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Insulated Metal Panels and LEED

All-in-one system offers LEED value

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Photo courtesy of AWIP

Insulated metal panels (IMPs) combine multiple building components into a single product. Available in a variety of thicknesses, IMPs are factory-fabricated with a continuous insulating core that, along with its metal skin, acts as an air, water vapor and thermal barrier. By providing high R-values, IMPs offer a complete package that can be installed quickly. The all-in-one package offers highly efficient insulation that minimizes a building’s energy use and minimizes construction costs.

While there is still an emphasis on recycled content and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), Steve Marziale, engineer II at CENTRIA, Moon Township, Pa., says the trend on the horizon of the sustainable building industry is moving toward healthy building materials.

“Architects want to know how IMPs create a healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green building enclosure,” says Kim Rager, insulated metal panels product manager at CENTRIA. “Architects are forward-thinkers, and plan for the future. Their focus is on providing a long-term building solution to the health and safety of all individuals involved—from building construction to building residents.”

Insulated metal panels are manufactured from recycled content and help reduce heating and cooling costs in buildings. By providing a one-step product, IMPs result in less job-site waste and lead to decreased costs for maintenance and replacement. All of this and more contribute to a variety of LEED points for projects.

When it comes to achieving LEED certification, Christopher Marchetti, national marketing manager at All Weather Insulated Panels (AWIP), Vacaville, Calif., says nothing gets there faster than the building components. “In all projects, energy efficiency and lower cost of construction are always major considerations prior to starting a building project,” he says. “No building product offers as much impact on these demands like insulated metal panels. From high R-values to sustainability, and having no VOCs, to the fact that the can be 100 percent recycled after their long use attests to their LEED appeal.”

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Photo courtesy of AWIP

Energy and Cost Savings

Traditionally, projects include multiple vendors and products, which result in more trucks, equipment, materials and people on the job site. Unlike most building components, Rager says IMPs are a one component system with long-term performance. “IMPs are specifically engineered to work together, resulting in seamless aesthetics and outstanding performance,” she says. “This level of integration prevents air, water, vapor and thermal infiltration, which leads to a more energy-efficient and sustainable wall system. It also means value at the job site with one manufacturer, one system and simplified installation.”

“IMPs, when snapped together, seal up a building quicker, saving on-site energy during construction, while also cutting down on construction time,” Marchetti says. “IMP roof components provide longer and stronger distances over the supports, meaning less foundation materials, again, lower costs, no extra trucks of lumber coming to the site. Also, they are stronger seismically.”

Marchetti goes on to say that perhaps the greatest impact of IMPs during a building’s life is the R- and K-values are incredibly high compared to traditional materials, so the energy needed to maintain the desired interior environment over the life of the building is considerably less. And, there’s no need for added insulation, such as fiberglass, which can develop air pockets, leading to moisture traps and then mold.

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Photo courtesy of AWIP

Heat Island Reduction

Under Sustainable Sites, the heat island reduction credit can provide two points. A low-sloped roof must have an initial solar reflectance index (SRI) of 82, or three-year aged SRI of 64. A steep-sloped roof much have an initial SRI of 39 or three-year aged SRI of 32.

Candace J. McNamee, LEED Green Associate, Living Future Accredited Green Building Specialist at NCI Building Systems, Houston, says IMPs contribute to the mitigation of heat island effect by offering paint colors with high solar reflectance, thermal emissivity and SRI.

IMP manufacturers offer a variety of colors for steep-sloped roofs that meet or exceed the SRI requirements needed. Most manufacturers also offer a few color options that meet low-slope roof requirements.

“As we’ve seen in recent years with heat waves in Chicago and other cities, heat island effect can be fatal,” says Marziale. “Using cool roofs and high insulation panels can help make a building as energy efficient as possible.”

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Photo courtesy of CENTRIA

Energy Performance

Under Energy and Atmosphere, there are two credits that deal with energy performance. The Minimum Energy Performance Prerequisite is required, while the Optimize Energy Performance can provide up to 18 points.

The Minimum Energy Performance looks to reduce the environmental and economic harms of excessive energy use by achieving a minimum level of energy efficiency for the building and its systems. The Optimize Energy Performance credit requires building to achieve increasing levels of energy performance beyond the prerequisite standard. Some IMP manufacturers test panel results by having them independently tested using the ASTM C 1363 Hot Box method for thermal transmittance.

According to Marchetti, IMPs increase levels of energy performance in comparison to mandatory standards. “Using insulated panels can contribute to points for the whole building design and demonstrate a performance rating that exceeds the baseline performance rating of ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-2010,” he says.

“Short-term investments in energy efficiency can pay dividends in the long run,” adds Marziale. “Using IMPs can increase the thermal efficiency of a wall system by eliminating thermal short-circuits that are encountered with traditional stud and batt insulation walls. By reducing the energy usage required to heat or cool buildings, IMPs can minimize environmental impact and save costs on the energy bill too.”

Building and Material Reuse

Under LEED’s Materials and Resources section, many IMPs qualify for credits under the Building Life Cycle Impact Reduction credit, which offers a possible five points by encouraging adaptive reuse and optimizing the environmental performance of products and materials. To qualify for the credit, it is necessary to demonstrate the reduced environmental effects during the initial project decision-making by reusing existing building resources or demonstrating a reduction in materials through life cycle assessment. “Due to their natural versatility, IMPs have been reused and repurposed on a variety of projects, from personal homes to fabrication shops,” Marziale says.

There are four options to achieve points under the credit. Option three, building and material reuse, provides two to four points for reusing or salvaging building materials off-site or on-site as a percentage of the project’s surface area, including structural elements, enclosure materials and permanently installed interior elements.

Recycled Content

Also under Materials and Resources, IMPs can achieve two points for the Building Product Disclosure and Optimization—Sourcing of Raw Materials credit, which encourages the use of products and materials for which life cycle information is available and have environmentally, economically and socially preferable life cycle impacts. Products have to be verified to have been extracted or sourced in a responsible manner.

“Metal is one of the most recyclable materials out there,” Marziale notes, “making it easy to score LEED points with the recycled content of IMPs steel liners.”

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Photo courtesy of AWIP

Low-Emitting Materials

Under the Indoor Environmental Quality section, projects can receive up to three points for Low-Emitting Materials, which aims to reduce concentrations of chemical contaminants that can damage air quality, human health, productivity and the environment. This credit covers VOC emissions in the indoor air and the VOC content of materials, as well as the testing methods by which indoor VOC emissions are determined.

“In an effort to create the healthiest buildings possible for their users, architects have been making a conscious effort to remove harmful chemicals and materials, with particular focus on VOCs,” Marziale explains.

A Solid Choice

IMPs provide thermal efficiency and cost-competitive construction, while offering long-term high performance that lowers operating costs. “Whether it comes to gaining approval for a project or it’s to meet LEED standards, the overall appeal and performance of IMPs make them a solid first choice as a building material,” explains Marchetti. “IMPs bring huge differences. They have Zero Ozone Depleting Potential, so their installation or their use doesn’t harm the air. There are no VOCs to leak. Often the steel that goes into IMPs has been recycled, and after the life of that building the steel in its panels can be recycled again into something like bicycle rims. Nearly all projects requiring low emission, green construction come to use IMPs. Finally, they’re overall energy efficiency reduces the costs needed to maintain the interior environment, more than paying for any price difference compared to other building materials.”

“When it comes to LEED certification, there are so many ways to again your desired standard,” Marchetti adds. “But no component of a project will provide more of a one-step advantage than IMPs. They are designed not just achieve any LEED standard, but exceed them, and exceed them easily.”