Up-scaling and mainstreaming sustainable building practices in western China
Up-scaling and mainstreaming sustainable building practices in western China 

Future-oriented sustainable building materials/components in Europe - Part C: Phase Change Materials

In Europe there are a variety of future-oriented sustainable building materials and components. These include insulation materials, windows and glazing systems, Phase Change Materials (PCMs), and Advanced Building Integrated PV (BIPV) systems. This blog post will describe the energy saving, insulation potential, and the application examples of Phase Change Materials (PCMs).For further details on insulation materials, advanced windows and glazing systems, and Advanced Building Integrated PV (BIPV) systems, please access the following blog posts:


Part A: Insulation Materials

Part B: Advanced Windows and Glazing Systems

Part D: Advanced Building Integrated PV (BPIV)


Phase Change Materials (PCMs)

Technical details

  • PCMs are made up of different organic, inorganic materials and also derived from products of agricultural sources.
  • Inorganic PCMs are usually salt hydrates of inorganic salts containing one or more water molecules. They are nontoxic, non-combustible and less corrosive compared to organic PCMs.
  • Biobased PCMs are typically hydrogenated hydrocarbons from various plant and animal based products such as oils from palm, coconuts and soybeans and animal fat such as beef tallow etc. They are chemically stable, they offer higher fire-resistance compared to organic PCMs and can last for decades.
  • The PCMs are packaged in pouches, plates, balls etc. depending on their area of application. They can either be flat or tubular in shape.


  • Innorganic PCMs have high melting points in the range of 5 °C to 130 °C and are suitable for a range of building related applications.
  • PCMs are integrated into buildings as extended layers on walls and roofs, or can be added in the interiors on to the ceilings and floors. PCMs can also be mixed within the material: insulation materials such as fiberglass insulation, finishing materials such as plasters and also with interior partition and ceiling systems such as gypsum board etc.
  • The choice of the PCM material and application depends on factors such as usage, space design, temperature profile of the space and PCM material, and fire rating etc.


  • PCMs work on the principle of storage and release of latent heat: store heat during day (or during intense heat periods) and release it during the night (or less intense heat periods), changing from solid phase to liquid phase and vice versa.
  • PCMs could reduce the building’s peak cooling loads by approximately 11% and annual cooling load by approximately 9%.


  • +They can be added to existing buildings as sheets, blocks, and layers with minimum invasion in the structure.
  • -Certain types of PCMs can, such as organic PCMs, are chemically unstable, combustible and toxic.

For more information, please read our training handbook.

Kośny, J. (2015). PCM-Enhanced Building Components, Engineering Materials and Processes (Chapter 2). Springer International Publishing Switzerland. DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-14286-9_2

Muruganantham, K. (2010). Application of Phase Change Material in Buildings: Field Data vs. EnergyPlus Simulation – M.Sc. Thesis. Arizona State University