The Ultimate Guide to IMPs

Posted by , GSP Marketing on January 4, 2024
GSP Marketing

Insulated metal panels (IMPs) are like the “Swiss Army knife” in the construction world. They are strong, versatile, energy-efficient, and can save builders time and money.

But what exactly are they, and why are they becoming increasingly popular?

Technically speaking, according to Green Span Profiles, a leading manufacturer of IMPs based in Texas, IMPs are panels built by a continuously poured-in-place process binding interior and exterior corrosion-resistant steel facings to a polyisocyanurate insulating foam core.

To gain a better understanding of IMPs, it might be better to break down the three letters in the acronym:

  • Insulated: This is what sets IMPs apart from other building materials as the insulating core, typically made from rigid polyurethane (PUR) or polyisocyanurate (PIR) foam, acts as a shield, keeping unwanted heat or cold from buildings. The R-value of R-8 per inch of thickness (nominal) has virtually no equal among cladding materials and its location between two metal skins means little to no long-term loss of R-value over time. The insulation is a closed-cell foam composed of billions of tiny bubbles acting like miniature double-paned windows. The bubbles contain dead air (gas) trapped inside. Since there is no better insulator than dead air, these tiny bubbles give the foam its tremendous thermal performance. This results in energy efficiency as IMPs help reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions by improving thermal performance, as well as forming an air and water barrier by creating a moisture-resistant envelope that controls air and water vapor on the exterior of walls, roofs, or slabs.
  • Metal: The outer and inner skins of an IMP are made from durable steel or aluminum. This provides structural strength, weather resistance, and a sleek aesthetic – allowing buildings to withstand the elements and look good while doing it. These metal skins are fire-resistant, and their strength allows for less structural support, leading to installation efficiency, speed, and cost-effectiveness. Basically, fewer girts equals quicker erection times. To protect against corrosion, the metal skins are typically G90 galvanized or coated in Galvalume. Metal is a material of choice for builders because of its longevity with 20-year warranties guaranteeing that the metal will not rupture, fail structurally, or perforate due to normal atmospheric conditions, but IMPs are known to last 40, even 60 years, matching the average lifespan of most buildings. The metal used in IMPs also make it a sustainable option as not only is the product 100 percent recyclable, but most IMP manufacturers use steel with a minimum of 30 percent recycled content.
  • Panels: IMP panels are a bit like LEGO blocks for builders as they are prefabricated panels that come in various lengths, widths, and thicknesses, like modular blocks for easy construction. Quick to ship and assemble, IMPs come in panels for exterior walls, interior walls, ceilings, soffits, and roofs. Installers can cover a lot of ground, saving on project costs, thanks to the standard 42-inch width of IMP panels. Builders can use specialized vacuum-lift equipment that makes handling and setting these panels as easy as snapping those LEGO’s in place. Most IMPs come with an integral tongue-and-groove joint facilitating a quick, easy and, most importantly, weathertight installation. They can be installed horizontally or vertically. One of the big reasons that IMPs are surging in popularity is that they come in many colors, profiles, sizes, shapes, and finishes, offering architects, designers, and builders aesthetic freedom in constructing everything from sports arenas to schools to office buildings to warehouses.

Beyond the Basics: A World of Applications

IMPs then are both a metal cladding and a durable form of installation.

The cold storage industry, long a user of IMPs to keep their products from perishing, are far from the only industry today taking advantage of these building materials.

IMPs are incredibly versatile and can be used for a wide range of building and construction projects, including:

  • Commercial buildings: Warehouses, offices, retail stores, and more.
  • Industrial facilities: Factories, power plants, and manufacturing plants.
  • Agricultural buildings: Barns, greenhouses, and storage facilities.
  • Cold storage facilities: Food processing plants and refrigerated warehouses.
  • Residential buildings: Roofs, walls, and even interior partitions.

“IMPs have enjoyed a steady push into the commercial, industrial, institutional, and architectural markets,” explains Brian N. Jaks, Green Span Profiles vice president. “Schools, churches, hospitals and more have found IMPs to be a cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing way to put roofs and walls on their structures. IMP panels today are sleek and have a high-end appeal that is being embraced by the public.”

IMPs are Gaining Popularity for the Following Reasons

There are many reasons why IMPs are becoming the go-to choice for builders and architects:

  • Energy efficiency: IMPs offer superior thermal insulation, reducing energy consumption and lowering your cooling and heating costs.

  • Durability: Metal panels are resistant to weather, corrosion, and pests, ensuring a long lifespan for your building.

  • Fast and easy installation: Prefabricated panels reduce construction time and labor costs compared to traditional building methods.

  • Lightweight: IMPs are lighter than brick or concrete, reducing the load on your building's foundation and potentially allowing for taller structures.

  • Versatility: IMPs come in a wide range of colors, finishes, and profiles, allowing for creative architectural designs.

  • Sustainable: IMPs often contain recycled materials and can be recycled at the end of their lifespan.

Let's compare IMPs to other building materials:

Feature IMPs Brick Concrete Wood

Thermal Insulation

Excellent Moderate Moderate Varies
Durability High High High Moderate
Weather Resistance Excellent Good Good Poor
Fire Resistance Variable (depending on core and finish) Good Good Poor
Lightweight Yes No No Yes


Moderate High High Moderate
Ease of Installation Fast and easy Moderate Difficult Moderate
Versatility High Limited Limited Moderate
Sustainability Can us recycled materials and be recycled Can use recycled materials Difficult to recycle Can be sustainably sourced


IMPs: A Look Back and a Look Ahead

IMPs have come a long way from their humble beginnings of simple metal panels with limited insulation options or aesthetic value. Simply put, today’s IMPs are not the metal panels of your father’s era and certainly not your grandfather’s time!

Here are some key milestones in their evolution:

  • Early days: Simple panels with limited insulation options.
  • 1970s: Introduction of improved foam insulation and wider range of panel profiles.
  • 1980s: Development of fire-retardant and moisture-resistant panels.
  • 1990s: Focus on sustainability and energy efficiency.
  • 2000s and beyond: Continuous advancements in insulation materials, thermal performance, and aesthetics.

Today, we are seeing IMPs installed everywhere from Amazon fulfillment centers to Google data centers to Tesla gigafactories to IKEA stores.

The future of IMPs is bright and sustainable.

As the demand for energy-efficient and sustainable buildings grows, IMPs are poised to play an even bigger role in the construction industry. We can expect to see:

  • Even more energy-efficient IMP options: New insulation materials with even higher R-values.
  • Smarter IMPs: Panels integrated with sensors and monitoring systems for better building performance.
  • Focus on sustainability: Increased use of recycled materials and bio-based insulation.

IMP Glossary of Terminology


  • R-value: A measure of thermal resistance; higher R-value means better insulation.
  • Foam core: The insulating material inside the panel (e.g., PUR, PIR, mineral wool).
  • Panel profile: The shape and texture of the metal facing (e.g., flat, ribbed, corrugated).
  • Concealed fastener system: A method of attaching panels without visible screws or nails.
  • Fire-rated panel: A panel that meets specific fire resistance requirements.
  • Moisture-resistant panel: A panel that is resistant to water infiltration and condensation.
  • Cladding: The exterior covering of a building, often made of IMPs.
  • Fastener: A device used to join two or more IMPs together (e.g., screws, rivets, concealed clips).
  • Gasket: A seal that prevents air and water infiltration between panels.
  • Joint: The connection point between two panels.
  • Span: The unsupported distance between supports for an IMP panel.


  • K-factor: A measure of thermal conductivity; lower K-factor means better insulation.
  • Vapor barrier: A layer that prevents moisture from migrating through the panel.
  • Fire-retardant additives: Chemicals added to the foam core to enhance fire resistance.
  • Polymeric coating: A protective layer applied to the metal facing for enhanced durability and aesthetics.
  • Reflectivity: The ability of the metal facing to reflect sunlight and heat, contributing to energy efficiency.

Application Specific:

  • Cold storage panel: An IMP with a thicker insulation core and specific features for maintaining low temperatures.
  • Cleanroom panel: An IMP with a smooth, airtight surface for controlled environments.
  • Acoustic panel: An IMP with additional sound-dampening properties.
  • Curtain wall: A non-load-bearing wall made of IMPs, typically used for exterior facades.
  • Roof panel: An IMP designed for specific roof applications, often with enhanced weather resistance and load-bearing capacity.

Insulated Metal Panels are more than just building materials; they're innovative solutions for creating energy-efficient, sustainable, and visually appealing structures. 

"IMPs are the building blocks of the future," says Jaks.

Topics: Cold Storage, Insulated Metal Panels, Sustainability