U.S. Commercial Buildings Continued To Increase Their Energy Efficiency Through 2018

Data source: US Energy Information Administration, Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS)

According to our newly released 2018 Investigation of energy consumption in commercial buildings (CBECS), the total floor area of ​​commercial buildings has increased, but energy consumption has not increased compared to our last survey (2012 CBECS). This difference indicates that the consumption per square foot (the energy intensity) has decreased, which means its efficiency has probably increased.

The 2018 data showed a 12% drop in energy intensity since 2012, from 80,000 British Thermal Units (Btu) per square foot to 70,600 Btu per square foot. Between 2012 and 2018, electricity intensity fell 14% and natural gas intensity fell 11%.

Data source: US Energy Information Administration, Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS). Note: *Change is statistically significant at 10% significance level. ** Change is statistically significant at 10% and 5% significance levels.

The average energy intensity decreased between 2012 and 2018 in inpatient healthcare, office and education buildings. The 16% decrease in energy intensity in hospital buildings was the largest change of any building type. Despite this decrease in energy intensity, hospital buildings were still among the most energy-intensive types of buildings, along with food sales and food service. Warehouses—the most common commercial building type in 2018—were among the least energy-intensive building types, along with vacant buildings and those used for religious worship.

Decreases in energy intensity are driven by improvements in building operations, materials and design, as well as heating, cooling and lighting technologies. The use of high-efficiency LED lighting has grown from 9% of commercial buildings in 2012 to 44% in 2018. We plan to publish end-use energy consumption estimates by the end of 2022. These estimates will help clarify the main drivers of energy intensity declines.

CBECS is the only nationally representative survey that collects information on US building characteristics and energy use in commercial buildings. The CBECS survey process spans four years, from development of the sampling frame and survey questionnaire to the release of data to the public. This 2018 CBECS data release includes consumption and expenditure totals and intensities for the United States and its census regions. In late 2021, we published detailed information on building characteristics from the 2018 CBECS.

Main contributors: Laura Gellert, Zack Marohl

Article and data source courtesy of US Energy Information Administration.


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