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October 2011 – When a new icon of architecture is dedicated in both design and function to the purpose of “Innovation” it makes perfect sense to specify the most innovative solutions to energy-efficiency. Consarc architects won the competition to design the iCon Innovation Centre in Daventry with an exciting proposal for a building that would embody not only the highest standards of aesthetics and human-friendly design, but also optimum sustainability. DuPont™ Energain®, the pioneering phase change material from a global leader in forward thinking, helped to enable these goals by adding lightweight, high-tech thermal mass.

The 4000 square metre iCon building is a BREEAM Excellent project which uses less than 15 Kg of carbon dioxide /sqm/year and showcases the feasibility of achieving zero carbon status via sustainable design and construction techniques and the integration of renewable energy technologies. A timber frame construction, the building also features a responsive showcase façade made from sustainable timber and an ETFE (Ethylene Tetra Fluoro Ethylene) foil covered atrium. As advanced as such methods and materials are, however, the construction of such lightweight buildings can also result in the problem of low-inertia and excessive heat gains due to a lack of thermal mass.

This makes it difficult to efficiently control rapid temperature variations without expensive cooling and heating systems and thereby creates problems for both energy consumption and interior comfort, especially during hot weather. In turn, this can have an adverse effect not only on the environmental footprint and running costs of a building, but also on the wellbeing and productivity of its occupants.

To overcome this challenge without compromising design or construction methods, Consarc specified an ingenious solution from DuPont Building Innovations to adding lightweight thermal mass. DuPont™ Energain® is an advanced phase change system which exploits a high-tech compound – and a helpful calculation model – to address these crucial issues. The system is supplied in easy-to-install panels of 1.0m x 1.2m x 5.26mm thickness which are sealed behind the plasterboard in walls or above ceiling panels, using standard tools and working practices. Build time, energy use (both on-site and in transport) and weight loadings are considerably reduced using this straightforward solution.

DuPont™ Energain®  works by absorbing ambient heat as room temperature rises (at around 22 degrees C), storing it until the temperature drops again (at around 18°), and then releasing it back into the room. In ventilated structures this can make a significant difference to comfort and also to the choice of construction methods and materials. In buildings with air-conditioning DuPont™ Energain® can reduce costs by an average of 35% and help to reduce heating bills in the winter by up to 15 percent.

Comparing DuPont™ Energain® with traditional thermal mass solutions such as concrete, material analysis of equal volume has shown that concrete offers only approximately 17 percent of the energy capacity offered by DuPont™ Energain® in the temperature window of 18-24 degrees C for a 5 mm panel.  Like traditional mass contributes to stabilising room climate, DuPont™ Energain® can help to also improve the energy efficiency of the building thanks to its heat storage and release capacity.

For iCon, 475 square metres of DuPont™ Energain® has been installed into a number of rooms at sofit level. It is the intent to measure the effectiveness of this material by comparing temperature changes against similar rooms that have not had the material installed.

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