Energy + Environment

U.S. Commercial Building Energy Intensity Decreased 12% From 2012 to 2018

The recently released 2018 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that the total floorspace in commercial buildings had increased but energy consumption had not, compared with the last survey analyzing commercial building energy use, in 2012.


This difference indicates that the consumption per square foot (energy intensity) had decreased, which means that its efficiency has likely increased. The 2018 data showed a decrease in energy intensity of 12% since 2012, from 80,000 Btu per square foot to 70,600 Btu per square foot. Between 2012 and 2018, electricity intensity decreased 14%, and natural gas intensity decreased 11%.

Inpatient healthcare buildings had a 16% decrease in energy intensity in what was the largest change of any building type. Despite this decrease, though, inpatient healthcare 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 as of 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. Use of highly efficient LED lighting has spiked from 9% of commercial buildings in 2012 to 44% in 2018.

This data is from before the pandemic, which dramatically changed office building use. It is very likely the pandemic will have significantly driven down office building energy intensity, further. Improvements in lighting energy efficiency are likely to continue across all commercial building types.

Image: US EIA


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