This project investigates opportunities of utilizing Phase Change Materials (PCMs) in building enclosure systems to improve energy performance and thermal comfort in buildings. The building sector continues to grow along with population growth, which will further increase energy consumption that is needed for space heating and cooling to provide thermal comfort for occupants. With many practical applications, PCMs are capable of storing and releasing significant amounts of energy by melting and solidifying at a given temperature and can play an important role as a thermal energy storage device by utilizing its high storage density and latent heat capacity. PCMs not only have the potential to reduce air conditioning energy consumption in residential and commercial buildings, but also have the potential to improve occupancy comfort by better maintaining desired surface temperatures. PCMs can be utilized to decrease the overall required energy of buildings by shifting part of the heating and cooling loads to off-peak hours when there is less energy demand within our utility grids. One of the potential applications for PCMs in buildings is to incorporate them within the building enclosure for energy storage. The research investigates PCMs in an experimental study, from which results are then extrapolated to be applied in different U.S. climate zones. This study also explores different factors contributing to other thermal performance criteria, such as the thermal conductivity and applicable temperature ranges of different PCMs. The ultimate goal is to demonstrate the applicability of using PCMs towards improving building performance and overall energy consumption in different climate contexts.
Georg Reichard is an Associate Professor of Building Construction and principal faculty of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech. His research deals with numerical methods, simulation and data models, in particular in the area of building sciences. In his current research, he focuses on building performance, energy efficiency in buildings, decision-making for retrofit solutions, systems integration, integrated control strategies and smart building materials – using modeling and simulation assessment techniques to improve our buildings, its systems and processes.