Low-Rise Buildings

Speedy Construction Meets Demanding Structural Performance and Equals Comfort

The backbone of the M2 (Emmedue) system is a lightweight panel, which makes the system suited to rapid, cost effective construction. Buildings are safe: non-combustible and strong enough to resist hurricane- and tornado-force winds, earthquakes, and even explosions. In fact, the U.S. military and petrochemical industries are currently testing this system for blast protection.

Light and Strong

A polystyrene foam core is sandwiched between two layers of galvanized steel wire mesh. The lightweight panels can be easily handled by workers. The foam core makes this possible, but the foam itself would not be very durable if left exposed, so a layer of concrete is applied to the panels (as shotcrete) to add strength and create long term durability. Foam panels provide another design benefit, too: because foam is much less dense than shotcrete, the structure’s dead weight is reduced and smaller footings are needed, which saves on foundation costs.


Taller buildings in this incorporate concrete (or steel) frame, and repeating bays lend themselves to prefabricated panel construction. Image courtesy of M2 (Emmedue).

Versatile Shapes and Sizes

The M2 system is manufactured in a wide variety of panel shapes, including walls, floors, and roofs. There are even stairs and landings, which helps simplify multi-story construction. The ready-made shapes reduce design time and difficulty for adding stairway entry/egress required by fire codes. And in keeping with the system’s flexibility, both size and shape can be custom-designed; some panels have been manufactured to over 80 feet long.

Beachfront Hotel in Panama

The Hotel Intercontinental in Playa Bonita, Panama demonstrates the system’s versatility. The hotel comprises many separate buildings, and these have different load-bearing structures to meet the required performance. Taller buildings are constructed with cast-in-place reinforced concrete or steel frames as the load-bearing structure; floors, exterior cladding, and partitions are made with M2 panels. For all other buildings on the property, M2 panels are used for the entire structure and carry all loads.

The architectural design incorporates repeating bays that lend themselves to a panelized approach. The use of repeating panels reduces construction costs, both for manufacture and installation. With slight modification to the panel shape, arches were created to add some aesthetic flair.

Interiors are comfortable for several reasons. The panels create energy efficient walls and floors, so interior temperatures are easy to maintain. This minimizes thermal losses, reducing operating costs for the owner, and qualifies the structure for sustainability under demanding building codes. And increasingly stringent energy codes are going to place even more thermal demands on the performance of buildings. Beyond thermal efficiency, the construction is acoustically resistant, too. High-density living mandates privacy for all occupants.


This 5-story hotel went up fast, but is strong and durable in its beachfront location. Image courtesy of M2 (Emmedue)

Hotels have many needs in common with school dormitories, multi-family housing, and assisted living facilities: close neighbors, need for privacy, comfort, and safety. The Playa Bonita hotel is a good example of what can be done on a wide range of low-rise buildings to create strong, durable, cost effective construction.