Today multiphysics problems applied to various fields of engineering have become increasingly important. Among these, in the areas of civil, environmental and nuclear engineering, the problems related to the behaviour of porous media under extreme conditions in terms of temperature and/or pressure are particularly relevant. The mathematical models used to solve these problems have an increasing complexity leading to increase of computing times. This problem can be solved by using more effective numerical algorithms, or by trying to reduce the complexity of these models. This can be achieved by using a sensitivity analysis to determine the influence of model parameters on the solution. In this paper, the sensitivity analysis of a mathematical/numerical model for the analysis of concrete as multiphase porous medium exposed to high temperatures is presented. This may lead to a reduction of the number of the model parameters, indicating what parameters should be determined in an accurate way and what can be neglected or found directly from the literature. Moreover, the identification parameters influence may allow to proceeding to a simplification of the mathematical model (i.e. model reduction). The technique adopted in this paper to performing the sensitivity analysis is based on the automatic differentiation (AD), which allowed to develop an efficient tool for the computation of the sensitivity coefficients. The results of the application of AD technique have been compared with the results of the more standard finite difference method, showing the superiority of the AD in terms of numerical accuracy and execution times. From the results of the sensitivity analysis, it follows that a drastic simplification of the model for thermo-chemo-hygro-mechanical behaviour of concrete at high temperature, is not possible. Therefore, it is necessary to use different model reduction techniques in order to obtain a simplified version of the model that can be used at industrial level. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.