What is a Sandwich Panel?


What Is a Sandwich Panel?

In the most basic terms, a sandwich panel is a unique, high-performing panel type, used in the construction of industrial buildings. It’s composed of three (or sometimes more) materials, forming a composite panel that is adhered together to create one coherent structure, enhancing the building’s overall energy efficiency and mechanical properties.

These composite panels or sandwich panels, as they are commonly known due to their layered structure, are utilized in a broad spectrum of applications, from roof panels to floor panels, to the very walls that make up a building itself. They are pivotal in the construction sector, serving a wide range of applications, enhancing the strength-to-weight ratio, and addressing the specific needs of every construction project. Sandwich panels are renowned for their high strength-to-weight ratio, serving as lightweight panels that efficiently bear the shear load, making them an optimal choice for projects where a balanced weight ratio is crucial

The term "sandwich" in sandwich panel refers to the panel’s configuration, which comprises two outward-facing layers and a core material. These outward-facing layers or face sheets, sometimes made of robust materials like carbon fiber, act as the "bread" of the sandwich, and the core material, often a lightweight material like closed-cell foam or honeycomb cores, is the meat. This configuration ensures a lightweight final product with low thermal conductivity and optimal thermal insulation.

Generally, the two outward-facing layers are applied to the sandwich panel to increase the overall durability of the panel, meeting the specific needs of industrial applications. Keeping with the sandwich analogy, sometimes some additional 'ingredients' (materials) can be needed to make the perfect sandwich panel for you. Additional layers can be added to enhance other characteristics like fire rating and thermal conductivity, ensuring the sandwich panel is perfect for your specific needs.

With our sandwich wall panel system, these specific characteristics include STC (Sound Transmission Class) rating, R-value, and Fire Rating. Each characteristic is crucial, ensuring the panel’s adaptability and strength in environments from a warehouse in Maine to a chemical facility in Arizona, each with its unique demands and requirements.

STC Rating

Let's begin with a panel's STC rating. Standing for Sound Transmission Class, STC refers to the panel's ability to reduce the noise passing through it. This characteristic is most important in heavy manufacturing facilities or any facility where workers must endure loud noises for a prolonged period of time, making it a preferred building material for such settings.

The most effective way of increasing the STC rating of a sandwich wall panel is to add additional substrates to help absorb the noise. For Panel Built, we have adopted a specially designed fiberboard that can be added to any of our panel configurations to instantly increase its STC rating. The use of sandwich panels is particularly efficient in the construction of modular breakrooms, offices, and conference rooms in facilities with a higher-than-average noise level.

R-Value Panel Thickness

Another vital characteristic of a sandwich wall panel is its R-value. R-value is a common construction and building term that refers to a material's insulating capacity or its ability to resist the flow of heat. Panel Built's standard wall panel has a thickness of 3" (although this can be altered for specific applications). To increase the R-value of a panel, you will need to make the insulating portion of the panel (the core) as thick as possible or construct the panel of another core material.

For example, take our popular Gypsum/Gypsum wall panel. Looking at its configuration, the G/G panel has two 1/2 inch gypsum boards on each side, leaving 2 inches of insulation for the polystyrene core. This configuration offers an R-value of 11. However, we can change the insulation of the Gypsum/Gypsum panel to a Poly-ISO core and instantly boost the R-Value to 17, greatly increasing the heat resistance of the structure.

Sandwich panels with increased R-Values can be found in environments that are both hotter and colder than usual. If the wall panel does a good job of keeping outside heat outside then it will likewise do a good job of keeping inside heat inside.


Fire Ratings

The final and perhaps most important factor for your sandwich wall panel is the fire rating that it provides, specifically for applications in industrial buildings where fire resistance is paramount. Fire ratings can sometimes be difficult to understand and fully comprehend because regulations may use different measurements to determine their fire ratings.

For a full rundown of the difference of our fire ratings, visit Fire Rated Wall Systems: A Beginner’s Guide.

Panel Built's standard sandwich panel (gypsum/gypsum) carries a Class A rating, meaning it will not sustain a flame, but can possibly ignite. To change the fire rating of a wall panel system, you must change the materials the wall panel (and typically the building envelope as a whole) is composed of.

However, for more stringent environments, Panel Built also offers a 1 Hour Fire Rated panel. '1 Hour Fire Rated – Refers to an assembly that can withstand a standardized (ASTM) fire exposure for up to an hour. After this, the wall is sprayed with water from a fire hose. If the wall withstands the hosing, the assembly is considered 1-hour fire-rated. Panel Built's 1 Hour sandwich panel can still be customized, but will always contain a 2-inch mineral wool core and a 20 gauge steel stud every 12”.

Between the Class A wall panel and 1 Hour Fire Rated, Panel Built offers a 'Non-Combustible' panel. This is for facilities that would prefer some additional fire protection, but a 1 Hour panel would likely be overkill. This panel has a similar configuration to our 1-hour panel but uses the 20 gauge steel stud-less frequently.

It is crucial to select the appropriate level of fire protection based on the specific needs of the environment. Whether it’s a facility with combustible materials or a location with stringent local ordinances, having a knowledgeable Panel Built dealer can help you determine the optimal level of fire protection for your construction project.

But Why Sandwich Panels?

But why choose sandwich panels, especially in industrial applications? Sandwich panels offer numerous benefits over other building materials.

Mass Production with Customization

Made in a sandwich panel production line, you can experience the cost savings of a mass-produced product that is still able to remain highly flexible.

For the majority of our panel projects, we are able to use the same panel system each time. This panel system can be configured in whichever layout the end customer needs, using our binder-post system to attach them to one another. However, if one of our custom sandwich panels is needed, we can quickly substitute the alternate material. Afterward, the custom panel still fits perfectly into our standard wall panel assembly, minimizing any additional work to fabricate or assemble.

Incredible Convenience at the Job Site

Besides the cost savings passed along to you, sandwich panels are incredibly easy and quick to install at the job site in comparison to stick-built ones. With Panel Built, we manage the transportation of all the wall panels your project will need, shipping them directly to your job site. The panels are pre-cut and labeled to easily match up with the project's CAD drawing which is provided with each new project. This means our sandwich panels can be erected on-site with no additional fabrication needed on site.

With the prefabricated nature of our panel system, your project can be delivered and installed quicker than conventional construction methods. Additionally, with all the fabrication done in our modular construction facility, the job site itself is much cleaner, easier to maintain, and far less disruptive overall.

If you have any questions about our Sandwich Panel System, give us a call at 800.636.3873, send us an email to info@panelbuilt.com, or you can talk to us in our LiveChat feature at the bottom-right of your screen. Our main goal is to Solve your Space Needs With Excellence and Great Customer Service!

Sandwich Wall Panel Examples