With fire safety continuing to be a top priority in the construction industry, the Metal Construction Association (MCA) has published a white paper, “Fire Safety of Insulated Metal Wall Panels”. This document contains information concerning the efficacy of insulated metal panels (IMPs) in the context of insulation and fire safety requirements in the U.S. and other countries.
Insulated Metal Panels (IMPs) are lightweight composite exterior wall and roof panels with two layers of coated sheet metal (typically steel or aluminum) wrapped around a rigid foam core to form a stiff composite. IMPs are manufactured to meet the performance and testing requirements of the building codes and insurance listing agencies. They are tested for fire; structural; thermal transmittance/resistance; foam core properties; water leakage and air pressure differential. Insulation is an essential part of modern building construction as an effective way of lowering energy use and providing environmentally-friendly buildings. “Some insulation materials, however, such as fiberglass, mineral wood or polyimide foam, do not typically need flame retardants to meet code requirements while others do,” says Marcelo Hirschler of GBH International, a company specializing in fire test instruments and consulting services. Dr. Hirschler, who authored the white paper, has experience in fire testing as well as codes and standards.
In some cases, each component of a product can get good fire test results while the entire assembly burns vigorously, and vice versa. Therefore, U.S. codes typically require composite assemblies to be fire tested both as a complete assembly and as separate components, particularly foam plastic insulation materials.
“It’s a misconception that non-combustible materials are always preferable to foam plastic materials in exterior claddings,” Dr. Hirschler points out. “IMPs can be used safely in exterior claddings and should continue to be a significant part of building construction.”