IMP Metal Building Envelope Success Factors

A European building material staple, insulated metal panels (IMPs) in North America are increasingly becoming a more popular enclosure solution while at the same time creating profound buildings and memorable spaces.

Growing in popularity and creating memorable buildings

By Nicholas Kauthen, WELL AP, LEED Green Associate

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At their simplest, IMPs are comprised of two steel skins fused together with an insulating foam core. This composite panel is often revered as the holy grail assembly providing water, air, vapor and thermal control layer continuity. This is complimented with one trade, installing one product, doing one pass around your building—translating into quick and efficient construction. In addition, IMPs ever-increasing popularity has found their applications in almost every sector within the industry: commercial, industrial, manufacturing, cold storage and architectural.

Maintaining Air/Vapor Barrier Continuity

Regulating the indoor climate is an essential function of a high-performance IMP building envelope. If not properly addressed, water and moisture infiltration can affect occupants’ health and accelerate concealed building components deterioration. IMP installers can easily mitigate these issues by using the proper sealants recommended by the manufacturer.

Achieving the aforementioned air and vapor infiltration performance, it’s important that installers use the manufacturers’ recommended non-skinning butyl sealant on the perimeter steel attachments and then marry to the sealant within the panel joint. Special attention should be paid at every panel termination from eave strut to base support. For non-refrigerated buildings, a 3/8-inch diameter bead of non-skinning sealant is prescribed on the interior female panel joint and on the structural steel support. Additionally, because the sealants are located away from the panel face, there is no chance of discoloration, sealant bleeding or dirt attraction—often common problems with face-sealed panel systems.

Installers are encouraged to refer to shop drawings or installation guides for proper installation techniques as they vary by manufacturer. This is an area that should not be overlooked, or value engineered by using non-approved accessories.


The versatility of IMPs allows for both vertical or horizonal installations to increase visual appeal. Each IMP profile and application lend the architect a wide range of design versatility, which push boundaries allowing longer spans and reduce structural costs.

Vertical Installations

Take a drive through your town’s industrial park or manufacturing districts, it’s likely you’ll see vertical IMP applications aplenty. Usually pledging the most economical and simplest install, vertical applications afford themselves to a variety of building types. Installation begins from left to right with the female edge leading the install direction.

The starter panel male leg is usually ripped in the field to provide a smooth corner transition, which is eventually capped with trim or extrusions. Framed opening locations such as windows and doors should attempt not to align with panel joints for the best seal.

Horizontal Installations

Architecturally pleasing, IMP horizontal applications are a viable option for cladding your structure. Similar to vertical installations, horizontal applications begin from the corner, moving left to right, bottom to top. In addition, a simple end-joint design allows for a hat extrusion which arrives on-site, prepainted ready for use.

While horizontal applications can be architecturally rewarding, more sophisticated detailing is typically required. Additionally, wider vertical joint support widths, additional structural supports and tighter tolerances are often needed to accommodate horizontal panel installations. For example, back-to-back C channels are often required at vertical panel end joints to accommodate panel fastening, sealant and accessories.

In these unique times of construction labor shortages and material price increases, IMPs deliver cost-effective performance that install quickly with minimal skilled labor requirements. Architects and contractors alike have a unique opportunity to forever change the landscape of steel building construction with high-performance, sustainable, IMP systems.

Nicholas Kauthen, WELL AP, LEED Green Associate, is an architectural sales representative at All Weather Insulated Panels (AWIP), Vacaville, Calif. To learn more, visit

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