arenas to performing arts centers to school campuses to medical centers to office buildings to retail buildings to courthouses to wineries to airport terminals, IMPs are making an impact on building projects.

“Recent improvements in the metal panel manufacturing process have resulted in a wider selection of profiles,” says the Metal Construction Association (MCA). “New developments in coating technology provide even longer life spans for the metal panels. And a multitude of new design options have allowed preformed metal wall panels to make their way into the mainstream of commercial building design.”

What are Insulated Metal Panels (IMPs)?

IMPs are formed by a continuously poured-in-place manufacturing process binding interior and exterior steel facings to a polyisocyanurate insulation foam core.

The result is a lightweight composite exterior wall and roof panels with metal skins and an insulating foam core.

“These panels have superior insulating properties, and their outstanding spanning capabilities and one-pass installation makes them quick to install, saving costs compared to other wall assemblies,” says the MCA. “IMPs are available in a wide variety of colors, widths, profiles and finishes, enabling virtually any aesthetic desired for walls and roofs.”

New Modern, Colorful Look: Not Your Father’s IMPs

IMPs have come a long way since First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt dedicated a small house in 1937 clad in structural insulated panels (SIPs) which paved the way for today’s IMPs.

“SIPs are not to be confused with insulated metal panels (IMPs). While similar in their composition and installation, they are not the same,” said Metal Construction News senior editor Mark Robins. “SIPs are structurally tested for axial loading and are certified to support floor and roof loads. IMPs have only been tested and certified for lateral loads like wind. IMPs provide continuous insulation and architectural finishes and are usually no more than 2 inches in thickness and require attachment to a structural frame.”

IMPs took flight in the 1960 and 1970s, but at first were pegged as mostly for industrial-looking projects.

“In the 1960s when metal panels were mostly limited to through fastener (barn) style panels and some standing seam roofs. Some felt straight metal panels were not necessarily as pleasing to the eye as wood shake, tile, or slate roofing, and many preferred their look and resale value. Ironically, today many of these non-metal building materials installed in the 1960s have badly deteriorated,” wrote Robins in Metal Architecture.

Architects and building designers are finding today that they can make some bold statements with the increasing use of vivid, colored IMPs in their projects.

“Brightly colored metal panels inspire certain feelings via sensory perception. A brightly colored building changes the entire landscape around it, conveying meaning, evoking emotion, and influencing how people interact in a space,” wrote Robins.

Types of Buildings Using IMPs

The growing design appeal of IMPs are making them a choice for buildings not thought of in the past.

“Higher education, high schools, and facilities for research and development for the auto industry and pharmaceuticals, are other popular markets for IMPs,” wrote Marro. “Healthcare is a growing market for architectural IMPs, which lend itself to a high-tech look.”

Some of the most common building types utilizing IMPs today are:

  • Athletic/Recreation
  • Automotive
  • Banks
  • Education
  • Government
  • Healthcare
  • Hospitality
  • Manufacturing
  • Offices
  • Retail
  • Transportation
  • Warehouses

“One of the benefits of IMPs is that they can be easily integrated into pre-engineered metal building designs,” writes Marro

Where IMPs are Being Used Today

The popularity of IMPs continues to grow today across all sectors.

“For decades the application of preformed, or roll-formed, metal wall panels have served building owners and architects as one of the best combinations of economy, service, and design. Preformed metal panels still do so today, if not more so,” says the MCA.

Some of the best uses of IMPs come in the following areas:

Commercial and Institutional

IMPs are becoming the material of choice for not only commercial projects but those building projects that are publicly financed.

“IMPs are ideal for all types of commercial and industrial buildings including institutional, recreational, government buildings, and manufacturing facilities,” says the MCA. “Projects from schools to retail centers to power plants, benefit from the unique energy efficient insulation, lightweight construction, durability, and cost-effective, timely installation of single component Insulated Metal Panels”

Climate considerations for these types of projects include temperature, humidity, airborne particles, and air movement.

Architectural

Architects and building designers can take advantage of the energy efficiency and thermal performance advantages of IMPs without sacrificing style and aesthetics.  

Says the MCA: “Architectural IMPs have the normal attributes of other commercial and industrial segments such as high insulation values, speed of build, vertical and horizontal applications but incorporate options such as custom shapes and widths, special custom colors and finishes, custom fabrication including but not limited to bent corners, curved panels, and trim less ends”

These projects can include options that incorporate panels that integrate with windows, louvers, sunshades or other integrated products to offer total building envelope solutions.

“IMPs provide architects freedom to create their unique building designs,” says the MCA.

Cold Storage

Cold storage facility builders have long known that IMPs offer them the most bang for their buck.

“Insulated Metal Panels are considered the ultimate solution for climate-controlled facilities. Whether the need is for manufacturing, processing, storage, or distribution of perishable food or other materials, an IMP wall has the answer,” says the MCA. “Available in panel thicknesses from 3” to 6”, a wall can be designed to meet your specific thermal performance requirement.”

Additional features include:

  • Long spanning capability
  • Flat and ribbed shaped panels
  • High performance coatings
  • Special joint designs
  • Details to meet safe hygiene and contamination requirements.

Contact Green Span Profiles today for American made, high-quality IMPs for any style building and any size project. 

Topics: Cold Storage, Insulated Metal Panels, Construction