Best PracticesA2P1016: Reducing Thermal Bridging in Commercial Building Insulation

July 13, 2021

The current demands of today’s energy codes and design requirements create constructional dilemmas that developers must overcome with each new project. Building an energy-efficient structure and thermal break are two of the significant difficulties in the commercial building industry. The ASHRAE 90.1 standard (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) has been a benchmark in commercial building energy codes for over 35 years. Meeting the minimum efficiency requirements is now more necessary than ever before. The commercial building envelope continues to evolve to meet those requirements.

The type of insulation material you choose is one of the most critical decisions to meet energy building code standards, such as ASHRAE 90.1. Whether it is a new project or retrofit application for an existing building, your decision on insulation is imperative. In addition, owners, developers, architects, and contractors must know the different methods available to achieve the highest thermal performance and energy efficiency levels. To start this process, it begins with reducing or eliminating thermal bridging.

Thermal bridging occurs in structures that do not have systems to minimize the through-fastener and metal products of conventional or pad and washer systems. For example, thermal energy loss can occur when wood or metal studs are uninsulated from the exterior cladding. Through-fasteners and metal systems and studs act like bridges, which allow heat to either escape or enter the building. As a result, structural thermal performance is reduced by up to 20% in wood frames and 60% in metal frame buildings.

Fortunately, there are several effective ways to reduce thermal bridging in your building’s commercial insulation system.

Three Ways to Reduce Thermal Bridging in Commercial Building Insulation

Multiple steps can reduce or even eliminate thermal bridging in commercial building insulation systems. These steps, shown below, can significantly increase your energy savings, and if applied correctly, create a thermal break, including:

1. Apply Continuous Insulation

Most continuous insulation systems eliminate all gaps or openings added to the exterior of a structure. In addition, continuous insulation can act as a barrier between the building’s exterior cladding and wood or steel framing. Ultimately, helping create a thermal break from exposed framing studs.

2. Use a Composite Sub-Frame

Continuous insulation is attached to a dedicated sub-frame to keep the insulation panels in place on the walls of the building. In traditional systems, this sub-frame consists of metal with through-fasteners. Both the metal and through-fasteners can act as thermal bridges through the exterior building envelope to the structure. A thermal bridge will most likely cause energy to enter or escape the building envelope.

Sub-framing, such as SMARTci™ GreenGirt® composite metal hybrid (CMH) z girt components, have a much lower thermal current than metal components. CMH z-girt components can eliminate any thermal bridging. By utilizing a CMH z-girt sub-frame like GreenGirt, you can significantly increase the overall energy efficiency of your building and save energy costs in the long run.

3. Avoid Through-Fasteners

Many metal sub-frame systems use through-fasteners to attach the exterior cladding and insulation to the sub-frame. However, through-fasteners provide a pathway for thermal energy to escape by forming thousands of “bridges” through your building’s insulation system.

The GreenGirt  CMH z-girt sub-frame system does not use through-fasteners. In doing so, it eliminates the possibility of any thermal bridging through the entire insulation system. Excluding through-fasteners not only increases your energy savings but also eases insulation application. In addition, a more efficient installation process can significantly decrease your project time frame and labor costs.

Opposed to using through-fasteners, the GreenGirt CMH insulated composite metal hybrid sub-frame system offers the best practice solution for energy efficiency. Achieve optimal efficiency by eliminating the thermal “short circuit” or the possibility of condensation forming in the walls of your structure where hot and cold energy meets, by doing so positively impacting the overall health and lifespan of your building.

Find out how the SMARTci Systems can reduce thermal bridging in your commercial building insulation.

Ready to take the steps above to reduce thermal bridging in your commercial building? The SMARTci Team at Advanced Architectural Products is prepared to help you find the commercial insulation solutions you need. We offer multiple continuous insulation systems to help you find the right fit for your building and eliminate thermal bridging.

SMARTci continuous insulation system options below:
  • SMARTci 3 in 1 System – includes constant, insulated CMH GreenGirt® z girt sub-framing, custom-cut, dual foil-faced rigid board insulation panels (such as polyisocyanurate), fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) splines, and required accessories such as tape, caulking, and sealant.
  • SMARTci 2.5 in 1 System – is installed over open or closed frame installation coupled with a self-adhered, water-resistive, vapor permeable, air barrier sheet membrane.
  • SMARTci 2 in 1 System – with three essential pieces to the system, it includes rigid board insulation panels, CMH GreenGirt z girt sub-framing, and fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) splines.
  • GreenGirt – is an innovative, complete solution for continuous insulation designed for both 1” and 1.5” rigid board, mineral wool, and spray foam insulation.
  • GreenGirt Clip – is best utilized in exterior wall applications and can be installed over solid substrates and accommodate most building cladding types.
  • GreenGirt Delta Adjustable System – provides a solution for structural misalignment from a small fraction of an inch to large out of plumb issues for horizontal installation.
  • SMARTci Trim – provides a high thermal energy efficient closure system at service openings and insulation plan transitions.
  • SMARTci Roof – joins a building’s roofing and insulation system to its structure and eliminates cold spots for condensation to form in your roof.
Visit our website to learn more about the SMARTci Systems or Contact an A2P Representative today.


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