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Aquatic Centers Represent Growing Market For Insulated Metal Panel Systems...And With Good Reason

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Insulated metal panels (IMPs) from Norbec were specified for the Beloeil Aquatic Centre in Beleoil, Quebec. IMPs are becoming increasingly popular for such projects. Photographs by David Boyer.

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Boucherville, Quebec - Long-known for its walk-in coolers and freezers, Norbec is now making a name for itself in the architectural arena. The Boucherville-based company's insulated metal wall and roof panels systems (IMPs) are being specified for all types of projects, including increasingly for the niche market of Aquatic Centers. Case in point is the new Beloeil Aquatic Centre in Beloeil, Quebec.

Located southwest of Montreal, Beloeil is tucked between Mont Saint-Hilaire and the Richelieu River and surrounded by agricultural fields. The new Beloeil Aquatic Centre celebrates this unique setting through its architecture.

The center was designed as “a translucent and luminous glass case set on a solid black base,” notes architectural firm Lemay. “Combining opacity and transparency, it embodies the contrast between the agricultural lands and the brightness of the sky that characterize the region.” 

The solid black base that grounds the center is composed of more than 16,000 square feet of Norbec's Norex-L insulated metal panels (IMPs). Distribution Styro Inc. handled the installation. 

The 4"-thick panels have 26-gauge Silkline (striated) steel interior skins with an Imperial White smooth paint finish, and 22-gauge Micro-Ribbed exterior skins with a Rigel 2 color.

The Beloeil Centre is one of several aquatic centers constructed recently in Quebec using Norbec’s IMPs. 

Norbec's inroads in the architectural market mirrors that of insulated metal panels overall. Alexandre Bélisle, Norbec’s director of R&D and Technical Services, says the use of the energy efficient sandwich panels is definitely becoming more popular.

As touched upon in the Beleoil project, insulated metal panels are made up of two metal faces—the interior and exterior face—sandwiched around a layer of rigid foam insulation (usually polyisocyanurate). Panel dimensions vary between manufacturers, but 48" wide is standard. Norbec’s typical panel is 42.5 inches, to maximize the use of a full 48-inch steel coil, notes Bélisle. 

Other dimensions, along with horizontal, vertical, colored, smooth and textured options, are also available.


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Above and below, the Donnacona Aquatic Centre. Photographs by David Boyer.

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For architect Alexandre Guérin who designed the Donnacona Aquatic Centre in Donnacona, Quebec, the flexibility and versatility of IMPs make them an ideal material. “The different lengths of Norbec continuous panels and the few visible joints allow for a very clean finish,” he says. 

For that project, 6"-thick Norex-L panels featuring 24-gauge interior skins and 22-gauge exteriors were specified. The Silkline interior face sheets were painted Advantica while the Microrib exterior sheets have a Storm Grey paint finish.

Contrary to conventional construction methods for enclosing buildings, where multiple trades may be involved in erecting, insulating and finishing both the interior and exterior walls, IMPs require a single pass around the building to accomplish all elements of wall construction. “Once the panels are installed, the building envelope is completed,” says Bélisle. “There’s no need to have a lot of different contractors on site and do the insulation, then do the cladding, then do all the vapor barrier. It’s an all-in-one solution.” When the panel installation is complete, interior work can begin. 

Depending on the application, the interior face of the panels might be covered with drywall or other finishes. But it can be left visible too. On the Beloeil project, the bright white interior helps to flood the complex with light. 

IMPs increase efficiency during construction. They also improve energy efficiency over the long-term operation of a building. 

The insulation core outperforms materials like wool, spray foam or polystyrene and helps keep operating costs and energy requirements to a minimum. IMPs can also help to balance large amounts of glazing. 

“It is natural that they will use big windows to make the look and feel of the aquatic center more open. But those windows will also play a role into bringing heat inside this building,” says Bélisle. “Where the IMPs will play a big role is in containing the heat inside the building and helping regulate this heat.”


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Above and below, the Brossard Aquatic Centre in Brossard, Quebec. Photographs by David Boyer.

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In Brossard, Quebec, architects Héloïse Thibodeau Architecte and Vincent Leclerc designed the Brossard Aquatic Centre to have full glass walls at either end. On the exterior side walls of the building, panels in dark grey and white give depth to the façade. 

The width of the panels means fewer joints, making it easier to maintain the environment inside the building. 

IMPs are often used to help meet requirements for LEED or other environmental building certifications. 

“IMPs can play an important role in bringing those buildings to where they should be in 2021,” says Bélisle. 

While IMPs have many benefits, using them in aquatic centers requires some extra considerations.

Indoor pools are typically a highly humid and potentially corrosive environment (depending on the water temperature, cleaning agents, water treatment chemicals, quantity of pool users, ventilation and other factors).

“These parameters are very different than the “normal” usage we see for our products—cold or temperate environments where the humidity level is somehow controlled,” explains Bélisle.

Corrosion resistant fasteners and finishes ensure that panels will not be damaged by water splashes or humidity.

“We recommend to seal all the panel joints (inside the pool area) to ensure there won’t be any water infiltration in the interior joints and this will also add an extra layer of protection in the panel joints for air infiltration,” says Bélisle.

For the comfort of users, the temperature in the pool area is higher than a typical interior space. In the winter, differences between interior and exterior temperatures can be significant. IMPs help to control temperatures, minimize heat loss and meet the building energy requirements.

“This high temperature differential in winter, added to the induced negative pressure environment inside the pool area, could promote condensation at the different building envelope junction interfaces. Extra measures are to be provided to counteract this risk,” recommends Bélisle.

Norbec has developed a deep expertise in aquatic facilities to support designers and architects throughout the design and construction process. Says Bélisle, “This support is backed by a good partnership with our suppliers and experienced installer network. We collaborate with them to ensure that no critical elements have been overlooked.” 

About Norbec

Norbec-logoNorbec is a North American leader in the manufacturing of walk-ins, cold rooms, overhead and personnel doors, and insulated metal panels for building envelopes. The company's insulated metal wall panel products include both NOREX® polyisocyanurate-foam-cored panels and NOROC® fire-resistant rockwool-cored panels. The insulated panels are integral to the construction of energy-efficient, sustainable buildings ranging from commercial, industrial, architectural and cold storage, as well as environmentally and temperature sensitive environments such as ice rinks and natatoriums. To learn more, visit norbec.com

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