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Abstract The heat balance of a building is of

Seminar Assignment 04
Comparative analysis of different thermal inertia solutions
for indoor thermal comfort improvement
the utmost importance in estimating its energy







Jorge Miguel da Rocha e Castro, ASSES Student

needs during its life cycle. Every building will try
to be in balance with its surroundings by
receiving or losing energy. In order to keep
indoor comfort conditions, within a given
temperature interval, the ability of the building
to receive of lose energy must be kept within
certain values. Bioclimatic measures can help
the building keep its indoor comfort conditions
for longer periods of time. The adoption of
equipment together with very well insulated
envelope with outside boundary conditions, very
good fenestration, correct ventilation strategies
and schedules and efficient HVAC systems with
correct sizing and scheduling, can output a very
efficient building that will last for several
decades with low final energy needs.
Index Terms
Building energy balance
Bioclimatic measures
Energy efficiency
OpenStudio EnergyPlus
GHG emissions
Energy needs


ince ancient times dwellings have been built

with material found near the site of
construction and, through trial and error
method, adapted to their environment conditions,
providing not only shelter but also comfort.
Comfort conditions have been changing from
early times, when men first started to build their
own shelters. From gather/hunter to agricultural
societies, work was done by human and animal
muscle, so body temperature was higher. With
the outcome of industry, and more recently
electronics, men moved from the agricultural
fields into buildings and now we live in, mostly, a
services society. This society has its labor place
inside buildings, and instead of muscle power it
uses brainpower. With this change body
temperature, reflecting a continuously increase in
sedentarily, is now lower due to low muscle
activity. With this change also indoor comfort
conditions needs changed.
Until recently burning fossil fuels was the trend in
order to obtain indoor comfort conditions, and
with this trend a considerable increase in GHG
Seminar Assignment 04

consequences same of which are nowadays

starting to manifest themselves.
Nowadays the trend is NZEBs according to EU
2020 plan, but the mandatory energy building
codes, implemented all across Europe, impose
super insulation, equipment minimum efficiency,
transmittance values according to building
thermal mass, etc, but these codes fail to
understand the dynamic evolution imposed by
thermal mass.
The super insulation model from northern
countries leads to the construction of envelopes
acting as thermal barriers not much related to
their climatic context [1], like Francesca Stazi et
al shown on their study [1] the most suitable
techniques resulted to be massive ones for
comfort in unconditioned spaces when they
numerically studied 3 different types of
construction with different thermal mass while
placing them on different climatic condition.
The dynamic nature of thermal inertia has not yet
been captured and implemented on European
energy building codes, maybe because thermal
inertia play a relatively secondary role on year
round conditioned buildings, which seems to be
the case for most northern European buildings,
but in Mediterranean climate and its heavy
thermal mass construction techniques, adapted
through centuries of trial and error, in times when
no air conditioning was available, thermal mass
was a key feature to provide thermal comfort, like
[2 5] all seem to agree, and in combination with
night ventilation techniques, thermal mass can be
very efficient in improving indoor thermal
Thermal mass can help improve indoor thermal
comfort only if placed correctly and with the right
characteristics like stated in [6, 7], the correct
specific heat allowing heat storage while thermal
conductivity the right spread of heat, combined
permitting heat storage during the day and its
correct release when needed. Also the placement
of insulation layer plays a role, an important one,
in [6] the placement of insulation layers must be
such so that the specific weight of the envelope
elements is around 800kg/m3, which in
combination with thermal conductivity and

specific heat, optimum thermal inertia is

Other layers have influence on the heat
movement, like stated in [8], finishing layers
should be massive if insulation needs to be
applied on the interior face of the walls, like is the
case of many retrofit interventions, this allows for
some heat storage and reduction of equipment
running time.
Combining high thermal mass and equipment
running time for indoor thermal comfort, studies
agree the higher the thermal mass the lower the
equipment running time [9, 10] although some
studies, due to different building, with the highest
thermal inertia, orientation arrive at slightly
different results [11].
Concerning retrofit of the built environment,
methods to evaluate existing thermal mass are
lacking, and those that exist [12] rely on HVAC
systems to maintain certain indoor comfort
conditions. Due to the complexity of evaluating
on site thermal mass, even numerical methods
need calibration to comply with field measures
[13], this is proof of the complex nature of the
problem and also the lack of study on the subject.
Most of the built environment in Europe, and
particularly in the Mediterranean, is more than 20
years old, most in need of energy retrofits.
Taking into consideration the importance of
thermal inertia on the improvement of indoor
thermal comfort, as stated previously through
several examples, how can existing buildings
intervention on the envelope?
One possible, and very promising field is Phase
Changing Materials (PCM).
This is a relatively new field of study, applied to
buildings, that is showing promising prospects of
As shown in [14 16] several material are
possible to employ, material with fusion point
around 27C to 30C, can effectively change
phase, from solids to liquids, storing heat and
later, while solidifying, release that heat, shifting
the heat release for a time when it is most
As stated before, night ventilation plays a key
role in controlling indoor thermal comfort
condition. Due to the aged Mediterranean built
stock, most of which in need of retrofit, the
addition of PCM, within the scope of retrofit, into
medium to high thermal mass buildings will
promote the same indoor thermal comfort
conditions with lesser energy needs? Can a
building characterized by medium thermal mass
behave like a high thermal mass building just by
adding a finishing PCM layer? Will a PCM layer
impact the night ventilation efficiency?

Seminar Assignment 04

The main objective was to assess how thermal
mass affects indoor thermal comfort by varying
the thermal mass content of the building, so a
methodology to assess each solution thermal
mass was needed. Taking in consideration that
every building, new or existing, is subject to
Portuguese energetic legislation, thermal mass
was calculated based on the rather interesting
methodology described by DL118/2013.

M Si . r i . s i
It =



Thermal mass is calculated using eq.01, where

Ap is the total useful floor area (in m2), Msi is the
superficial mass of the element i (in kg/m2), Si is
the element i superficial area (in m2) and ri is
reduction factor dependent on the superficial
element i thermal resistance. [17]
Once defined the methodology, an analysis
method need to be choose. In order to correctly
assess the impacts on indoor thermal comfort
derived from thermal mass, one needs to address
each material impact on the overall thermal mass
and, consequently, its impact on indoor thermal
comfort. The most appropriate method was using
a parametric analysis methodology. Only on layer
of an element is changed from one thermal mass
solution to the other, starting from very low
thermal mass and, by changing one layer
material from one envelope element, increasing
thermal mass of the building, table 1 shows all
thermal mass solutions and their respective
value. Details of the constructions are found on
the annex.

mass (kg/m2)

Table 1 Thermal mass


not all

outdoor construction elements directly contribute

for thermal mass increase and/or decrease. So,
and also for model simplicity, some elements
were assumed constant, therefor only the opaque
elements of the building were subject to change,
and thus fenestration was assumed to be the
same through all different thermal mass
solutions. It was considered an aluminum frame
with thermal break, double clear glazing with
16mm air layer, outside glass with 5mm inside
glass with 4mm, this type of construction is very
common in Portugal nowadays. This window
solution was simulated using Window 7.3
software [18] using standard CEN environmental
conditions. This construction has an overall U
value of 2,755 W/m2K and SHGC of 0,701. Its an
average performance window. A very lite colored
shadowing device was added, located on the
inside of the space, with solar transmittance of

The plant in figure 1 represents both floors,

being atrium double height. Figure 2 represents
the east oriented faade, the west oriented
faade differs from the east faade only on the
door, which is replaced with a window, similar to
the smaller window seen on figure 2.

Figure 1: Floor plant

shown on figure 3. This geometry was used in all

simulation runs, for base case and for bioclimatic
measure implementation

Figure 3: Sketchup 3D geometry

For the base case, the envelope constructions,

walls, roof, slabs and windows were loaded
directly into OS, through the resources
constructions tab, an overview of the OS interface
is show on figure 4. First materials were defined,
according to their characteristics (thickness,
conductivity, specific weight, absorptance, etc),
most materials characteristics were obtained
from official vendor information, only certified
products were used. When lacking information
about a specific product ITE50 from LNEC was
used to reference conductivity values, the
remaining data (absorptance) was gathered
through similar material in ashrae literature.
Being all materials characterized, the base
case constructions followed what was imposed on
the assignment launch. A Construction set was
created to simplify envelope assignment later on.
A regarding transparent envelope, Window 7
was used to obtain the characteristics of
windows, producing a idf file that was imported
into OS, using OS import function. An interior
venetian blind was introduced in OS according to
assignment launch imposed conditions, venetian
blind is 70% closed all year.

Figure 2: East view

The geometry was loaded into OS through

sketchup, a relatively simple CAD software with
3D capabilities. A view of the 3D building is
Seminar Assignment 04






PCM will only slightly shave the peak indoor

temperatures while effectively delay the heat
release into the indoor environment.
Latent heat storage is limited due to the
thickness of the PCM layer used. For low and
medium thermal mass solutions, most of the time
the indoor temperatures are above the fusion
point of the PCM material, thus reducing the
performance of PCM material.
The PCM thickness used was not able to
improve the thermal behavior of low to medium
thermal mass buildings to levels equal to those of
medium to high thermal mass buildings.
Higher thermal masses contribute for better
indoor thermal comfort conditions and when
combined with night ventilation indoor thermal
comfort is improved even more.
For high thermal mass buildings with night
ventilation implemented PCM reveal a tendency
for slightly higher needs of ventilation time, with
consequent higher final energy use for night
Energy storage is greatly improved through
the use of PCM layer but, possibly due to building
orientation, geometry and also PCM layer
thickness, this improved heat storage capability
is not reflected, with the same order of

Seminar Assignment 04

[1] - Francesca Stazi, Elisa Tomassoni, Cecilia Bonfigli,

Costanzo Di Perna; Energy, comfort and environmental
assessment of different building envelope techniques in a
Mediterranean climate with a hot dry summer; Applied Energy
134 (2014) 176-196, Elsevier
[2] Junli Zhou, Guoqiang Zhang, Yaolin Lin, Yuguo Li;
Coupling of thermal mass and natural ventilation in buildings;
Energy and Buildings 40 (2007); 979-986, Elsevier
[3] - Lina Yang *, Yuguo Li; Cooling load reduction by using
thermal mass and night ventilation; Energy and Buildings 40
(2008); 2052-2058, Elsevier
[4] - C. Di Perna , F. Stazi
, A. Ursini Casalena , M.
DOrazio Influence of the internal inertia of the building
envelope on summertime comfort in buildings with high
internal heat loads; Energy and Buildings 43 (2011); 200-206,

[5] - A. Gagliano , F. Patania, F. Nocera, C. Signorello;

Assessment of the dynamic thermal performance of massive
buildings; Energy and Buildings 72 (2014); 361-370, Elsevier
[6] - K.J. Kontoleon, Th.G. Theodosiou, K.G. Tsikaloudaki; The
influence of concrete density and conductivity on walls
thermal inertia parameters under a variety of masonry and
insulation placements; Applied Energy 112 (2013); 325-337,
[7] - Ruolang Zeng, Xin Wang, Hongfa Di, Feng Jiang, Yinping
Zhang; New concepts and approach for developing energy
efficient buildings: Ideal specific heat for building internal
thermal mass; Energy and Buildings 43 (2011); 1081-1090,
[8] - Francesca Stazi, Cecilia Bonfigli, Elisa Tomassoni,
Costanzo Di Perna, Placido Munaf; The effect of high thermal
insulation on high thermal mass: Is the dynamic behaviour of
traditional envelopes in Mediterranean climates still possible?
Energy and Buildings 88 (2015); 367-383, Elsevier
[9] - Niccolo` Aste, Adriana Angelotti, Michela Buzzetti; The
influence of the external walls thermal inertia on the energy
performance of well insulated buildings Energy and Buildings
41 (2009); 1181-1187, Elsevier
[10] - Sami A. Al-Sanea, M.F. Zedan, S.N. Al-Hussain; Effect of
thermal mass on performance of insulated building walls and
the concept of energy savings potential; Applied Energy 89
(2012); 430-442, Elsevier
[11] - Jos A. Orosa, Armando C. Oliveira; A field study on
building inertia and its effects on indoor thermal environment;
Renewable Energy 37 (2012); 89-96, Elsevier
[12] - Jose L. Fernandez, Miguel A. Porta-Gandara, Norberto
Chargoy; Rapid on-site evaluation of thermal comfort through
heat capacity in buildings; Energy and Buildings 37 (2005);
1205-1211, Elsevier
[13] - Niccol Aste, Fabrizio Leonforte, Massimiliano Manfren,
Manlio Mazzon; Thermal inertia and energy efficiency
Parametric simulation assessment on a calibrated case study;
Applied Energy 145 (2015); 111-123, Elsevier
[14] - L. Karim, F. Barbeon, P. Gegout, A. Bontemps, L. Royon;
New phase-change material components for thermal
management of the light weight envelope of buildings; Energy
and Buildings 68 (2014); 703-706, Elsevier

[15] - E. Rodriguez-Ubinas, B. Arranz Arranz, S. Vega Snchez,
F.J. Neila Gonzlez; Influence of the use of PCM drywall and
the fenestration in building retrofitting; Energy and Buildings
65 (2013); 464-476, Elsevier
[16] - Necib Hichem, Settou Noureddine, Saifi Nadia, Damene
Djamila; Experimental and numerical study of a usual brick
filled with PCM to improve the thermal inertia of buildings;
Applied Energy Procedia 36 (2013); 766-775, Elsevier
[17] - Decreto-Lei n118/2013 de 20 de Agosto;

Coeficientes de transmisso trmica de elementos da
envolvente dos edifcios; Carlos A. Pina dos Santos; Luis
Matias; LNEC;

Seminar Assignment 04

EnergyPlusTM Input Output Reference; The Encyclopidic

Reference to EnergyPlus Input and Output; The Board of
Trustees of the University of Illinois and the Regents of the
University of California through the Ernest Orlando Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory;
Ashrae Fundamentals 2009, Ashrae;
Technical documentation of certified products, present in
the annexed digital information.