A novel method to evaluate phase change materials' impact on buildings' energy, economic, and environmental performance via controlled natural ventilation

Abrar Ahmad, Shazim Ali Memon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The construction industry consumes a significant portion of global energy, with space conditioning in buildings accounting for a substantial 34% of energy usage. Notably, the energy consumption of a building is significantly influenced by its envelope. Researchers widely acknowledge that incorporating phase change materials (PCM) into the building envelope is a promising way to enhance energy efficiency and mitigate CO2 emissions in the building sector, owing to their high latent heat capacity. However, PCM must be completely charged after each cycle to exploit its full potential. Natural ventilation is a viable technique to facilitate the charging and discharging cycle of PCM within a 24-h period. To this end, the present study utilized EnergyPlus simulations to optimize the cooling energy savings of a residential building incorporating PCM into its envelope for PCM melting temperatures, considering various ventilation strategies across 45 cities in 15 climate zones worldwide. In order to evaluate the latent heat utilization of PCM and its improvement facilitated by natural ventilation, two novel indicators, namely HS and HR, were formulated to represent the heat stored and released by PCM during a 24-h cycle, respectively. In addition, following an economic analysis of PCM integration, a comprehensive environmental evaluation was carried out, which included the carbon intensities (CI) of all fuel sources contributing to power generation. The study's findings reveal substantial energy savings across all climate zones when controlled natural ventilation is coupled with PCM, and the newly proposed indicators precisely quantify the performance of PCM in all scenarios evaluated. In the arid climate zone (A), combining PCM and natural ventilation enhances energy savings, albeit to a similar extent as using ventilation alone. However, the integration of PCM with temperature-controlled ventilation yields striking energy reductions of up to 72.8%, 85.3%, and 61% in arid (B), warm temperate (C), and snow (D) climate zones, respectively. The cost-benefit analysis reveals a minimal return period of as short as five years in climate zone C. In the same climate zone C, the in-depth environmental analysis reveals a maximal reduction of 42,004 CO2-e kg/year in carbon emissions. In conclusion, this research study demonstrated that integrating PCM with controlled natural ventilation offers a practical, sustainable, and cost-effective solution with eco-friendly and energy-efficient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number122033
JournalApplied Energy
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2024


  • Economic analysis
  • Energy savings
  • Environmental analysis
  • Natural ventilation
  • Phase change materials (PCM)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Energy(all)
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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