How Do Insulated Metal Panel Systems Offer Superior Fire Performance?

How Do Insulated Metal Panel Systems Offer Superior Fire Performance?

Architects and designers are constantly looking to the latest design and façade trends to create attractive buildings for their clients. The challenge they face is delivering a creative look that meets building code compliance and testing standards. With high-rise buildings in particular, it is critical that the materials used for the building's construction perform effectively to prevent a disaster if a fire occurs.

Insulated metal panels offer superior fire resistance, protecting a structure’s assets and keeping people safe. AEC Daily’s online course on their fire performance outlines the applications and benefits of these materials, compares their merits to metal composite materials, discusses how they meet building code requirements, outlines the applicable fire testing standards, and demonstrates their effectiveness via case studies.

With increasing demands for structures that combine contemporary aesthetics, energy efficiency, and safety, the function of a building’s “envelope” has grown in complexity. Materials used for cladding, insulation, and water-resistive barriers have evolved to meet increasingly stringent building and fire codes. This is where insulated metal panels are an effective choice.

Courtesy of Kingspan Insulated Panels

A single-component insulated roof, wall, and façade panel system, insulated metal panels are factory assembled rather than put together onsite. They consist of rigid insulation placed between two facings of coated metal, which, depending on the need, are available in a wide variety of colors and sizes. They are thermally efficient, keeping buildings warm in winter and cool during summer. Installed via a through-fix to a structure, they save assembly time and avoid issues such as thermal bridging and unreliable joints. 

When properly installed, these panels increase the effective R-value of a wall system, improving insulation by blocking thermal bridging. They create a perfect wall, as its layers of material control the air and water vapor on the exterior of any roof, slab, or wall conditions.

Critically, when it comes to fire safety, insulated metal panels use thermoset foam cores, which don’t melt and have a high degree of fire resistance. By comparison, panels made of metal composite materials use highly combustible thermoplastic foam cores, which soften and melt when heated. Testing has shown that thermoplastic cores cause panels to break down immediately, while thermoset cores generally experience little damage beyond the top layer. 

Courtesy of AEC Daily

The course provides details about the four testing methodologies used for entire wall assemblies: ASTM International, FM Global, NFPA, and UL. There is a special focus on NFPA 285, the Standard Fire Test Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components, which covers any combustible materials in an envelope system. There are also a series of case studies which show the effectiveness of insulated metal panels in protecting businesses and structures during fires. 

You can find more information about this course on AECDaily's website.

The basis for this article is a continuing education course sponsored by Kingspan. This course is managed and maintained by AEC Daily, one of the world's largest sources of FREE continuing education for architects, engineers, and construction professionals. Note: You will need an AEC Daily user account to access the full course and earn CE credit.

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Cite: AEC Daily. "How Do Insulated Metal Panel Systems Offer Superior Fire Performance?" 17 Jan 2020. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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