Phase change materials and thermal mass can be used to regulate temperatures in homes and offices. Australian design firm EME offers a brief look at the two approaches, outlining the advantages of each.
Any material that is heavy and dense – brick, stone, concrete, earth, sand and even water – qualifies as thermal mass. Heavy, dense walls can slow the rate at which the sun's heat enters a space and the rate at which a space loses heat at night. But thermal mass can be, well, massive.
"One advantage of phase change," EME writes, "is that it is lighter in weight and therefore can be integrated into a retrofit situation without upgrading the structure and multi-storey buildings. Unlike thermal mass construction, phase change does not have the poetry and material sensibility that thermal mass offers. Phase change is generally concealed within a wall."