By Eamonn Ryan with technical input from Mpumzi Swana, director of product development company SAMAC

In a bid to improve its energy consumption and bolster sustainability efforts, Standard Bank recently introduced an innovative energy solution, leveraging SAMAC Engineering Solutions’ cutting-edge technology – the ENRG blanket.

Mpumzi Swana, chief operations officer of company SAMAC.

Mpumzi Swana, chief operations officer of company SAMAC. © RACA Journal

The ENRG blanket, powered by US-based Phase Change Solutions (PCS), represents a paradigm shift in energy storage technology in South Africa – though it has been around for about a decade in the US. Unlike conventional methods that rely on water-based systems, the ENRG blanket is a technology that absorbs and releases thermal energy at a specific design temperature, offering greater efficiency and versatility. It does this by achieving increasing levels of energy performance to lower heating and cooling energy by 25–35%.

“Buildings usually have a set temperature which is maintained by the HVAC system. When there is a heat load that is generated from inside the building, the HVAC will work to counter the heat load and cool the room. The ENRG blanket operates as a thermal mass that absorbs the heat generated from inside the building. The heat is stored in a Bio Phase Change Material (BioPCM) gel that is within the blanket, minimising the need for the HVAC to work to cool the room.

In the evening, when the room temperature goes below the building set point the heat that was stored in the blanket is released back into the building. The blanket is commonly installed behind the drop ceiling of a building,” explains Mpumzi Swana, chief operations officer of company SAMAC.

The ability of the ENRG blanket to absorb and release heat at any chosen temperature between –50°C and 125°C makes it ideal for office parks, and other commercial buildings in reducing their HVAC run time, resulting in energy savings of 25–35% and reducing peak load demand. Warehouses that do not have an HVAC system can also use the blanket to maintain a constant temperature in the building.

When the go-ahead was given, installation lasted just a day.

When the go-ahead was given, installation lasted just a day. Supplied by SAMAC

The blankets can also be used in server rooms and cold rooms as a back-up, he explains.


  • Plant based, non-toxic, non-corrosive
  • When the go-ahead was given, installation lasted just a day.
  • Reduces HVAC power consumption by 25–35%
  • Minimises HVAC run time by 15–20%
  • Maintenance free and requires no servicing
  • Moisture and humidity resistant, mould growth resistant
  • Sustains building comfort for hours after conditioning
  • Lowers demand on fossil fuel energy and carbon foot print
  • Life expectancy of more than 100 years, can be used for
  • peak tariff charge targeting

1 and 2: The work progresses.

1 and 2: The work progresses. Supplied by SAMA

1 and 2: The work progresses. Supplied by SAMA

1 and 2: The work progresses. Supplied by SAMA

Customers until now have been Chase Bank, Google, Microsoft, AT&T, universities, high schools and hospitals, with the Standard Bank project having been the first in South Africa.

This pioneering approach not only enhances energy resilience but also minimises environmental impact, aligning with clients’ – such as Standard Bank’s – sustainability objectives.

Swana describes the first project the company has completed which now represents a prototype that can be rolled out more broadly: “At its core, the ENRG blanket harnesses the power of BioPCMs to optimise energy utilisation within HVAC systems. Unlike traditional approaches to energy efficiency, which often focus on auxiliary systems like lighting, the ENRG blanket targets the most significant contributor to energy consumption – HVAC systems. By introducing a technology that directly impacts HVAC efficiency, the blanket offers tangible and substantial energy savings.”

Located in Standard Bank’s office complex in Constantia, the project site encompasses a sprawling complex, housing multiple blocks, including call centre facilities. SAMAC Engineering Solutions collaborated closely with Standard Bank to implement the ENRG blanket technology within specific blocks of the complex, optimising energy utilisation for enhanced occupant comfort.

The genesis of the project can be traced back to SAMAC Engineering’s strategic partnership with PCS, a leading innovator in BioPCM technology based in the US. Recognising the potential of BioPCMs in energy storage applications, SAMAC embarked on a journey to introduce the technology to the South African and African market as part of its product offerings.

The company signed a distribution agreement with PCS and is currently poised to commence local manufacturing. The ENRG blanket, alongside its cold chain derivative – the Apollo Panel – is set to benefit energy storage solutions across diverse industries, from commercial buildings to food preservation facilities.

Looking ahead, SAMAC Engineering envisions a future where BioPCM technology becomes ubiquitous, enabling businesses to embrace low-cost energy-efficient practices.

Swana keeping an eye on things.

Swana keeping an eye on things. Supplied by SAMAC

The journey towards implementing the ENRG blanket technology within Standard Bank’s premises was not without challenges. Swana says the project was initiated in 2017 but encountered various delays, including the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the event, when the go-ahead was received, installation was swift – taking only a day to complete – followed by the more important aspect of meticulous monitoring of performance data.

“The project’s efficacy was evident during the hottest months of the year, where the ENRG blanket demonstrated a remarkable two-degree reduction in temperature, translating to significant energy savings. Following the pilot phase’s success, Standard Bank is poised to expand the project’s scope, with plans to implement it across additional facilities, including the Kingsmead regional office in Durban,” says Swana.

“The uniqueness of this project lies in its pioneering nature within the African context. While the technology has been established in the US for over a decade, its application in South Africa, particularly within corporate buildings, represents a groundbreaking potential.”

Moreover, the ENRG blanket addresses emerging regulatory requirements, such as the need for non-electrical cooling sources and energy performance certifications. With its off-grid capabilities, the blanket enables building developers to meet stringent regulatory standards while enhancing their energy performance scores.

The ENRG blanket, ready for laying.

The ENRG blanket, ready for laying. Supplied by SAMAC

The job complete.

The job complete. Supplied by SAMAC

“When comparing BioPCM technology to traditional insulation methods, it’s essential to understand their distinct functionalities and applications. While insulation primarily focuses on preventing external heat from infiltrating a building, BioPCM technology takes a more comprehensive approach by managing internal heat generation.

“Insulation effectively serves as a barrier against external heat sources, such as sunlight and ambient air temperature. However, it does not address the heat generated within the building itself, whether from occupants, equipment or other internal factors. This is where BioPCM technology comes into play – it actively manages the internal heat load to maintain optimal indoor temperatures,” explains Swana.

One of the significant advantages of phase change technology is its ability to specify and regulate precise temperature levels within a building. Unlike insulation, which merely provides passive heat resistance, BioPCM can be tailored to maintain specific temperature setpoints. “Whether it’s a data centre requiring precise temperature control or a cold storage facility maintaining sub-zero temperatures, BioPCM technology offers considerable customisation,” he adds.

Moreover, the technology operates autonomously, requiring no additional controls or sensors once installed. By leveraging building management system (BMS) data and user inputregarding temperature preferences and occupancy levels, the technology is engineered to adapt and regulate temperature conditions accordingly. This self-regulating capability eliminates the need for complex wiring or communication with HVAC systems, making it a hassle-free solution for energy-efficient building management. “In the manufacturing process, BioPCM is precisely formulated and configured to meet the unique requirements of each building or space. By manufacturing the materials according to specific temperature specifications and heat loads, users can be assured of consistent and reliable performance upon The job complete. installation,” says Swana.