Just a Phase? Assessment of the Potential for Phase Change Materials in New Zealand Buildings
Phase change materials in buildings could save energy and cost by bridging the gap between when energy is available and when it is needed. This is because they are capable of storing and releasing large amounts of energy by melting and solidifying at an appropriate temperature for use in buildings. Yet, despite being in development for decades, PCM building materials have not achieved significant market penetration. This thesis investigates ways in which Phase Change Materials have been used in buildings in the past and what products are currently available. The investigation suggests that because of cost these materials might be appropriately applied to commercial interiors. It explores the history of office design internationally and in New Zealand and suggests alternative ways in which PCM materials could be used that would be attractive to designers and architects. By assessing the results of two modelling studies this research is able to suggest at what cost these products may become viable. The thesis concludes that market penetration unlikely to change significantly unless one or more of the following occur; A significantly cheaper, and sustainable, PCM is found Domestic electricity prices rise so dramatically that the potential 20% space heating saving accruing from PCMs becomes far more significant A level of design value is added to the development of PCM products in order to attract a wider market In the making of low energy and sustainable buildings it has been recognised that a multi-disciplinary approach is vital for a successful outcome, and it would seem logical that same would be true of developing new products towards the goal of sustainability. Designers and engineers must work collaboratively to create desirable products and accurate and validated information about their performance in buildings is needed for architects to persuade clients to use new materials and take the lead in the process of achieving majority acceptance. Despite previous international research, these studies show that in New Zealand PCM application has more benefit in residential applications than in the commercial sector.