Thermal BridgingA2P1041: Eliminating Through-Metal to Building and Through-Insulation Fastening in Continuous Insulation Systems

March 28, 2023

Continuous insulation systems have quickly become the industry standard as architects seek to maximize energy efficiency for their projects. But when installing continuous insulation systems with through-metal to building and through-insulation fastening, many architects struggle with tedious insulation processes, unreliable performance over time, and arbitrary detail design criteria.

This article explores how you can leverage recent advances in technology and construction materials to eliminate these issues, allowing for problem-free continuous insulation systems and improved thermal performance of your projects.

What is Continuous Insulation?

Continuous insulation is an insulation system installed in one continuous layer within the exterior building envelope. This insulation system helps provide a continuous thermal barrier around the structure’s exterior, helping to reduce air infiltration, reduce thermal bridging and improve the building’s energy efficiency. It is typically applied with rigid foam board, mineral wool, or spray foam insulation and an insulation sub-framing system that provide some type of thermal break. Continuous insulation is most commonly used to reduce heat transfer and improve the energy efficiency of buildings. However, not all continuous insulation systems are manufactured the same, nor do they provide the same results.

Advantages of Continuous Insulation Systems

Continuous insulation systems offer a myriad of advantages in modern construction, particularly in terms of energy efficiency and long-term performance. These systems effectively reduce thermal bridging by providing a consistent layer of insulation throughout the building envelope. Furthermore, continuous insulation helps to maintain more stable indoor temperatures, promoting overall thermal comfort and potentially reduces heating and cooling costs in the long run.

Additionally, this insulation method has demonstrated it can be effective in mitigating the risk of moisture and condensation buildup within walls and roofs – a critical factor for preventing mold, mildew, and structural damage. Choosing a best-practice continuous insulation system for your next project offers a sustainable solution for meeting or exceeding energy code requirements and ensures a stable and comfortable environment within the structure for the life of the building.

Continuous Insulation Sub-Framing Materials

Continuous insulation systems come with a variety of different material options. From sub-framing, insulation, and insulation retention tools, it is vital to understand what the materials will be used in the continuous insulation system that is chosen.

Traditional sub-framing materials, such as metal or aluminum, offer excellent structural benefits, however, when used with insulation materials, the thermal plane of the insulation is broken due to the through-metal to building design. Metal sub-framing is a highly conductive material and creates thermal bridging, allowing energy to travel from the exterior to the interior or vice versa.

Composite sub-framing is an alternative sub-framing material to metal, offering excellent thermal performance. Keep in mind, however, composite does not perform the same as metal regarding structural performance. Although composite sub-framing does eliminate through-metal to building in continuous insulation systems, through-insulation fastening must also still be avoided.

Risks Associated with Through-Metal to Building and Through-Insulation Fastening in Continuous Insulation Systems

Sub-framing, insulation and fasteners are critical components of continuous insulation systems. First, however, it is essential to educate oneself on the potential risks associated with the method of insulation retention and fastening used. Using through-metal sub-framing and through-insulation fastening, for instance, can lead to various issues, such as thermal bridging that causes heat transfer and moisture/condensation risks defeating continuous insulation’s purpose.

Additionally, moisture intrusion due to through-metal and through-insulation fastening may lead to mold, mildew, and overall structural deterioration. This further emphasizes the importance of understanding the specific requirements for best practice continuous insulation systems – including the appropriate selection of materials, spacing, and compatibility – to guarantee the integrity and longevity of a building’s exterior envelope. By being mindful of the potential risks and applying the necessary precautions, through-metal to building and through-insulation fastening should be avoided within a continuous insulation system to enhance a structure’s thermal performance and energy efficiency while also mitigating the risks of moisture intrusion.

Furthermore, when fastening into studs through insulation, locating the studs and knowing whether they are appropriately attached is difficult, this is called blind fastening. If you don’t attach into a stud, the fastener won’t be able to secure to the material properly and could lead to structural failure. For this reason, it’s essential to avoid cantilevered and blind through-insulation fastening to prevent missing fastening points to the studs, which could result in costly repairs, provide openings for air and moisture to penetrate the wall cavity or even increase the possibility for further structural damage.

How to Eliminate Through-Metal to Building and Through-Insulation Fastening in Continuous Insulation Systems

Continuous insulation systems play a vital role in modern building technology, as it creates an uninterrupted thermal barrier that reduces energy consumption and increases indoor comfort. However, conventional sub-framing materials, such as metal or aluminum, and traditional methods of fastening insulation, like through-insulation fasteners, can undermine the desired level of thermal efficiency by causing thermal bridging. Therefore, we must consider alternative strategies for effective insulation practices to eliminate through-metal to building and through-insulation fastening.

Innovative sub-framing materials, such as composite metal hybrid (CMHᵀᴹ), and attachment techniques including thermally broken fastening systems, offer efficient solutions without compromising the insulation’s performance. By embracing such advanced methods, builders and architects can leverage the full potential of continuous insulation systems, ensuring energy efficiency and promoting sustainable building practices.

Tips for Success When Implementing Continuous Insulation Systems Without Through-Metal to Building or Through-Insulation Fastening

Careful consideration is key to your project’s success when selecting a best-practice continuous insulation system. Be sure only to use continuous insulation systems that eliminate through-metal to building and through-insulation fastening. Additionally, pay special attention to the installation and fastening guidelines provided by the product manufacturer – failing to do so could lead to moisture infiltration, ventilation leaks, and other setbacks.

Furthermore, address any issues with flashings or bridging that could interfere with the performance of the continuous insulation system. Selecting a best-practice continuous insulation system without through-metal and through-insulation fastening can go a long way when it comes to maximizing energy efficiency for the life of commercial buildings.

Benefits of Eliminating Through-Metal to Building and Through-Insulation Fastening in Continuous Insulation Systems

As the use of continuous insulation systems increases, architects and construction professionals must identify which systems are following best practices. Firstly, removing through-metal and through-insulation fasteners minimizes thermal bridging and, in some cases, eliminates it all together, ensuring a more consistent temperature within the building. This, in turn, can contribute to lower energy costs for heating and cooling and increase the overall thermal performance of the structure. Secondly, by eliminating through-metal and through-insulation fasteners, installation processes become more streamlined, reduce labor costs, and increase accessibility to this insulation method.

As technology and innovation progress in design and construction, the growing interest in continuous insulation systems without through-metal to building and through-insulation fasteners demonstrates a promising shift toward more sustainable, lower emissions and energy-efficient building practices.


In conclusion, continuous insulation systems bring many advantages to building structures. However, eliminating through-metal to building and through-insulation fastening is key when it comes to energy efficiency and building health. By utilizing continuous insulation systems that avoid this type of sub-framing and fastening, construction and renovation projects can maintain the beneficial properties of best practice continuous insulation systems while removing potential risks associated with through-metal and through-insulation fastening.

Additionally, eliminating through-metal to building and through-insulation fastening has various benefits, including longer service lives, less risk of thermal bridges, and moisture control. At the end of the day, being prepared and aware of potential issues can go a long way in helping you achieve a successful continuous insulation system and building envelope design, from reducing risk to maximizing results.

Best Practice SMARTciᵀᴹ Continuous Insulation Systems

SMARTci continuous insulation systems are a best practice solution for building envelopes. These systems eliminate the need for through-metal to building or through-insulation fasteners and provide zero thermal bridging. In addition, SMARTci systems utilize GreenGirt® composite metal hybrid (CMH) sub-framing, which features a unique thermally broken sub-framing solution for continuous insulation systems.

GreenGirt CMH is also designed with insulation retention specifically in mind. With insulation retention splines incorporated throughout the Z-profile, GreenGirt CMH can hold rigid board, mineral wool, or spray foam insulation in place without additional insulation retention tools while providing a 360◦ air seal when using rigid or spray foam insulation.

SMARTci systems feature an integrated, seamless insulation system that eliminates thermal bridging while providing superior moisture control and air tightness. With this best practice continuous insulation system, there is no need for additional insulation retention fasteners or materials, resulting in a more efficient and cost-effective solution.

If you are looking for an engineered, best practice solution for your building envelope, consider SMARTci continuous insulation systems. Visit our website to learn more about SMARTci systems and GreenGirt CMH sub-framing or call us today!


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